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How to get a 50 in Bio - My tips
« on: December 09, 2011, 05:49:40 pm »
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Here's my advice to score a very high score in Bio.

Please make no mistake, to score a 48 + in Bio you need to put in work. A lot of work. Biology isn't a "tough" subject as such, but to score at the top end you have to know a huge amount of knowledge and be able to describe and explain things to perfection. And sometimes if your unlucky enough to have a pedantic marker, this may not be enough. Aim to start prac exams by the end of term 1 / term 3 holidays. Aim for as many prac exams as you can do. If your in year 11, 40 - 45 (PER UNIT) exams is not too difficult. Definitely do all the VCAA, STAV, NEAP (the "top tier" for Bio) and also if you play to do 40 ish also do lisachem, insight, TSSM, CSE (2nd Tier) and if that's not enough, also do QAT/IARTV, Chemology, Engage Ed (3rd Tier). For unit 4 make sure you do '00 - '05 VCAA (and STAV + neap if you need to).* The study design is practically the same.

Book Resources i recommend
Definitely get a hold of a second hand Campbell's Biology (6th or 7th edition is fine) from textbookexchange.com.au or otherwise. This is an essential resource if your looking to get a top score. It is a first year uni book that can complete and strengthen your understanding of key concepts, especially for SACs at "better" schools (usually tougher SACs to differentiate).

Nature of Biology is easily the best textbook for biology. Despite the often irrelevant / excessive info, it's not difficult to separate this out from the rest of the great explanations and diagrams. Nelson and Heinemann are insufficient and shallow in comparison (though these are still viable books, pretty decent, but not very thorough).

Biozone workbook - Great practice with great information that helps to reaffirm key concepts in your mind. Essential. (also pick up suggested answers for $15 if you want). A+ notes - Concise and useful summaries with some interesting and tough questions. Not essential but helpful to summarise key information. A+ sample prac exams - Some very interesting questions that can help you to understand Biology more deeply and fully. Neap - Still a great resource with many great questions despite the fact that there are sometimes anomalies in the answers (which when ratified will deepen your knowledge of the course A GOOD Biology dictionary. Personally i used Henderson's Dictionary of Biology which was excellent. It is about$80 brand new but you can probably pick up one for \$30 second hand. Please don't use the very simple, insufficient definitions in "the Australian Biology Dictionary - Pearson (for students)" or any other book aimed at secondary school kids. These by their very nature are shallow definitions with few terms.

you do NOT have to buy all of these, borrowing from library should be sufficient / buying second hand

Tutor
I didn't have a tutor and didn't feel i needed one. For me biology is much more about practicing application through prac exams than having someone ramble on about some concepts you already understand.
If you wish to get a tutor, for next year, you can't go past Has Perera (i do not have contact details and i think he is full). I had his notes and they were excellent. Definitely a worthwhile tutor.

1) Ask Questions I cannot stress this enough. To achieve a very high score in Biology, you not only need to completely understand what is in your textbook (and on the course), but you also to fill gaps within the course with knowledge from Uni courses. Even if these are not directly assessed, it will help to improve your knowledge and more importantly, understanding to a huge degree.

If you cannot find the answer on the internet, or in your textbook, ask your teacher or someone on AN to clarify. Here i would personally like thank AN users Russ and Lexitu. These two would have answered easily hundreds of my questions each throughout the year on AN and are a huge reason i was able to get large enough knowledge base to receive a 50. My gratitute is not limited to these two, many other AN users have helped me throughout the year: Scocliffe, Shinny and others, and i would also like to thank them. If you have a good teacher, spam him/her with all your questions that you can't find answers to on AN / internet (for me this was still a large amount). My teacher was indeed a very good teacher and answered hundreds of my questions throughout the year (thankyou).

2) Do not rote learn. Biology is very different from a subject such as psychology. If you memorize every piece of information in the book, but are unable to convey this clearly and simply, you'll get 0 marks on the exam. My whole rote learning consisted of memorizing 4 words ("cue words" for evolution process). Through each Unit it is essential to develop a huge knowledge base, but this knowledge base must be in your mind as a connected framework of understanding. For this, if you have time, writing notes from multiple sources will help to fill your gaps (more on this right after).

3) Note writing If you're in year 11 i definitely recommend this. Combining multiple information sources into one summation will test your knowledge and allow you to ask questions and fill these with answers. It also helps to structure information into your mind into a more logical order. If you're in year 12 with many other subjects this isn't as completely essential, though everyone is different. I certainly found note writing to be quite useful developing a logical structure within my mind. Whether this is worth the time and effort it takes is up to you. I suggest trying this for unit 3 and see how it goes. For unit 3 i spent probably around 50 hours writing my final summary, for unit 4 it was around 20 hours. I suggest aiming to complete each unit in around <20 hours total (roughly 2 hours per NOB chapter; maybe a bit more for Unit 3).

