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March 09, 2021, 05:30:05 pm

Author Topic: Advice to smash Biology ¾  (Read 1523 times)  Share 

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SmartWorker

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Advice to smash Biology ¾
« on: December 30, 2020, 06:30:37 pm »
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Hey everyone!!

I completed Bio ¾ this year in year 11 and received a 45 SS. I hope everyone was pleasantly surprised by their results. The rest of this text wall is my advice for future biologists (if you are doing bio, I would like to call myself that). Sit back, relax and enjoy!
😊


Introduction:

Biology is by definition, the study of life. Life as we define it is a number of complex activities or behaviours that are characteristic of existence or living, including growth, reproduction, etc. So essentially, when studying biology, you are, as in every endeavour exploring what does being human mean. As humans we are insatiably curious, and for me Biology was able to partly fulfill a piece of that curiosity that has always left me asking for more. Your study of Biology may become the catalyst of further study into a specific field of Bio, as it has been for many. So, if you dare, venture on and discover why Biology has left a profound impact on our society, and simultaneously you *might* be able to pick up a few tools that will help you study Bio!



Why?

Why study Bio you may ask? Well, as was defined before, Biology is the study of life and therefore you will in turn ask why study life? (See what I did there, sparking your curiosity, tip 1: always be curious and ask questions). The study of life unlocks the possibility for innovations to improve our lifestyle and to ensure the continuity of the human species (dramatic, huh?). Let’s look at an application of Biology, namely, medicine. Through the application of biological knowledge, we are able to treat patients and alleviate pain and heighten their living standard. The bionic ear or Cochlear implant, an Australian-made novelty has allowed people to hear who were suffering from impairments. Such innovations that are able to accomplish tremendous things, is, I believe, a worthy pursuit; I’m sure Elon would agree. Not only this, but the realisation that we are the only life source (known to this point) is a humbling prospect. A blue marble that sits upon a vast ocean of blackness, perpetually moving through what seems an abyss.



Breakdown of the VCE ¾ Bio course:

The VCE Bio ¾ course consists of Unit 3: How do cells maintain life? and Unit 4: How does life change and respond to challenges over time?

Each unit comprises of 2 or 3 Area of Study (AOS).

Unit 3: How do cells maintain life?

AOS 1: How do cellular processes work?, such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration
AOS 2: How do cells communicate?, such in an immune response, how do leukocytes (WBCs) coordinate a measured reaction

Unit 4: How does life change and respond to challenges over time?

AOS 1: How are species related? such as using fossils to map out an evolution pathway.
AOS 2: How do humans impact on biological processes? this is HUGE now, for example CRISPR and its implications, like rendering genetic diseases a thing of the past!
AOS 3: Practical Investigation, usually an experiment you conduct followed by a write up, my school did this once we finished the Unit 3 course and before beginning Unit 4.

Do you notice any commonality between the Unit and AOS titles? They are all posed as questions (with the exception of U4, AOS 3), reiterating the importance of asking questions.

This information is sourced from VCAA’s Bio Study Design. (Tip 2: I HIGHLY recommend, printing out and sticking the sd onto your wall or an easily accessible place, credit: Cookiedreams, I learned this from her awesome guide, be sure to check it out as well!)

When it comes to studying Bio, I always start with the big picture and then work my way into the minute details. (Tip 3: Look for the bigger picture when studying a particular concept and connect one concept to another). VCAA-styled questions usually include multiple concepts to test your knowledge, to see if you have made the connections. A classic example is the relationship between photosynthesis and cellular respiration, as you will come to learn is an often-tested concept in SACs and exams. An example is provided to download this (if you scroll down:, sorry idk how to include images here). Source: VCAA, 2008 BIOL EXAM 1


A note on taking notes:

