‘I need to diffuse this into my brain’ is a common catchphrase amongst Biology students. You may have stepped into your JC class, wholly prepared to repeat the same study methods that have helped you score previously, only to find that A Level Biology is vastly different from your expectations. However, fret not! Singapore’s top JC tuition center has got your back. Here at Zenith, we have collated 7 fool-proof tips to help you secure your distinction for A Level Biology (No more mental breakdowns the night before your A Level Biology papers…).
Tip #1: Pay attention in class
Paying attention in class may seem like a given. Yet, the post-lunch food coma hits hard, and it is suddenly a challenge to stay awake during your 2pm lecture. Many students zone out during class, opting to self-study or self-mark tutorials from posted answers. However, your tutors will bring up common mistakes and misconceptions that students have when they go through tutorial answers or content. It is extremely crucial that you note these down because tutors often mention them in passing, and are unlikely to bring them up again. Paying attention to your tutor is also an effective way to rectify any misconceptions and bridge conceptual gaps by clarifying doubts. For example, you may remember adenine and guanine as pyrimidines, while your tutor refers to them as purines. Don’t be shy and raise a question! Clarify with your tutor to prevent any misconceptions from snowballing. At Zenith, our helpful JC Biology tutor is always more than ready to answer all your questions, be it via text or in real life!
Tip #2: Study your tutorials
Compared to O Level Biology, A Level Biology is much more demanding in terms of content and application.
Questions are not as straightforward, and it is extremely important to phrase your answers well. It might help if you study your tutorials as it will enable you to familiarize yourself with the various question types! Break them down concisely, and then refer closely to the answers given to you. This will make it easier for you to get the gist of what questions are looking for.
When answering, students often either change the meaning of the sentence and end up writing conceptually incorrect answers or give answers that are too vague.
Conceptually incorrect: ‘The tumour migrates to secondary sites.’
Conceptually correct: ‘Some cells from the tumour detach and then migrate into the bloodstream to secondary sites.’
A few words can change the meaning of the sentence completely, so be careful when you’re constructing your answers! Here is an example where an answer is too vague: ‘Viruses make use of host cell machinery to replicate and transcribe viral genome.” How you can improve this answer is by being more specific: ‘Viruses make use of host cell DNA polymerase and RNA polymerase to replicate and transcribe viral genome.’ Make sure to name processes, substrates, products, enzymes, etc. correctly as examiners are on the lookout for these keywords! In order to learn the best ways to answer questions, you should study posted tutorial answers, especially essays.
Tutorials are also an excellent way to consolidate your learning since they often focus on key concepts in a topical manner. A Level Biology is extremely content-heavy, so it’s common to feel lost and overwhelmed from all the content that needs to be digested. If you are feeling lost in the sea of A Level Biology, start with essays! Essays often involve a summarized outline of processes in each topic. Understand them well and then flip through other materials to fill up the conceptual gaps you may have. Integrative essays can also help you make the connection between the various topics, allowing you to have a better view of A Level Biology as a whole.
Here are some examples:
- Essay question #1: ‘Explain how species are formed and the part that natural selection plays in this process.’
- Essay question #2 (Integrative): ‘Outline the role of Biomolecules in the process of Mitosis.’
Tip #3: Come up with helpful acronyms
To help you remember your A Level Biology content, Zenith suggests that you use acronyms. To ensure that these acronyms jolt your memory, come up with something funny! Here are some acronyms recommended by Singapore’s Top Biology Tuition Center (That’s us!)
- DNA and Genomics:
- Pure As Gold: Purines are Adenine and Guanine
- Respiration (Stages in respiration):
- Girls Love Kimtaehyung Only: Glycolysis > Link reaction > Krebs cycle > Oxidative phosphorylation
- Respiration (Products in oxidative phosphorylation):
- OCASFM: Oxaloacetate > Citrate > Alpha ketoglutarate > Fumarate > Malate
- Evolution (7 main taxonomic groups):
- King Philip Comes Over For Good Soup: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species
With the help of acronyms, you will find content coming back to you easily!
Tip #4: Make effective notes
School notes are often extremely comprehensive and may sometimes contain extra background or contextual information that is not necessary for you to include in your answers. Thus, make concise notes to avoid an information overload. You can head over to the SEAB website to look for the content requirements for each chapter and base your notes on that list (Note: The link above will lead to the syllabus for the class of 2022, those taking 9744 H2 Biology A Levels in 2022). Make sure that you are looking at the content requirements for the correct year! Draw diagrams, flowcharts, and mind maps to have a clearer view of processes; they can help you remember concepts better as well.
Not sure how to start or afraid you’ll miss something out? Don’t worry. Zenith has got you completely covered; you’ll never have to worry about your A Level Biology notes again! You can look forward to fresh sets of notes weekly that cover all chapters of the syllabus. These notes are personally done by our JC A Level Biology tutor, who expertly sifts through notes and focuses on important concepts that are necessary for your success. You can expect your tutors at Zenith to be extremely familiar with content requirements, nothing less. You can also expect succinct summary sheets and clear diagrams to aid in your revisions. With Zenith, you do not have to worry about feeling lost or muddle-headed. Zenith has assisted numerous students in achieving their coveted distinctions, more than 7 out of 10 students at Zenith achieve an A during their A Levels, almost twice the national average!
