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PhoenixxFire

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A short guide to studying biology
« on: January 17, 2018, 09:32:18 am »
+24
Ok so Iím aware thereís around 3000 of these things floating around, but I figured Iíd give you my advice anyway.

First of all, if you already have something that works for you, donít change it just because I (or anyone else) says to. You know what works for you.

You know when people tell you to study. ĎYou should be studying the week before your SAC.í Yeah cool, but how do I study? What even is Ďstudyí? These were all questions I had when I started VCE, I knew that I needed to study, I knew that I needed to revise content, but no one ever told me what I was supposed to be doing for Ďstudyí or Ďrevisioní. To spare you the same fate, this is how I studied for VCE biology.

Introduction to Biology
Bio is a subject where you really need to see how everything relates to everything else. The emphasis is on understanding, not remembering. The process called phagocytosis that you learn about in U3 AOS1 is the same process used by cells called phagocytes that you learn about in U3 AOS2. You will learn why your skin gets red and hot when you cut it, if you forget what happens when histamine is released, you can remember what happened last time you grazed your knee.

Most names in biology are very logical. For example, most enzyme names end in Ďaseí. Bonds that hold the four polypeptide chains of an antibody together are called disulphide bridges. Literally, Di=2, Sulphide=Sulphur, Bridge=Connecting two things. Disulphide bridges are 2 sulphur molecules that bond polypeptide chains to each other.

Resources I had:
-No textbook (well, actually, we had class textbooks that I borrowed for 1 weekend)
-Edroloís Ďtextbookí that I never used
-Edrolo videos (I watched them all/answered all questions)
-Douchyís biology podcast
-Checkpoints (I did most of chapter 1 & 2, around half of chapter 3)
-AN course notes (got in July). Only really used this for exam revision.
-AN topic tests (got in July). I should have used this for SACs, but I didnít. I did around ĺ of it for exam revision.
-A massive (at least 5cm high) stack of handouts from my teacher.
-ATAR Notes forums :)

Summer holidays
What I did:
I didnít really do much except for set work. From memory our homework was pretty much just watching Edrolo videos, making notes on it, and doing the questions at the end of the videos. I worked further ahead than we had to, but didnít do anything more.

What I recommend:
-Doing your set homework
-Reading through the entire study design so you have an idea where you are headed
-Making notes for a few chapters ahead in your textbook. I definitely would not recommend doing anything from Unit 4, and would avoid looking at Unit 3 AOS 2 until you have a very good understanding of AOS 1 Ė Itís simply a waste of time, youíre better off knowing the earlier content really well rather than sort of knowing the whole year.
-Doing some questions from your textbook/handouts/commercial resources.
-If you study ahead, I would go back over the early content in the last week of the holidays.

Throughout the year
-Do your set homework
-ASK QUESTIONS, my teacher got annoyed at me because I didnít ask enough. They are there for you to ask questions. If you donít feel comfortable asking them, ask here instead.
-Donít put off something you donít understand. Itís not going to magically make sense later. If you donít understand something, ask, reread your textbook, read other resources, google it, etc.
-Explain topics to others. It doesnít matter if itís your parents, sibling, friends, dogs, or stuffed teddy bears. Explaining it out loud will help you realise what you only sort of know. An advantage of explaining it to someone that can talk back is that they can ask questions, which can also help to let you know if you have explained something badly. In essence your end of year exam is just you explaining to examiners what you have learnt throughout the year. If you donít know who to explain it to, Iíve heard that answering other peopleís questions on here helps ;)

Studying for SACís
For biology in particular, I cannot recommend posters enough. I wrote notes as we were learning the content. I did questions that my teacher gave us, for some of my SACís I also did checkpoints questions. Around a week before the SAC (or whenever I found time), I went through all of the study design dot points that were going to be assessed on the SAC and drew a simple diagram explaining it. You can do this for most of the Biology content, for example for the first dot point;

ē the fluid mosaic model of the structure of the plasma membrane and the movement of hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances across it based on their size and polarity


I drew a phospholipid bilayer (complete with cholesterol, glycoproteins, etc.) and wrote different molecules (eg. water, ethanol, glucose, Na+) and drew a line showing how they went through the bilayer (water went straight through, glucose passed through a protein channel, etc.)

As I made these posters throughout the year, I stuck them on my wall. This meant that every time I saw them it reminded me of content I learnt earlier in the year.

In biology there are a lot of Ďprocessí questions. These are questions where you can write out a full mark answer, explaining how they happen (for example, transcription, translation, inflammatory response). You can use this answer for almost all questions on these topics (sometimes you may need to substitute in something to make it relevant to the particular question). By memorising answers for these you can have your teacher check them before the SAC and it will save you time when you are in the SAC. Obviously, some people may find it difficult to memorise answers Ė for me I wrote it out over and over, since it needs to be written on your test. Even now, I could write it, but if you asked me to say it I wouldnít be able to. It can help to create some sort of memory tool to use as a prompt to remember it (eg. you can read mine for transcription/translation here).

Some people find it useful to copy all of the questions they get wrong in SACís into a document, which they can then use for exam revision.

Pay attention to what topics you spend a lot of time on in class Ė these are pretty much guaranteed to be on your SAC.