Biology unlike other subjects is heavily content based, and therefore requires you to be able to recall concepts and at times definitions. My go to for Bio, was to take notes using the textbook (Jacaranda), I know this will not be effective for everyone, but I felt in order to develop a richer understanding, I couldn’t rely on other’s notes. Through taking notes you learn what is important to know for SACs and Exams (this is mediated by referring to the sd that is stuck on your wall!) and what is extra detail that might satisfy your curiosity or what is definitely not needed. (Tip 4: Always use your sd when in doubt if I need to know this particular concept, if it is explicitly stated then yes, if not, then no). (Tip 5: the phrasing and expression in the sd is also helpful to improve your expression in answering questions). My notes weren’t for verbatim of the textbook, instead I used my own words, diagrams, arrows to connect and display ideas/concepts in a way that made sense to me. Do what works for you! I took notes by hand on paper, rather than by typing because I was able to draw important diagrams and processes out that I would not have been able to by typing, but of course since we live concurrently with the existence of the apple pen, you can now do both at the same time, hahaha (Tip 6: Initially you will need to spend time taking notes, but overall majority of your time should be spent doing practice questions)



Summer Holidays:

I would definitely recommend both getting a head start and finding time to chill, there is no point if you burnout early. During the hols I usually fall prey to procrastinating, but that feeling only arose from having the wrong mindset. Taking time off to relax, is not procrastinating, it is time well spent for your health and wellbeing that is more important. During Dec-Jan, I completed if I recall correctly the first 3 or 4 chapters, AOS 1 of U3. It is more useful for you to develop a deep understanding of the first few chapters, than having a shallow understanding of the entire course. (Tip 7: Learn something correctly the first time, don’t rely upon waiting for another opportunity, during class you should be consolidating this pre-learned knowledge)


During school days:

I always tried to remain a chapter or two ahead of my school, to ensure I was on top of things if anything were to happen (as COVID hit us). For the process of studying a concept I would advise to do the following:

1.   Pre-learn concepts: by reading the chapter and trying a few practice questions.
2.   During Class: listen attentively to your teacher and ask questions.
3.   Post-class: Complete a ton of practice questions, correct them and learn from them. (more on this later on)

I finished Unit 3 and 4 by late July and got stuck into practice questions and exams. This gave me 3ish months to prepare for the final end of year exam! I covered the entire course before adjustments to the study design were made, so if you have any questions from anywhere in the sd be sure to ask! I also am participating in the 2021 Bio Olympiad summer school, so if you have any questions regarding that as well, ask away!



Resources: to aid conceptual understanding of concepts

1.   Jacaranda Textbook ¾ (My primary source of information)
2.   http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/9834092339/sitemap.html
(REALLY awesome animations, 100% recommended, additionally there are MCQ)
3.   Checkpoints (topic-specific questions)
4.   YouTube: Amoeba Sisters, Khan Academy
5.   Dr. John Campbell (if you love Bio, and want to expand your horizon to a global perspective, I HIGHLY recommend watching him on YouTube, especially given the current COVID situation, I usually watch his daily updates) – a caveat: this is not specifically related to bio, but will definitely develop your passion for Bio


How to prepare for SACs:

SACs test a specific or a few AOS, therefore you must cater your study in the week or two leading up to your SAC to focus on doing practice question after practice question. For example, the immunity SAC specifically focused on AOS 2 of U3, therefore, to study for this SAC I would go through the sd as a checklist ensuring I knew what every word meant and how the concepts related, and second, I would use checkpoints to practice every kind of question that I could be faced with.


Improving Expression

1.   Always read the command term: imo this is the largest factor in SA that will drastically improve your score. Use a highlighter to identify the command terms. For example, this question:

In the rat pituitary gland, GC stimulates the production of the growth hormone protein. However, in the rat liver, GC stimulates the production of the enzyme tryptophan oxygenase.

Given that the genetic sequence is identical in all somatic rat cells, explain how the production of distinct proteins in different cell types could occur.
(2 marks)

Source: VCAA, 2015 Biology Exam

From reading the question, you can identify that it is asking you to explain how different proteins are produced (the diversity of the proteome comes up a lot), but the command term is not only “explain how…” it includes “given... the genetic sequence is identical” so what do you refer to in your answer? Not post-transcriptional modifications rather it MUST involve the genetic sequence. Only 4% of the state was able to realise this, see below for the examiner’s report (scroll down again:)

2.   Be specific in your answers, by using dot points and quoting data when required. Questions requiring answers with the data will say “given the data…”, again pay attention to the command term!



Specific Advice!

Experimental Design:

This is one of the most, if not the most frequent places to drop marks for everyone across the state, so using that logic it is one of best places to gain marks, because it will make a more marked impact upon your SS than other knowledge-based question, albeit there are some tricky knowledge-based questions!