Tip #5: Get enough practice
Practice practice practice! There’s no need to explain this; practicing is vital to your success. Memorizing content is only half the battle won; accurate application of your knowledge gained is crucial to securing that distinction! Pull out those past year term papers, additional worksheets, topical worksheets, and work on them again. However, when practicing, many students make the grave mistake of not adhering to the stipulated time! (Being unable to complete questions is extremely risky, especially in paper 3 where a question can amass more than 20 marks.) So, even while you’re practicing, ensure that you take no more than 2 hours for papers 2 and 3, and no more than 1 hour for paper 1. Make sure to complete your practices in a conducive environment, preferably one that mimics the exam setting.
When you’re nearing the exam season, it is no secret that tutors in school are all swamped with consultation bookings. It could even be a challenge to secure a 30-minute slot (we’ve been there…). However, Zenith tutors are never too busy for you. At Zenith, tutors understand your urgency for clarification. As such, our students can drop our tutors a text anytime to ask questions or set up consults! Our channels are open 24/7 for you.
If you want to work on the phrasing of your answers, work on the ten-year series. However, if you are looking to expose yourself to more questions, try prelim papers from other schools. Your school will likely disseminate these papers when you’re nearing the exam period. However, if you’re keen on attempting these questions earlier, the top Biology tuition center, Zenith can offer that to you! Besides clear and concise notes, our JC Biology tutor also collates common questions on a topical basis from various top schools and uses them during lessons. She also comes up with extra practice papers for her students to familiarize themselves with the content and phrasing. Here at Zenith’s JC Biology tuition, you never have to worry about having insufficient study materials.
Tip #6: Ace your Practical (H2 only)
Practical makes up 20% of your final A Level Biology grade and securing a good grade for it will confer you a clear advantage over your peers. Many students find it a race against time to complete practicals and struggle to score for it. Thus, make use of every opportunity to practice your lab skills. Take the limited lab sessions in school seriously and let yourself get used to completing it under timed conditions. Avoid relying on your lab partner and strive to complete experiments independently. Microscopy is a pivotal component of practical, and therefore it is important to make sure you master it. Here is Zenith’s breakdown of the elements of Microscopy:
1. Drawing of specimens
- Accuracy (For example, all plant cells, except root cells, should have chloroplasts. Thus, you should ensure that you draw chloroplasts when drawing plant cells, but not for root cells of plants that do not have any chloroplasts)
- Clarity (No shading, clean and clear lines only. Make sure that erased lines have been erased properly, you should be able to notice them at first glance)
- Scale (When drawing, make sure to use ⅔ of space provided)
- Labelling (Label nucleus, cytoplasm, cell wall, etc., unless the questions explicitly state no labelling)
- For example, ocular graticule eyepiece and stage micrometer conversions (Fig 1)!
Fig 1. Stage micrometer measurements
3. Comparison of different tissues
- Most questions will require you to identify an area of comparison between two different specimens
- Look through all your past practicals to consolidate the common sources of errors, areas of improvement, and safety precautions. These are often repeated questions that consistently appear across different papers
Tip #7: Crash courses
If you are struggling with content, keep a lookout for Zenith’s crash courses! Crash courses typically consolidate and simplify content, leaving out the extra information and solely focusing on what you are required to know. While you might be able to find online resources that help to consolidate certain topics, it is likely that an in-person, interactive crash course might prove more beneficial to your learning. Zenith, Singapore’s top Biology tuition center offers termly crash courses to help you tighten up your knowledge right before crucial exams. At our crash courses, our experienced tutors will provide you with notes that are specifically designed for you to maximize your learning in a short time. You can also look forward to clear and direct explanations, as well as practice questions that will help to summarize your learning. Our tutors also go the extra mile to provide all attendees with “cheat sheets”, which are concise summary sheets of important concepts. Our “cheat sheets” are the perfect tool for a quick reference, especially when attempting questions or when revising just before an examination. Head over to our Instagram page @learnatzenith for more information!
In sum, here are the 7 foolproof tips from Zenith that will aid you in acing your A Level Biology:
- Pay attention in class
- Note down common mistakes and misconceptions that students have
- Clarify any doubts with your tutors
- Study your tutorials in a comprehensive way
- Perfect your application techniques for various question types
- Refer to the correct phrasing given and learn from them
- Come up with acronyms to help yourself remember better
- Create concise notes to facilitate your learning
- Refer to content guidelines on SEAB to ensure that you’ve covered all grounds
- Draw mindmaps, diagrams, and flowcharts
- Get sufficient practice
- Do under timed conditions at a conducive spot
- Ace your practical
- Take note of every detail
- Attend crash courses for a final consolidation of your learning
While Biology can be a daunting subject, especially with the massive amount of content, studying for it can be much easier if you adopt the right methods. Find out how enrolling in Zenith’s Top Biology tuition program can benefit you by joining our free trial lessons. Besides having tuition centers located all over the island for your convenience, Zenith goes the extra mile to ensure the well-being of our students. Anticipate our monthly welfare events (Fig 2) and a pantry that’s brimming with snacks and goodies!
Fig 2. Examples of welfare for our students
Join our warm and welcoming community, where our friendly tutors are always ready to help you secure your distinction. Here at Zenith, we believe in fostering a close connection with our students (Fig. 3) to enhance their Zenith experience. Let us be part of your core memory in Junior College, as we have been for many students before you!
Fig 3. Our JC Biology tutor with one of her happy classes