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cookiedream

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How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« on: February 12, 2018, 12:14:27 am »
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GENERAL ADVICE

1. ASK QUESTIONS: If you ever come across any sort of confusion or a question that you're stuck on, do not hesitate to ask your teacher!! I remember how a few months before the exam I kept emailing my teacher question after question almost every single day, whereas during the entire year I wasn't as frequent but I still asked questions when necessary. I also find that the students who do well (particularly in the science subjects) are the ones who aren't afraid to raise their hand in class when they don’t get something, or they go to the teacher after class.

2. HAVE A SEPARATE NOTEBOOK FOR ERRORS/CONFUSIONS: Personally I bought an A5 spiral book from Typo, where the last section was specifically for questions that I got wrong or couldn't answer in my SACs, practice SACs, Biozone, textbook exercises and practice exams. I would also put in points that are useful to remember, as well as tables and definitions (e.g. a table for all the plant hormones and their functions, since I kept forgetting them; a list of physical and chemical plant defences). This was SO helpful for exam revision, because in the days before my exam I could just look through these points and refresh my mind rather than stressing out over practice exams and the marks I got for them.

3. PUT THE ENTIRE STUDY DESIGN IN AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE AREA: I had the whole Bio 3/4 study design on my wall so that I could annotate the dot points on there with my own quick notes (e.g. under the dot point describing antibodies, I drew a labelled diagram of an antibody underneath, wrote dot points regarding its functions, etc.). This is really good SAC revision too, so that you don't feel like you have to do thousands of practice SACs to feel fully prepared (although for some this may work; each to their own!)

4. ENJOY THE CONTENT: Biology 3/4 can be quite hefty with the huge amount of content it has, but if you're enjoying it, then it really doesn't seem like a great deal. I recommend drawing a lot of diagrams in your notes, doing demonstrations and group work with friends as well as watching Youtube videos (especially Crash Course!!!). So you're studying, but it doesn't actually feel like studying!


How did you take your notes?
During class, I would have my laptop open and divide the screen in two - the left half being the powerpoint for that particular lesson and the right a OneNote page. When I come home, I'd edit out the unnecessary and messy bits and clean up my notes for easier future reading. Altogether, my chapter notes would comprise of notes given from my tutor, answers from my teacher regarding questions I emailed her, points from the study design and expanding upon them, biozone and class/powerpoint notes.

Did you do tutoring?
Yes, I started from mid-units 1/2, but I changed tutors for 3/4.

Were you ahead or did you try to go ahead of everyone else?
With my tutor, I was a bit ahead. However, I truly didn't understand the topics I went ahead in until they were covered in class. Although, getting ahead made me more familiar with what the teacher was explaining.

How did you go in your SACs?/Do I need to ace all my SACs to get a raw 50?
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need 100% on every single SAC to get a 50. Nor should you be disappointed if you don't get 100% for any one of your SACs. Certainly I didn't. Although, I maintained relatively high marks consistently, where my worst SAC was my first SAC - but everyone did badly in that one, so it scaled up quite high.

What was your SAC average?/What SAC averages should I be aiming for?
Across the year, I averaged around 92%...? Not sure really, but I was told by my teacher that I was in the Top 3 of my cohort (at least, I was told that before my very last SAC)

To put it simply, VCAA doesn't look at your SAC averages, they look at your ranking. So if everyone in your cohort gets 40% and you get 41%, then you get scaled to 100% and get Rank 1 and that is all that VCAA looks at - just so they can moderate SAC difficulties against the cohort's performance on the exam. This applies to all VCE subjects (hence I will be putting this in all my guides)

After a SAC, did you discuss answers with others?
Nope. While it may be of some relief for others, it was an unnecessary source of stress for me.

________________________________________________________________
Here is some topic-specific advice:

UNIT 3

| Cells |

- On a protein, do not call the R-group a 'variable group', as 'variable group' is a term that is used for other compounds as well, while R-group is specific to proteins. I lost a mark for this in a SAC once.

