How to do well in VCE Biology?

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VCE Biology is a demanding subject because it has a large number of new definitions and requires the student to apply knowledge to often unknown situations. For example instead of asking directly “What is osmosis?” quite often you will need to decide whether osmosis is occurring in a question.  What makes VCE biology a challenging subject is that you will have to:

(1) Understand how concepts work
(2) Memorize key definitions
(3) Apply the knowledge appropriately in unknown situations.

In order to succeed in VCE Biology you will need to be disciplined in your studying – because there is so much to learn, it is best to study regularly to allow information enter your long term memory. It will also be essential to learn how to structure your responses to questions and your communication.  Finally it is important that you develop confidence in answering challenging application questions.

Your VCE biology SACs matter!

Although VCE biology SACs will be smaller in value compared to your exams, they are still very important. Overall you SACs will contribute to about 34% of your overall subject mark – so it is essential that you treat them seriously. Don’t listen to friends or students that claim “SACs don’t matter – it is only the exams that count” … SACs do matter, every single mark matters for the study score. Therefore aim to achieve your best during SACs. You can use them as a tool to improve your written communication skills and expression for your VCE exams.

Be sure to find out exactly what your teacher expects you to do for the SAC. Essentially your teacher will be deciding your SAC mark, so it is important that you follow their standards. If you teacher likes to see large scaled diagrams – include one! If your teacher wants you to talk about limitations of your experiment – make sure you focus on this section! Get to know your VCE Biology teacher – make sure you know what they expect from your SACs and ask them for tips.

Understand before memorizing

Most of VCE Biology is made up of concepts and definitions, however be sure to understand what you are studying rather than memorizing. Memorizing is empty without a deep understanding of concepts. During my Biomedical degree, I found that student that simply remembered terms often failed! Why? Because they did not understand the dynamics of the concept – and this is incredibly important. On the other hand I focused on understanding how all the concepts link up and interrelate – and although I remembered only 70% of what some students remembered, I always managed to pass with solid grades.

Understanding is what you want to achieve in VCE Biology – make sure you broaden your perspective by looking through other resources to develop a better understanding of the subject. Look for university Biology textbooks because although they are more complicated sometimes they have excellent pictures and descriptions. Check out some biology animations online or on YouTube. These are often great to reinforce how a concept or mechanism works.

Make sure you answer the question!

Some students are experts are rephrasing the question and speaking about a non-related subject. Often this will earn zero marks in an exam because the question is not answered. So always make sure that you read your response and ask yourself, “Does this response answer the question directly?”

Try to expand on your answers

If there are 5 lines available – try to fill them up with extra information. Elaborate on your answer! Show your VCE examiner what you know. After all you will probably be tested on a fraction of what you have learned within the semester or year. The exam is your opportunity and golden moment to show the examiner how well you have understood VCE biology.

You almost need to use the 1.5 hours (or soon 3 hours) to “sell” your ability – show the examiner that you care about the subject and they will be more likely to reward you.

Know how to spell VCE biology terms!

You need to know how to appropriately spell key terms in VCE Biology. Instead of just using DNA in your exam – sometimes you may need to write “Deoxyribonucleic Acid”. So learn the spelling of important key words, so that you can maximize your marks!

Never leave questions unanswered

This is of course unless you run out of time … However if you simply don’t know how to answer a question always try your best. Be sure to have a go, because sometimes upon writing a question the answer might click into place because you are challenging your mind to come up with something. So make sure that you always challenge yourself – even if you may be unsure about how you answer a question. Never mind if you still get it wrong – if you leave it you are bound to get no marks.

Draw mind maps

These can help you form links between concepts. It can promote you to understand the bigger picture. You will hopefully be able to understand how organelles work together or how photosynthesis and cellular respiration are related. By drawing mind maps you are using creative energy to express your ideas – this can often make learning more fun and enjoyable. It definitely breaks you out of a routine study pattern which can be often boring and ineffective.

Therefore don’t be scared to use creativity for learning! It can promote a better recollection of the important biology topics and help you understand the bigger picture.