The post above was written a couple of years ago for my Y11 students embarking on Easter revision. I know that some of my current 5th formers are working this week so I thought I would re-post it. Some things have changed since 2015 (notably the sad demise of Zondle) but the key principles remain…. I hope it helps!
I wish you all the best of luck on results day. Be pleased (but not too pleased) if you’ve done better than you expected and don’t be too disappointed if the reverse is true. GCSE grades are important in determining the next stages of your education but do remember that in 5 years time, no-one will ever again be interested in your news from today….
I think the most important thing to think about today is this. From around the beginning of April until the end of your final GCSE exam, you have been working independently, working things out for yourself, making notes and using web resources to improve your learning and understanding. You have decided what to study and how best to achieve your learning goals. And these are exactly the skills that will be needed to make a success of the next stage of your education! So the question is “can you keep up these high levels of motivation/determination/organisation when you start your A level courses in September?”
But I hope you will find time for some celebrations before the serious stuff starts again in September! Enjoy the rest of your summer.
Well done to everyone who has now finished their 2017 IGCSE Biology course. I hope paper 2 was to your liking (it seemed pretty typical to me) and all the hard work you have put in over two years has finally paid off. I guess that many Y11 students will be almost finished so it is nearly time for you to have a long, relaxing summer break. I wish you all the best of luck when the results come out in August.
Can I ask for one small favour before you switch off schoolwork completely?
If you have time, please can you leave a comment below with any tips you have as to things you have done in revision that really helped you. I imagine you have learned a great deal about how to motivate, organise and maximise your own learning over the past few months so why not leave a short comment to inspire/enthuse/help those that follow you……?
My page settings require me to approve any comment before it appears so don’t expect to see your comment straightaway as it may take an hour or two before it becomes visible.
But I hope you all have a brilliant summer and I wish you the best of luck!
This post starts with a massive proviso of course. Making predictions as to which topics might appear in a future exam is a very risky business. The paper 2 you will all sit after half term can test material from the entire specification (including all the specification points in bold) and there is absolutely no guarantee that topics tested in paper 1 may not reappear in some form in paper 2.
So the proviso is this: the only way to be fully prepared for paper 2 is to revise the entire specification so that you are prepared for whatever the examiners might throw at you.
But having said that, it seems sensible to focus your revision for paper 2 onto topic areas that were not examined in paper 1. If I were in your position, these are the topic areas for which I would be doing most of my revision in the coming weeks:
- Respiration 2.33 – 2.37
- Gas exchange in Plants 2.38-2.43
- Transport in Plants 2.49 – 2.56
- Transport in Humans 2.57 – 2.66
- Kidney 2.68 – 2.76
- Reproduction 3.1 – 3.12
- Food Chains and Energy Flow 4.4 – 4.7
- Nitrogen and Water Cycles 4.8, 4.10
- Human Influences on Environment 4.11 – 4.17
- Food Production (including fish farming) 5.1 – 5.9
- Selective Breeding and Genetic Modification 5.10 – 5.16
The bad news is that this list above still forms a large proportion of the extensive EdExcel IGCSE Biology specification but the good news is that there are PMGBiology blog posts on all the above. So please use the search function on my homepage to find material to help you revise.
Practice papers and mark schemes are available online (and for my students on the school Firefly page)
Keep working hard – you are almost there and the summer to come will be long and restful….
For those students following the EdExcel IGCSE Biology course there are now just three days to go until the paper 1. This is the two hour exam covering all the specification (with the exception of the handful of content points in bold). If you started revision early enough, you should know be feeling confident that you have the knowledge and understanding needed for whatever challenge the examiner might throw at you. So how best to use your time in the final few days…? It is a tricky question as the answer will vary for different people – you must always do what you think is best for you and your chances.
But if it were me, I would be trying to do the following:
- Have a go at as many past paper questions as possible over the weekend. Answer the questions under exam conditions, then mark them yourselves using the mark schemes available online. Pay particular attention to marks lost due to poor reading/interpretation of the question or poor-exam technique.