- When memorising the functions of the plasma membrane, it helps to visualise it and see what exactly it's doing in your visualisation. This really helped me with memorising two main functions: 1. To separate the intracellular environment from the extracellular environment and 2. To act as a selectively permeable barrier, allowing only certain substances (particularly small and lipophilic) in and out

- When describing the plasma membrane/fluid mosaic model, do NOT forget about the embedded proteins! This came up in one of my SAC questions and I lost two marks because of this.

| Gene structure and regulation |

- A diagram for translation should include: tRNA with amino acid, tRNA without amino acid, mRNA, polypeptide chain being create, ribosome - all labelled correctly

- Introns are NOT non-coding regions. They're merely the regions which have been taken out after transcription.

- EXons are EXcellent hence EXpressed, introns are interfering >> a mnemonic I used to help remember which one was expressed/spliced off

| Biochemical pathways |

- When it comes to enzymes, ALWAYS take note of specificity. Be sure to mention specificity in enzyme questions which involve its active site in some way.

- Don't forget to label the 'enzyme-substrate complex' when labelling diagrams for the lock-and-key model and the induced-fit model

- When enzymes are exposed to low temperatures, they are not denatured. Instead, they are deactivated/inactive. However, if enzymes are exposed to low or high pH (either extreme), they are denatured.

- For questions asking you about the process of cellular respiration/photosynthesis, do not forget about the locations in which each stage occurs!!!

- For photosynthesis, don't forget to write 'light energy' and 'chlorophyll' on either above or below the arrow in its equation!!!!

| Cellular signals |

- All ligands are detected by specific protein receptors <<< good phrase to keep in mind for this topic

- When drawing labelled signal transduction diagrams, always make sure to be specific to the question's context. For example, the question may be asking you to draw how a healthy cell responds when they receive a interferon from a neighbouring virus-infected cell. This is when you should label the ligand as the interferon, make sure that you have the virus-infected cell sending out this interferon, specifically label the cells as "virus-infected" or "healthy" and, for the cellular response, mention how the healthy cell will synthesis proteins that allow resistance against the specific virus.

| Immunity |

- If you ever get a SAC on autoimmune diseases, I HIGHLY recommend you do it on multiple sclerosis, especially since MS is specifically mentioned in the study design hence will appear in the exam

- If giving skin as an example of non-specific/innate immunity, always remember to mention "intact" skin. This is because stating only "skin" is really broad and applies to broken skin, which would be incorrect.

- For writing out the list of steps for humoral and cell-mediated immunity, write B lymphocyte or T lymphocyte rather than cell when mentioning them the first time (usually this is in the first line/step)

- When asked to identify what kind of immunity a certain given response is, avoid calling it "first/second/third line of defence". Rather, the answer is usually innate/adaptive and if adaptive, you might need to add active/passive (and further, natural/induced)

- For plant defences, it's good to remember two mechanical/physical barriers and two chemical barriers. For mechanical, the ones I remembered were gall and cuticle. For chemical, I remembered oils and natural secreted antibiotics


_________________________________________________________________

UNIT 4

| Population Genetics |

- Aneuploidy relates to one set of chromosomes and how within this one set, there is a loss or gain of separate chromosomes. Polyploidy refers to multiple sets of chromosomes, instead of just one. Here is a helpful diagram that I often visualised to understand this concept:


- "confers a selection advantage" <<< VERY useful phrase for answering questions like "why is variation important?", on top of very basic points like how it increases the specie's chance of survival - anyone can give this generic answer

| Human change over time |

- To help you memorise the characteristics of primates (e.g. colour vision, opposable thumbs), visualise an example of a primate and associate the features you learned with the features present in the primate. I recommend having a picture of a primate and annotating this with the characteristics, or drawing your own picture!