If you do badly on a SAC, donít worry Ė you might not have even done as badly as you thought. The only reason SACs matter is as a ranking tool. Your actual marks mean nothing. Donít worry about your actual marks, just try and stay at the top of your cohort.

Studying for the exam
I got all of my Ďprocessí questions that I had collected from SACís and attempted to write out full mark responses for them from memory, for the ones I couldnít, I repeatedly wrote it out until I had it memorised.

My teacher gave us a few sheets that had a table on them. In the left-hand column was each dot point of the study design, in the right-hand column we drew a mark every time we got a question about that topic wrong, when doing practice exams. I would recommend that you make something similar, and use it as you do practice exams. There is no point wasting your limited time on topics you already know well, and this system will allow you to find out which topics you are repeatedly getting wrong.

Aside from this I just did lots and lots of practice exams. The key thing to remember when doing practice exams is to treat them as if they are real, that does not mean that you need to do them all in exam conditions, it just means that you need to give every single question your best effort, not just sort-of answer it because Ďit doesnít really matter Ė itís not the real exam after allí.

Do every experimental design question you can find, and repeat them until you can get full marks on them. If you canít find enough, have a look at past psychology papers, and just do the relevant parts of the question. This featured very prominently on last years exam, and is likely to continue to do so. When doing these questions, it can help to imagine the scenario as it will make it obvious if you skipped over some important information.

You should mark your practice exams harshly. Donít give yourself a mark because thatís what you meant, only give yourself the mark if thatís what you wrote. VCAA examiners do not know what you were thinking when you wrote your answers. The most useful exams to do are VCAA current study design --> Commercial current study design --> VCAA old study designs --> Commercial old study design. Some people like to work from least accurate to most accurate, however I started doing this and ended up with old VCAA exams that I hadnít done. Donít overestimate how many exams you can do. You need to allow time to mark your exams, and a few days before your real exam to do last minute revision of the topics that you struggled with (you should also be doing this throughout.) I would advise against doing a practice exam the night before your real exam Ė It doesnít give you enough time to learn from it, and if you do badly on it you will end up worrying the whole night, when you need a good nightís sleep.
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cookiedream

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2018, 09:42:35 am »
+6
Awesome guide, PhoenixxFire!!! Really love how there are so many Bio guides on AN now - everyone can give their own perspective and their own great advice!! ;D
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Tyler_

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2018, 07:27:37 pm »
+1
Excellent guide!

I am doing units 3 and 4 this year. I was wondering, did you find the history of the cell theory (and other historical notes made in textbooks etc.) to be important to remember for SACs/the exam? I am using the Heinemann textbook and they have a whole page with about five sub headings on all the different people that contributed to the development of the cell theory and about a paragraph on the actual theory itself (Chapter 2). I also found the jacaranda textbook last year to be full of similar historical information and while it does provide some useful information to build on understanding the history of microscopes, the cell theory etc. they were never talked about in class and did not appear on SACs/exams (although these are internally assessed/created).
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 07:29:16 pm by Tyler_ »
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chooby

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2018, 07:38:14 pm »
+5
Excellent guide!

I am doing units 3 and 4 this year. I was wondering, did you find the history of the cell theory (and other historical notes made in textbooks etc.) to be important to remember for SACs/the exam? I am using the Heinemann textbook and they have a whole page with about five sub headings on all the different people that contributed to the development of the cell theory and about a paragraph on the actual theory itself (Chapter 2). I also found the jacaranda textbook last year to be full of similar historical information and while it does provide some useful information to build on understanding the history of microscopes, the cell theory etc. they were never talked about in class and did not appear on SACs/exams (although these are internally assessed/created).

For the exam at least, you don't need to learn about the people and the historical aspect. It was always about the content and what those people discovered (Darwin's Theory of Evolution etc.), however, not too sure about your SACs, you should definitely ask your teachers about that one.

Also just wanted to add the importance of keeping up a glossary of key terms throughout the year. This is something that was really enforced by my teachers and it's clear to see why. Having a glossary of many key terms helps in identifying key points relevant to a certain concept and help get those extra few marks in a question where a key concept is asked. There are also a lot of questions that simply ask you to define a term for 3 marks and with a glossary, you'd be able to identify what 3 aspects they are looking for.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 08:30:10 pm by chooby »
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Youlosethegame

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2018, 05:13:25 pm »
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-Douchyís biology podcast

douchy has a bio podcast? whats it called? Douchy is the best

PhoenixxFire

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2018, 05:20:25 pm »
+1
Itís literally just called ĎDouchyís biology podcastí. You can search for it on iTunes or google - Iím not sure about android but itís probably on there somewhere.
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Youlosethegame

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2018, 05:56:10 pm »
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Itís literally just called ĎDouchyís biology podcastí. You can search for it on iTunes or google - Iím not sure about android but itís probably on there somewhere.

Awesome, thanks a bunch :)

TheAspiringDoc

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Re: A short guide to studying biology
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2018, 05:58:32 pm »
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Itís literally just called ĎDouchyís biology podcastí. You can search for it on iTunes or google - Iím not sure about android but itís probably on there somewhere.
It's also on the Apple Podcasts app