For Unit 3 i was slack. And my Biology was almost destroyed because of this. I would just complete practice exams in however long it took to complete them, i never looked back through my exam or MC for mistakes, and i think this came back to bite me in the exam.
I finished the exam with about 20 minutes left, but spent this whole time wondering whether to write "abscisic acid" or "ethylene" fora  specific question and did not read over the rest of my exam OR double check mulitple choice. I believe i lost multiple marks in SA because of this and could have lost a huge amount of MC due to one inputting error. THe solution to this?: treat each practice exam, ESPECIALLY from the good companies (NEAP, STAV, VCAA) as a whole exam, with 15 minute reading time.
My scores on practice exams: for unit 3 i started around 45/75 on the end of the summer holidays (do not start prac exams there lol) and ended up around a 71 - 72 average on papers by the end of Unit 3. For Unit 4 i started around 60/75 just before term 3 holidays and worked my way to around a 73 average  by the end.

My Scores - Lessons to be learned

Estimated raw SACs (MHS)
1: 21; 2: 25; 3: 18; 4: 22; 5: 16: 6: 23; 7: 23; 8:23 Total raw estimated: 171 Predicted after scaling: 195+

Exam 1: 70; cut off 60
25/25 MC
I lost 1 full mark in SA and 8 half marks. To me this indicates that examiners are just tight as markers. This means that the markers differed on how many marks i should be given on at least 8 questions. Now for a relatively "closed" subject like Bio you would think that the marking scheme would be pretty straight forward. This is not the case, and it just goes to show, especially for U3 how pivotal perfecting your expression is. When half marks are lost it means one examiner has taken a dislike to your expression while the other has given it a satisfactory. Your aim is to improve your expression to such a degree it sates the appepitite of not only the most critical markers, but the most critical markers for each and every type of questions. Write to get full marks from the chief assessor who understands the course and wants to know how much you understand it; the genius highly critical Nobel prize laureate who seeks eloquent yet succinct, clear, accurate and precise explanations; and the dumb rubbish collector who does not understand what your talking about unless you signpost it extremely clearly.

Exam 2: 71; cut off 64.5
MC: 25/25
SA: Completely different with the marks lost. I received 1.5/3 on 2a) and .5/2 on 5c). For the less mathematically able that's 3 out of 4 marks lost on 2 questions. A huge contrast to U3 where i lost 4 marks on 8 questions. Given i have achieved my aim there's nothing for me to gain wondering too much about why i lost these marks, but it's definitely different to U4. While U4 still features the need for perfect expression in explaining the process of evolution etc; you have to drive yourself to perfect your simple mathematical calculations and punnet squares etc. This must be where i lost my marks.

Multiple choice This is extraordinarily easy to practice and even fun. You should aim to perfect multiple choice to receive 25/25 giving yourself a ~5 or 6 mark leeway on SA to receive a 50. Losing 2 marks on MC makes it very hard to stay within the boundaries of a 50.

I plan to tutor Biology in the 2013 year. Please pm me for any inquiries

*EDIT by Thushan: VCAA 1997-1999 are IMO the best, they were the hardest and best papers for biology Unit 4. IF you could score a 72 in those papers, you've topped the state.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2012, 09:27:11 pm by Bazza16 »

pi

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2011, 05:52:10 pm »
0

Jdog

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2011, 05:53:59 pm »
+1
I think the most important thing about biology is taking caare with how you word your answers. In the high end, 47+ the difference is semantics. Those 2-3 marks come from knowing how to please an examiner.

Hamdog17

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2011, 06:07:28 pm »
+4
Definitely the wording of your answers, writing the word "specific" was the difference between you getting the mark and not the mark in a question a few years ago. Tip: memorise the answers given in assessment reports so that if a similar question comes up then you can use those key words and terms which are essential for the marks.

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio (resources ONLY at this stage)
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2011, 06:09:00 pm »
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Yep don't worry i will cover exam technique and everything a bit later

just wanted to get book info up so people have time to buy

pi

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio (resources ONLY at this stage)
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2011, 06:11:12 pm »
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Moved one comment, please keep this on-topic.

Hamdog17

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Re: How to get an XX in Bio (resources ONLY at this stage)
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2011, 06:16:06 pm »
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Ah sorry! I can only see half the page on my phone

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Re: How to get an 50 in Bio (resources ONLY at this stage)
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2011, 09:34:07 pm »
+1
alright, it's done rohitpi. Perhaps not quite as thorough as it could be but i've done my best and to be honest I've just had enough of Bio for now XD
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 09:38:50 pm by Bazza16 »

Callum

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Re: How to get an 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2011, 10:01:06 pm »
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Ask Questions I cannot stress this enough.