- Never say that a characteristic of primates is simply a 'large brain'; the sperm whale has the biggest brain of all animals and it is clearly not a primate! The correct phrase for it is "large brain relative to body size"

- Biological, cultural and technological evolution interact and questions about these interactions do come up. So it's good to put examples of these interactions in your notes. One example for how biological evolution also contributes to cultural evolution is that the development of a more upright posture allows for a greater span of view hence gives the opportunity for hunter-gatherers to gain more information about the land, animal behaviour, etc. (of course, don't put etc. in your actual answer haha)

| DNA Manipulation |

- Never forget to mention recognition sequence/site when defining restriction enzymes, describing gene editing in plasmids and gene cloning

- The temperatures for each stage of the Polymerase Chain Reaction can vary slightly, hence VCAA doesn't have set numbers. The ones I always used was: Denaturation (95), Annealing of primers (55) and Extension of primers (72)

| Biological knowledge and society |

- Watch out and take note of key words/sentences (e.g. in the 2017 VCAA Biology exam, MCQ 40, it was important to note/highlight "The treatment does not alter the DNA of the tobacco plants", because it then indicates that the plant is not genetically modified hence is not transgenic)

_________________________________________________________________

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN

- One error is always contamination! This would be a random error, specifically

- Really know your systematic and random errors! I found the explanation given by the ATARNotes Biology Course Notes to be quite helpful for this specific concept

- If asked to give two controlled variables/errors/uncontrolled variables, etc., make sure that they are really different. For example, your two examples can't be melting point and boiling point!

- A structure I stuck to for experimental design questions went something like:
          - Hypothesis
          - Sample (number and characteristics, e.g. 30 pigs of similar size, same species)
          - Experimental and control group; IV and DV clearly shown
          - Controlled variables (at least two)
          - How DV is observed/measured
          - What results would show that the hypothesis is supported?
          - Repeat experiment several times

_________________________________________________________________

REGRETS?

Despite the perfect score, I still had some fallbacks and areas which I could have attended to and worked upon more. Fortunately, I only have a few regrets due to reflection on my Year 11 performance - this is why I highly recommend taking your Year 11 subjects seriously and really reflecting on what you did well, where you went wrong and what you should do better in the year to come.

1. Not completing the textbook: My school used the Jacaranda textbook. While its explanations were nifty and the whole lot of pictures were nice, overall it got tiring to constantly read sections from the textbook…so I abandoned it from Chapter 8 onwards. Could've gotten a deeper understanding from actually bothering to read the rest of the textbook, particularly for Unit 4 since I struggled with it more than I did in Unit 3. In saying this, I did the last few chapters simply because the stuff on genetics and rational drug design was significantly self-taught.
   
2. Not completing Checkpoints: I know there's the debate of checkpoints ruining exam questions, but personally I found the bits of checkpoints I actually did to be quite helpful. Although, some of the checkpoints sample answers were a bit dodgy, so I had to cross-reference with the examination reports as well.
   
3. Not studying straight after coming back from school: Okay, this varies between each student, but for me I felt that the information could've been absorbed more if I studied as soon as I got home on a more frequent basis. It would have really saved the time I spent studying those concepts during the exam revision period, when I could've been doing practice questions instead.

_________________________________________________________________

EXAM ADVICE:

1. DON'T LEAVE ANY QUESTIONS BLANK: Writing something relevant down is better than nothing, because it gives you a chance to possibly gain a mark rather than no chance at all. In saying this, it isn't all that useful to write just 'yes' or 'no'!

2. USE DOT POINTS WHEREVER POSSIBLE: It makes it so much easier for the examiners since they can simply tick off all the marks you get. When checking your answers, it also helps you to keep track of what you wrote.

3. HIGHLIGHT KEY TERMS IN THE QUESTION AND QUESTION STEMS: When in the exam, you're going to be pretty worn out, so you might miss out on crucial wordings. So to help prevent this, you can make these wordings stand out through highlighting or underlining them. One thing that I've seen is people losing marks for a 'describe' question because they didn't keep 'describe' in mind thus did not provide the appropriate level of detail.

4. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY: Don't focus on the number of practice exams, instead focus on the quality at which you do them! In other words, it's more useful to do 10 practice exams and carefully look at where you went wrong, what you should write next time and what you did correctly, rather than doing 100 practice exams half-heartedly marked. I really made sure that I used them as a form of diagnostic, to see where I need to focus and what I have down pat. Please don't feel pressured to do as many exams as possible - I understand how hard it can be, especially when you hear stories of all these people doing X number of practice exams more than you. But really, it's all about you and what you can do to maximise your performance in that exam room.

5. SPECIFICITY IS KEY/QUOTE ANY GIVEN DATA: In the given context/information, if they provide values then you're expected to use it and a mark will be allocated for it. This is especially when you're given a graph and you have to interpret it. For example, if you're given a temperature-enzyme activity graph, you're expected to quote the optimal temperature and temperatures on either side of the optimal range. Below, I drew a random graph with random temperatures, but the given values is what you should mention in your answer to such a question.






When did you finish the course?
Fully finished at the end of September.

How many practice exams did you do?
Didn't count, but approximately 12-15…?

Which companies did you get your practice exams from?
- VCAA
- ACED
- NEAP
- Insight
- Lisachem
- QAT's
- TSSM

What was your study routine for the exam?
Unlike many students I know, I never had a linear study schedule, particularly for Bio. When I finished the content, I started with Biozone and continued to work my way through finishing every single activity in that book until I fully completed it. I made sure to highlight the questions I was stuck on, note down these questions and answers as well as other useful points in my 'Error book' and bookmark pages which I wanted to read later.

My main method of exam revision was using the points I wrote in the 'Error book'. Regularly, I read and reread the points I jotted down and highlighted all the ideas which involved steps (e.g. the steps for describing humoral immunity). I also heavily annotated the study design I had on my door with my notes and reread them when I didn't really feel like studying - was kinda like casual studying.

I finished most of the practice exams I printed out, again marking them and putting any useful notes in my trustworthy 'Error' book. The ones I didn't print out (VCAA 2002 to 2012 I think) were in separate OneNote pages, but I only did up to VCAA 2007 Exam 2 and most of the multiple choice questions for the rest.

What did you do the day before the exam?
I did the one thing that you're never supposed to do the day before any exam….I did a practice exam [enter loud gasp]. At this point, I remember just being in this "meditative" mindset where I wasn't stressed out nor was I hyped. On top of the practice exam, I marked another practice exam which I forgot to mark two weeks ago, read through my error book and did a quick overview of my chapter notes.

What did you do before and during the exam?
It was raining on the day, so our Biology cohort had to line up inside the gym according to our line and row numbers. Out of nowhere, I suddenly remember that I had forgotten to look at the characteristics of the Homo species and started panicking about which species was the one who discovered and used fire (it's H. habilis btw). I kept imagining that a short answer question would come up in the exam about this (thankfully it didn't) and I would have no idea at all, making me lose several precious marks. I asked a few of my friends next to me and they didn't know either, which sorta spread the panic until one of my other friends calmed us down.

The exam was held in the same place as my Psych exam last year. The desks were arranged the same way, in neat rows and columns, as we had to silently move in our rows to our seats. My seat was, unfortunately, in the back corner…so I had full view of everyone else!! It was quite intimidating, so I made an effort to keep my head straight down and block out everything around me other than the exam.

During reading time, I briefly read over the multiple choice then short answer questions and I remember trying to get my head around the last few short answers which were like nothing I'd seen before. Well, except for the sample exam, but even then I didn't really expect the questions to be like that. At the very end, I memorised the first five or so multiple choice questions (a dodgy strategy that doesn't work for everyone).

When writing time started, I flipped over several pages and started the short answer questions. When I reached the last couple of weird questions, I went to the multiple choice and worked through that. Was thoroughly surprised by just how much of an emphasis VCAA put on experimental design throughout the entire exam!

At around the end, I double-checked my short answers then multiple choice, ultimately finding quite a few silly mistakes due to misreading of the question stem, options, etc.

