People tend to think Biology is the easiest science subject, perhaps because it seemed easiest for the Junior Cert or because it should all be ‘common sense’. This is not the case. Biology is hard work.
In a new series of guides available on Studyclix we're asking H1 students what worked for them. In this guide, Eimear, who got a H1 in last year's leaving cert Biology exam, gives her advice for doing well in what is Ireland's most popular optional subject.
How do I study Biology?
For me, my study methods for Biology were marking schemes and Studyclix. Biology exam papers can be very repetitive, so I found that looking over past questions and papers over and over again and finding out the answers to all of them really helped prepare me for what would come up in my exam.
Biology study takes time and I REALLY don’t recommend cramming this one, even if it works for you in other exams, there’s just too much information to learn for that.
Try to do it one section at a time. For example, try to tackle plants first; photosynthesis, transport in plants, plant reproduction. Really try to understand the information you’re taking in. You can remember the information better if you have a good grasp on the topic.
Test yourself regularly. For example, when you’re finished studying one topic, Studyclix has the option to make out an exam in that topic, so try that! Alternatively, you could go into that topic on Studyclix, look at the exam paper questions, try to answer them first and then check the marking scheme to see if you’re right.
I wouldn’t recommend doing all your study from your biology textbook. I didn’t open my textbook for all of 6th year because I had condensed the essential parts of the course. The textbook has copious amounts of extra, unnecessary information that isn’t required on the syllabus. This could fill spaces in your brain that could be used more efficiently on remembering other vital pieces of information.
'But how do you know which parts of the textbook are needed or not?'
There are a couple of ways of knowing. For one, the past exam papers say a lot. Usually, they go as far back as about 10 years ago, and as I’ve said, the same stuff comes up the whole time. So if you study everything that you see in questions in the exam papers, you should be fairly safe. Another way is looking at the Biology syllabus here . This will show you all you need to know..
Another method of studying is watching YouTube videos. There are several YouTube channels about biology which help make it easier to understand. I found Hank Green’s Biology videos quite helpful as he makes it seem fun, simple and interesting. You can find his videos here. I will admit that not all of his stuff is relevant, and you may have to sift through some of the less important stuff with regards to the LC syllabus, but I still think his videos are great. Have a look at some other videos on YouTube as well which are biology related, there are loads of them on there.
Biology is the study of life, so you should be able to apply your studies in your everyday life. Keep thinking in Biology the whole time, for example, if you see a plant, try to determine if it’s dicot or monocot and then recite the properties of whichever one it is, or, if you’re exercising, concentrate on your breathing and go through the process of inhalation/exhalation and respiration in your head!
Write it out. Writing and drawing information out on a sheet always helps for every subject, I think. I found it especially helped for Biology with things such as the Nitrogen/Carbon Cycle, food webs, experiment diagrams, etc.
So, what should I know?
Like I’ve said, look through the syllabus and past papers to see what’s necessary for you to know.
It’s also essential that you know all the definitions for different topics, e.g. define genetic engineering, define photosynthesis, etc. If you’re finding this hard, perhaps you could write each definition out on a flash card and stick it up in your place of study. That way, you’ll have to look at it every day and it will become ingrained in your mind. I did this for several subjects and it really helped.
Questions on the practical experiments come up every year so you need to know all of them. Again, the same type of questions regarding each experiment come up each year. So look at the exam papers to see what you must know about each experiment. Usually you must know 3-4 steps of the experiments, a safety precaution, an aseptic technique, the equipment needed, the ‘ingredients’ needed, what they do and you must also be able to draw a diagram of the experiment also.
Also check out: Leaving Cert Biology Experiments - Watch them all on video