This is the reason I did so poorly in Biology. I never asked any questions in class and because of this I lacked knowledge in key areas and made me loose motivation to try in Biology. Everything falls down, without asking anything I almost guarantee you won't get a 40+. It doesn't hurt to ask something, even if it may seem to be a stupid question that you should understand because by not asking it you are only hurting yourself and falling further and further behind.

sodapop

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Re: How to get an 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2011, 10:16:04 pm »
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Thanks for writing this Bazza, I'm gonna print it out, and all the other ones in the Bio resources thread, and stick it into the front of my Bio folder for motivation and reminders next year! ^_^
I was wondering though, do you recommend writing notes extensively as the main learning method, or reading the textbook?

It doesn't hurt to ask something, even if it may seem to be a stupid question that you should understand because by not asking it you are only hurting yourself and falling further and further behind.

I've always been really shy about asking questions in class, but I agree with you, it's to my own detriment if I don't. But I just don't know how to get over being painfully shy in public. I guess I could go see the teachers privately, but I'd feel as if I'd be wasting their time. Any advice?

Tip: memorise the answers given in assessment reports so that if a similar question comes up then you can use those key words and terms which are essential for the marks.

Thanks for this tip Hamdog...would anyone be able to give a quick guide on how to structure eloquent answers? That's always been my downfall in Unit 1/2 exams.
And also, my teachers expect us to give 4 pieces of information for every 2 mark question - so we only get 1/2 marks for every bit of info. How do you guys make sure your answers are detailed enough, but at the same time, succint?

Callum

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Re: How to get an 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2011, 10:30:54 pm »
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I've always been really shy about asking questions in class, but I agree with you, it's to my own detriment if I don't. But I just don't know how to get over being painfully shy in public. I guess I could go see the teachers privately, but I'd feel as if I'd be wasting their time. Any advice?

I was the same Asking them after class is good, also asking them when everyone starts working as well so you can have 1on1 time. Also remember chances are if you're not understanding something someone else in the class isn't either. You can always ask questions on this forum as Bazza said, you will get a lot of advice from people that have scored highly in the subject.

As for being painfully shy about asking questions the more you do it the easier it becomes you seem to care less about what others think and people respect that you are trying to learn and better yourself.

Hope this helps.

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Re: How to get an 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2011, 10:42:38 pm »
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Thanks for writing this Bazza, I'm gonna print it out, and all the other ones in the Bio resources thread, and stick it into the front of my Bio folder for motivation and reminders next year! ^_^
I was wondering though, do you recommend writing notes extensively as the main learning method, or reading the textbook?

It doesn't hurt to ask something, even if it may seem to be a stupid question that you should understand because by not asking it you are only hurting yourself and falling further and further behind.

I've always been really shy about asking questions in class, but I agree with you, it's to my own detriment if I don't. But I just don't know how to get over being painfully shy in public. I guess I could go see the teachers privately, but I'd feel as if I'd be wasting their time. Any advice?

Tip: memorise the answers given in assessment reports so that if a similar question comes up then you can use those key words and terms which are essential for the marks.

Thanks for this tip Hamdog...would anyone be able to give a quick guide on how to structure eloquent answers? That's always been my downfall in Unit 1/2 exams.
And also, my teachers expect us to give 4 pieces of information for every 2 mark question - so we only get 1/2 marks for every bit of info. How do you guys make sure your answers are detailed enough, but at the same time, succint?

The only way to develop the correct expression is through doing many practice exams and marking and reviewing these thoroughly.
Writing notes is up to you. I did it, and it helped, but it does take a fair amount of time. It's up to you whether you feel the benefit of having a slightly more solidly connected information base is worth the time and effort it takes. With regards to learning, i read the textbook and notes and ask questions. This is how I learn, i will have probably 40 questions an hour pop up in my head for bio, and maybe 30 i know the answer to, or can easily find the answer too. The other 10 about 7 or 8 i can find the answers to on the internet, the rest i ask my teacher or pop on AN

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Re: How to get a 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2012, 09:57:41 pm »
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Hey Bazza, I'm going to be doing 3/4 bio this year, and I also have a really harsh marker (might be the same as yours)
In regards to you asking him questions, do you go to his office at recess/lunch and ask questions or do you ask questions in class?
He seems really scary

Thanks!
King of Tetris

VivaTequila

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Re: How to get a 50 in Bio - My tips
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2012, 12:25:51 am »
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Great advice Bazza, but I just wanted to warn people to be skeptical of how useful purchasing textbooks can be.

There's a plethora of information out there, and you don't need to buy it. You could torrent it. You could just search the answers to your questions on the internet. A textbook is costly, and if you already have the resource available, then there's no need to spend the extra money.

That said, it's not going to negatively impact your score and if it's your own money that you're deciding to spend on a tool for yourself, then go for it. But if it's going to hit your parents'/guardians', ask yourself if you truly need such an exuberant aid and how much you will use it throughout the course of the year.

But coming from a largely independent student throughout year 12 (I didn't pay school fees, but I paid for my internet + phone, textbooks, board, stationary, and many more general living expenses), I can tell you that if you seek any information then you can find it using free services. Take my word, just seek and you shall find.

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