First thing first, know your definitions of accuracy, precision, reliability, validity, random error, systematic error, control group vs control variables. Experimental design questions can be tested on any concept from the unit 3 and 4 course, so it will pay well to learn this early on in the year!

•   Accuracy refers to how close measurement values are to the true values
•   Precision refers to how close measurement values are to each other
•   Validity refers to whether it was a fair test/experiment? Whether there was only 1 IV? Does the experiment answer the research question?
•   Reliability refers to whether the experiment can be repeated and obtain consistent results?
•   Random error impacts precision. An example of a random error could be adding 5ml more of a 0.5% catalase solution.
•   Systematic error impacts accuracy, and therefore affects all or most measurement values. An example of a systematic error could be a non-calibrated measuring scale, all measurement values may be off by 10g or so.
•   A control group (this is REALLY important; you will have to define it on a number of occasions) serves as a baseline to compare the effect if the IV. For example, if you are testing the impact of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis, then your control would be a plant that is placed in the dark (the absence of light intensity which is the IV)
•   A control variable on the other hand, describes variables that are kept constant in each experimental and control group, such as genetically identical plants were used, the water availability, initial glucose levels.

You will also need to be able to formulate a hypothesis (if… (IV) then… (DV) ), going along with the photosynthesis experiment, if the plant is exposed to a higher light intensity then the volume of oxygen produced will be higher. Other important aspects of experimental design include being able to suggest improvements to an experiment or the limitations of a particular experiment. An experiment is essentially a test that seeks to identify if some variable A (IV) impacts another variable B (DV), anything that the limits your ability to identify a direct correlation between the variables is termed a limitation.

It is also worth knowing how to respond to a “design an experiment” question that is worth 4 or 5 marks. For example, for this question:

Design an experiment that demonstrates that increasing the level of Insulin results in an increase in the uptake of glucose. (5 marks)

Answer:
•   Divide a 100 agar plates containing genetically identical animal cells into 5 groups of 20.
•   Independent variable: expose Group 1,2,3,4 to varying concentrations of insulin, including 0.1%, 0.5%, 2%, 5% concentrations
•   Group 5 acts as the control group and is not exposed to Insulin.
•   Dependent variable: measure the level of CO2 produced as a result of the breakdown of glucose that was taken up by the animal cells.
•   Control variables: ensure the temperature and pH of the agar plates are kept constant
•   Repeat the experiment at least 5 times. (this is necessary and is often forgotten)


Ethical vs Social vs Biological implications and issues:

•   Ethical issues/implications relate to the individual and whether something can be classified as right or wrong, it is not black-and-white and is often debatable. For example, an ethical issue can be whether abortion should be permitted.
•   A social issue/implication relate to how it affects the community or society. For example, are large businesses able to patent GM genes, increasing costs to local farmers who are then required to repurchase GM seeds annually.
•   A biological issue/implication relates the living organisms. Such as the possibility of an adverse allergic reaction from GM plants in humans from the consumption of Golden Rice for example.

Know your ethical, social and biological issues/implications for GMOs, gene cloning, DNA profiling, genetic sequencing.



The 3 months in the lead up to the Bio exam:

These are the days (haha) that will either make or break your SS! I would advise you to make best use of these months. My process of improving my exam score was very methodological, and hopefully given this, can be replicated by many others!

Your exam score will be based on the number of marks you are able to obtain, these marks are derived from writing a correct and well-expressed, water-tight answer to short answer questions. This was my process of improving both my conceptual understanding and expression:

1.   Complete a TON of questions.
2.   Keep an error book: for me this was the regular spiral A4 notebook, that I divided into sections. I cut and pasted each dot point from the sd and would copy the question I got wrong and the correct answer.
3.   Review your error book regularly: for example, before my photosynthesis SAC I would go through all the questions I got wrong for dot points under photosynthesis, this helped me immensely.
4.   Concepts that are unclear, go back and review them, using your notes or by watching online YouTube animations

And this is optional for those who are mathematically inclined! (but it helps a lot!)

