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How to study biology

How to study Biology effectively

Study tips
Published 7 Nov, 2022  ·  5-minute read

ATAR Biology is fun, challenging and stimulating. Plus, it provides foundational knowledge for many exciting university degrees and careers.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. First you need to master Year 11 and Year 12 Biology, and the best way to do that is by learning how to study Biology effectively, from the start of senior school.

These tips for studying Biology will be helpful for:

  • Year 10 students thinking of taking Biology as an ATAR subject
  • current Year 11 and 12 Biology students, particularly those studying QCE Biology (Queensland senior school Biology).

We’ll cover how to study for the ATAR Biology exam as well as internal assessments (with a focus on QCAA Biology). Year 10 students will also find helpful tips and advice for deciding whether to study Biology in Year 11 and 12.

Time to tackle the beast of Biology.

What is the best way to study Biology?

If you’re looking for advice on how to study Biology last minute, sorry friend, but you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want to excel at ATAR Biology, you need to get in the habit of weekly notetaking and revision.

For those currently studying senior school Biology – it's not too late to break a bad habit. Even if your exams are fast approaching, finding your rhythm with regular revision will help prepare you for university studies.

Because revision is so important, we’re going to cover how you should be structuring your study notes first.

How to make study notes for Biology

  • Make bullet point study notes summarising each lesson. Then, when you finish covering a topic, condense your notes further to create a key summary.
  • Don’t try to capture every single thing your teacher says during class. Pick out the main points in line with what’s in your syllabus and focus on committing these to memory.
  • If you’re having trouble grasping a concept or topic, ask your teacher for clarity before finalising your notes for that topic and moving onto the next.
  • Abbreviate and include examples in your notes – they'll help you remember and understand key points.
  • Swap study notes with a friend – they may have picked up on some important points you missed, and vice versa.

Tips for QCAA Biology internal assessments

  • Pick a research investigation topic that has plenty of peer-reviewed resources you can use to back up your points.
  • Keep referring to your assessment criteria to ensure you’re staying on track and only including relevant information that will gain marks.
  • Don’t panic if your student experiment fails – in real life, experiments fail all the time. Focus on articulating what went wrong, what you learnt from it, and how you would approach it differently next time.
  • Always take the time to proofread your assignments – you want to avoid being marked down for easily avoidable mistakes.
  • Complete past papers to practise interpreting data for your data test – the more datasets you look over, the easier you’ll find drawing conclusions.

How to study for a Biology exam

The ATAR Biology exam is worth 50% of your final mark and is split into 2 papers – the first a multiple-choice section and the second a question and response style section. Knocking over half of your marks in one short sitting is a little intimidating, so here are a few tips to help you prepare.

  • Systematically go over all the study notes you’ve made for each topic, spending a little extra time on the ones you find difficult.
  • Do practice exams under timed conditions, take note of the questions you got wrong, and complete more practice questions on these topics.
  • Analyse sample responses and take note of where additional marks were given for the longer responses. Try to incorporate these techniques into your own responses.
  • Mix up your study methods to avoid study fatigue and mindless notetaking. Turn terms you need to remember into a rhyme or a song, try studying with a friend or teaching someone in your family about the topics you’ve been learning.
Studying biology

Should I study Biology?

If you’re in Year 10 and deliberating which ATAR subjects to take in Year 11 and 12, you may well be considering whether Biology is the right subject for you. Let's break down a few commonly asked questions that will help you come to a decision.

What do you study in Biology?

QCAA Biology covers topics such as:

  • bio-artificial organs
  • stem cell research
  • animal ethics
  • the history of infectious diseases
  • biodiversity
  • habitat destruction.

Is studying Biology hard?

As with all high school subjects, answering this question is largely dependent on two things:

  • what subjects you find challenging already (as an indicator of what you’re likely to find difficult)
  • how much time you’re willing to dedicate to study.

You may find Biology more challenging than your other subjects if you don’t have an interest in how living organisms function or if maths is one of your harder subjects. But that isn’t to say that you can’t learn to love Biology and put in the time to excel at it. It’s all about mindset and effort.

Is Biology good for ATAR?

Unless you have a crystal ball and a flair for the mystic, it’s difficult to determine how Biology will be scaled for your ATAR in any given year. Furthermore, it’s impossible to predict how everyone in your Year 12 cohort across Australia is going to perform. Remember that your ATAR is a rank, not a score, so your results do depend on the marks of your peers.

Our best advice it to take Biology as an ATAR subject if it’s of interest to you, and it’ll help you get into your desired university degree or secure your dream job.

What can I study with Biology?

Biology may be a prerequisite for some university degrees, but it also provides a solid foundational knowledge for a wide range of subject areas such as environmental science, agricultural science, biomedical science and public health.

Do you have to study Biology to become a doctor?

In most cases, it isn’t a specific prerequisite to have taken ATAR Biology to study medicine at university in Australia. However, an understanding of biology will certainly improve your application to medical school, and applicants are generally expected to have completed at least one science subject in high school.

Some undergraduate programs have specific science subject prerequisites, so it’s worth researching university degrees you may be interested in before picking your ATAR subjects, as it could influence which you choose to start or go ahead with.

Explore our other study guides to find out how to excel in all your high school subjects and ace your exams.

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