- Prepare yourself for the questions that you “know” will come up on Tuesday. It is almost certain that there will be a genetics question to make sure you remember how to set out genetic crosses correctly. There is always a graph to plot and questions asking you to describe the pattern in a set of results. How can you ensure you always get full marks on these questions which require no biological understanding to answer?
- Look at the experimental design questions and continue to practise them. Check over all the required practicals mentioned in the specification and ensure you understand how they work.
Finally on Monday night, please get an early night so you are refreshed and ready for a 2 hour paper. There is no point doing hours and hours of last minute cramming as it simply doesn’t work. If the Biology exam were like a Spanish vocab test then I would encourage you to spend four hours before the paper going over and over the material….. But your exam is going to require you to interpret data, to make suggestions and come up with explanations for things you haven’t seen before. You cannot think clearly or concentrate fully on reading the question when you are exhausted. So if you decide to cram, the chances are that many more marks will be lost through tiredness than will be gained by any short-term memory gains.
Please go to bed at a normal time on Monday night and wake up at a normal time on Tuesday morning.
And the very best of luck to you all!
There are lots of you out there revising hard for your IGCSE Biology exams in May/June. I can see because of a graph like the one below showing page views on the blog in every month from August onwards. Let’s see if April and May 2017 can break records on PMGBiology and then with a little luck, your cohort of students can break the record for the highest proportion of A* grades ever awarded.
There are one or two words which you should never use in your answers to IGCSE Biology papers.
- The boys I teach know that amount is a banned word. If you find yourself writing amount, please cross it out immediately and think which of the following terms is actually the word you should be using: concentration, volume, mass, number .
[Amount has a specific meaning in science: it means the number of moles of a substance and seeing as you don’t need to know about the dreaded mole for Biology, it should never be used.]
(this is a good photo of the dreaded mole)
- Be wary of using the word nutrient without giving an example of what molecule you mean. A nutrient is food molecule like glucose, amino acid or lipid. When you are describing the things in soil that are absorbed into the roots and are transported in xylem, it is better to refer to them as minerals.
- Level does not mean the same as concentration. Don’t write about the level of oxygen when you mean concentration.
Predicting the topics that might come up in an exam is always a risky business. The most important thing to remember is that the examiners can ask questions on any topic at all in the paper 2 exam – this might include questions on topics they have asked already in the first paper . The iGCSE specification is so large that it will be impossible for your understanding across the entire range to be assessed.
Having said that, I think it is sensible to focus your revision on topics that have not been assessed at all in paper 1. My Head of Department has carefully been through the paper 1 (which I thought was an excellent exam by the way) and has come up with some suggestions as to what kind of questions might appear in paper 2. (Note the important use of the word might…..) Here is his list:
- A question about blood, vaccination, pathogens, bringing in bacterial and viral structure, maybe comparing them to animal cells?
- Something to do with enzymes, nutrients (monomers, polymers), some detail on elements of the digestive system that have not been covered?
- Water uptake, osmosis, transpiration stream, potometers?
- Photosynthesis biochemistry, maybe an experimental question, linking with respiration (hydrogencarbonate indicator experiment for example?)
- Nervous system – reflex arc and eye structure and function are both ripe for a good question
- Homeostasis question, on thermoregulation or kidney function
- A question about cloning that links in with cell division, mitosis and meiosis, asexual versus sexual reproduction
- Natural selection, evolution, selective breeding, maybe linked to an environmental context (e.g. global warming), or food production (e.g. fish farming)
- Food webs and energy flow, along with a carbon/water/nitrogen cycle component
- A respiration question that ties in with yoghurt and/or beer production
I think this is a really sensible list and a good way to start your revision for paper 2 in June. Look at each of these topics carefully, make sure you understand the details in the specification and then have a go at past paper questions on each of these subject areas. I will try to get some new blog posts up that address these bullet points in the next week or two (fingers crossed…) There is already quite a lot in the blog if you use the “Search PMGBiology” function at the top of the home page.
Good luck and keep working hard!