5.   Log your practice exams on an excel sheet, record your scores, and graph them: I used an excel document from b^3, an amazing AN user and the great thing about it is everything is automated! Here is a link to download:
https://atarnotes.com/forum/index.php?topic=43219.0


Practice Exams:

The first VCAA exam I completed was on 21st of September and last one being a week or so before my actual exam (which was on the 13th of Nov, 2020)

The VCAA exams in did were in the following order:
2017, 2018, 2019, 2017 NHT, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2006 E1 & 2, 2007 E1 & 2, 2012 E1, 2018 NHT, 2012 E2, 2017 (2), sample, 2008 E1, 1997, 1998, 2018 NHT, 2019 (2), 2013 (2), 2014 (2), 2017 (2), then I believe I redid the 2017 to 2019 for a third time.

(2) refers to completing the exam for the second time.

In terms of the number of exams I completed its ~45, this includes both VCAA and commercial exams, the majority being VCAA exams, of which I repeated multiple times.

Commercial practices exams I used includes: NEAP, AtarNotes (AN), ACED, Insight, Edrolo, Access, QATs, TSSM

Recommended commercial exams:
- NEAP (mostly on point, but worth it)
- AN (always on point, amazing exam resource! And its free so why not?)
- ACED
- Insight (one of their exam was very long, good to test whether your attention and concentration is up to standard for the exam)
- Access

Not recommended commercial exams:
- TSSM (definitely don’t do these ones, often goes outside of what is required and is poor in comparison to other exams that are better worth your time)
- TSFX (definitely don’t do these, they are well below the VCE standard)
- Edrolo (very similar to the more recent VCAA exams, in terms the questions are almost exactly the same except for a few words/phrases, not worth it imo when you have the VCAA exams)

I didn’t really use Biozone religiously like others have, so I cannot comment on how useful it is. From the pages I did do, I understood that the content and questions were very detailed. My teacher had a prescribed list of pages to do in biozone and I found them helpful although I didn’t pay much attention to them. So up to you on whether you use biozone or not!


Important note regarding the use of commercial exams:

I primarily used VCAA exams to improve my expression and knowledge of concepts, as commercial exams very often went either beyond what was required of the VCE course or below the standard of VCAA exams. VCAA exams are your gold standard, and anything that deviates you from this fails to prepare you for the final exam. Whilst some practice exams may be really good, or harder than VCAA exams, the expression they use and how succinctly they able to answer a question and what answers are required for a particular question may vary from VCAA exams. Hence, I stuck mostly to doing VCAA exams and refining my answers to VCAA exam questions. The examiner’s reports are imo, the most useful resource to up your biology expression, they provide exactly what is required of you to answer each and every question on an exam. Once you do a few practice exams, you will begin to notice recurring patterns of questions that appear often in exams, this will not only save you time but reduce stress or anxiety come exam day. So key takeaway, focus on VCAA exams, and only use commercial exams to supplement when necessary. Even if you exhaust the VCAA exams, redo them especially the current study design questions.

In terms of previous study designs for VCAA exams, still do them as they contain invaluable questions that have reappeared on more recent exams. But avoid questions to do with, mitosis, meiosis (unless it involves changes to gene pool or allele frequency, which is specifically in the sd), punnet squares, genetic crosses. If in doubt if a question is in the course, consult your sd, they cannot and will not ask exams questions outside of what is stated in the sd, barring the one exception they threw in a question regarding the role of NK cells in the 2018 exam, but that was extensively covered in the textbook.


During the exam:

My approach to the exam was during reading time, to start by reading the short answer (SA) questions, thinking of possible answers and in the last minute or two before writing time to start reading the MC. I would aim to finish the MC in about 30 mins and then start on SA. SA is responsible for the largest standard deviation on scores, so it would make sense to spend majority of your time on SA, take your time answering questions to write an answer that is succinct and on point. I finished SA within 1.5 hours and had ~25 mins to review my answers for both MC and SA. 




Well thanks for reading this! I hope I was able to ignite your passion for Bio, a truly amazing subject. Be sure to ask any questions you may have below, bio related or anything! All the best!!   :)
« Last Edit: January 07, 2021, 06:06:34 pm by SmartWorker »

homeworkisapotato

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2020, 09:32:21 pm »
+10
Congratulations on an amazing study score SmartWorker! Much deserved :D
Your guide is amazing, makes me want to write one too hahahahaha
I urge the future bio students to use this religiously!
2020: Biology [43]
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SmartWorker

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2020, 10:42:27 pm »
+4
Congratulations on an amazing study score SmartWorker! Much deserved :D
Your guide is amazing, makes me want to write one too hahahahaha
I urge the future bio students to use this religiously!

