Academic Subjects Tips

Tips for Biology HL

Biology was a subject that took up a large chunk of my revision time, as the workload was heavy in terms of the amount of content and the number of requirements to fulfill. For me, I think the most difficult aspect of this subject is the time-management aspect of having to balance the IA with other requirements and the learning of new topics. Laboratory experiments require lots of time, and you will not have enough if you are juggling other requirements for other classes.

Compared to the other science subjects, Biology HL is definitely more on the memorization side than the application side. However, with the right study techniques and a growth mindset, anyone can excel in this subject. I would definitely recommend this subject to anyone who is interested in going into a STEM program in university. Chances are that it may be a subject prerequisite for admission into your chosen program. That being said, anyone can benefit from the critical-thinking skills learnt from taking this subject, regardless of whether you plan to pursue a career in STEM.


1. Don’t just memorize!

Memorizing all the content in this course without actually understanding may be quite tempting. However, it is an inefficient and ineffective way of going about this subject. Don’t merely highlight everything in the textbook or rewrite your notes over and over again. Instead, try to check your understanding by teaching it to someone else. A great way of doing this is explaining concepts to a person who doesn’t study biology. If they are able to understand what you are saying in simpler terms, then not only is the concept ingrained in your mind, but now you also understand it!

2. Find a study buddy

Similar to the first tip, this one ensures that you don’t blindly memorize concepts. When studying alone, you can often unintentionally miss important ideas and only realize it in the middle of the exam. Having a study buddy to bounce ideas off of and explain concepts to verbalizes the learning process, making your learning more intentional. They can also point out your blindspots and correct you when you’ve misunderstood a topic.

3. Make the most out of the syllabus

If you look at the Biology HL syllabus, you will find an entire section dedicated to the learning objectives and unit-by-unit breakdowns. This comes in handy when you’re revising for finals and need to determine which information is essential and which information you don’t need to know. Another way of doing this is using a condensed study guide instead of the textbook. An excellent study guide is the one published by the Oxford University Press

4. Past papers, past papers, past papers

One of the best ways to learn is through practice. This is especially important for Paper 2’s short-answer and extended response questions. Mark schemes for this paper will give in-depth explanations for each question, as well as a breakdown on answers where you can earn marks. Not only will you be able to point out your areas of weakness, but you will also be able to learn a specific way of writing that will allow you to maximize marks. You can also test yourself under timed exam conditions so that you are able to get used to the pacing of the exams. 

Biology HL is undoubtedly a content-heavy subject. However, with these study tips and a lot of hard work, I hope that you can excel and achieve your Biology HL goals!

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