What did you do after the exam?
Don't remember much tbh, but I do remember complaining about the weird experimental design questions at the back of the exam while in the car. When I came home, I watched a movie and actively avoided the suggested solutions thread on ATARNotes, since I knew it was going to stress the hell out of me if I found out I got something totally wrong.

_________________________________________________________________


So that's all from me! Will update this guide if there's anything to add or correct. Feel free to ask any questions you have, whether it be here on the forums or over PM.

Best of luck!!!

- cookiedream


« Last Edit: February 20, 2018, 04:30:06 pm by cookiedream »
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The Special One

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2018, 02:41:49 am »
+1
Good advice, thanks for typing this up! I'm showing it to my cousin in the morning
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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2018, 11:14:42 am »
+3
Amazing advice as always, cookiedream! Guide writing legend ;D

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 11:21:30 am »
+3
Absolute legend - I wish this thread was around when I did Bio!
Adding this to the Message to All VCEers Resource Thread! ;D
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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2018, 05:56:39 pm »
+2
Wow, this is such good advice! Thank you so much for putting this up, it should be really helpful! ;D
Good luck to all doing VCE Bio in 2018!
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Owlbird83

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 08:47:08 pm »
+2
Wow thank you for your tips! They are very helpful!! :)
How many hours did you spent studying each night? I am in year eleven doing units 3/4 Biology and I'm not sure if I'm spending enough time doing studying that isn't set homework.
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TheAspiringDoc

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 08:51:45 pm »
+4
Amazing CD! will you do lang? Pls do Lang! Omg your guides are the besttttttt

My biggest tip to add is:
If you're in year 12 and will have a busy end of year so won't be doing stacks of practise exams, do Checkpoints throughout the year to get enough exposure to exam style questions - rather than 'wasting' your time on biozone (which is still a pretty good resource!)
Also practise handwriting throughout the year so your writing is fast come SAC/Exam time.


cookiedream

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2018, 10:43:48 am »
+5
Wow thank you for your tips! They are very helpful!! :)
How many hours did you spent studying each night? I am in year eleven doing units 3/4 Biology and I'm not sure if I'm spending enough time doing studying that isn't set homework.

Thank you!!! ;D

I didn't have a set amount of hours for each day.....heck, I didn't even study everyday. Sometimes I went days without studying due to stress and focusing on other subjects. I think the main thing to determine how much you study in a certain day is not the time, but the amount of content you're covering and to what extent you're actually absorbing it. So for one day 30 minutes may be enough and for another day 2 hours may be enough. Have some sort of an idea of what exactly you want to go through in a study session, whether this be a single concept like humoral immunity or revising over previous chapters, and just do it!*shia labeouf screams in the distance*
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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2018, 12:26:32 pm »
+2
You're amazing Cookie!!
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Owlbird83

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2018, 05:27:27 pm »
+1
Thank you!!! ;D

I didn't have a set amount of hours for each day.....heck, I didn't even study everyday. Sometimes I went days without studying due to stress and focusing on other subjects. I think the main thing to determine how much you study in a certain day is not the time, but the amount of content you're covering and to what extent you're actually absorbing it. So for one day 30 minutes may be enough and for another day 2 hours may be enough. Have some sort of an idea of what exactly you want to go through in a study session, whether this be a single concept like humoral immunity or revising over previous chapters, and just do it!*shia labeouf screams in the distance*

Thank you this is great advice cookiedream!
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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2018, 09:33:22 am »
+3
Great work! Definitely promoting this if you're cool with it. :)
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cookiedream

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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2018, 03:25:37 pm »
+1
Great work! Definitely promoting this if you're cool with it. :)
OMG Thank you!!!!! More than cool with it hahaha ;D
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Re: How I Got a Raw 50 in Biology - Tips, Tricks and Regrets
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2018, 03:43:53 pm »
+2
OMG Thank you!!!!! More than cool with it hahaha ;D

Wicked! We currently already have your UMAT guide scheduled for promotion in March, and this one will be posted in about two weeks from now. :) Great work again!
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