Hahah thank you :) You did amazing as well congrats!! More guides the better hey!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 10:45:13 pm by SmartWorker »

Harrycc3000

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2020, 01:01:40 am »
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That question about the regulatory genes is still confusing lmao I thought it was cos they might've binded to different receptors which would have formed different transcription factors-> effect diff genes. I didn't really get the regulatory gene explanation because it doesn't explain why some regulatory genes might be expressed in some cells more than others.
VCE 2020: Biology [50]
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makram

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2021, 02:43:41 pm »
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Congratulations on your score and fantastic guide too! A must-read I think :)

SmartWorker

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2021, 02:14:32 pm »
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That question about the regulatory genes is still confusing lmao I thought it was cos they might've binded to different receptors which would have formed different transcription factors-> effect diff genes. I didn't really get the regulatory gene explanation because it doesn't explain why some regulatory genes might be expressed in some cells more than others.

Yeah I understand your point, the examiner's report suggests that factors (transcription factors/proteins) expressed by regulatory genes result in the production different proteins transcribed and translated from structural genes, these factors may as well bind to different receptors so I would think that is a valid answer, yeah i didn't really find an adequate answer to explain what regulates the regulatory genes, if you do find out let me know  :) Probably other regulatory genes haha

Congratulations on your score and fantastic guide too! A must-read I think :)

Thank you!! Congrats on your twin 50s as well!! 8)


Chocolatepistachio

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2021, 11:20:37 am »
+2
2.   http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/9834092339/sitemap.html
(REALLY awesome animations, 100% recommended, additionally there are MCQ)

None of the animations work anymore because flash player no longer works :(. That’s a really good site though soo sad
« Last Edit: January 22, 2021, 11:27:38 am by Chocolatepistachio »

hihellohi

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2021, 01:09:12 pm »
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Congratulations on your study score !

I am doing 3/4 biology this year and your advice has definitely helped me :)

I was wondering if you used a tutor or if you have any tutors in mind that you would recommend?

Thank you

SmartWorker

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2021, 03:13:33 pm »
+3
2.   http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/9834092339/sitemap.html
(REALLY awesome animations, 100% recommended, additionally there are MCQ)

None of the animations work anymore because flash player no longer works :(. That’s a really good site though soo sad

yeah the website seems not to be working, but... on youtube if you search up 'mheducation' or 'Mcgraw Hill' followed by any bio concept exp: transcription and translation, their animations should still be there!  :D

Congratulations on your study score !

I am doing 3/4 biology this year and your advice has definitely helped me :)

I was wondering if you used a tutor or if you have any tutors in mind that you would recommend?

Thank you

Glad it helps:) I didn't have a tutor for Bio, as my teacher was amazing! In terms of whether to have a tutor or not, it is entirely up to you, if you find that they provide an additional insight into a concept that you or your teacher haven't thought about that can be really useful but a tutor really isn't necessary to do well. Hope it helps, sorry i couldn't recommend any tutors.

Harrycc3000

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Re: Advice to smash Biology ¾
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2021, 07:06:22 pm »
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Yeah I understand your point, the examiner's report suggests that factors (transcription factors/proteins) expressed by regulatory genes result in the production different proteins transcribed and translated from structural genes, these factors may as well bind to different receptors so I would think that is a valid answer, yeah i didn't really find an adequate answer to explain what regulates the regulatory genes, if you do find out let me know  :) Probably other regulatory genes haha
Hey! Sorry for not replying I haven't been on atarnotes in a while lol. I reckon that you're right, its probably other factors that could initiate those regulatory genes..... which would be expressed by other regulatory genes lol. But then again, wouldn't it be a kind of chicken and the egg situation? What would initiate the expression of that regulatory gene and therefore the continuous cycle of factors and genes?
VCE 2020: Biology [50]
VCE 2021: Mathematical Methods, Specialist Mathematics, Psychology, Chemistry, English Language