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Get ahead in A-level Biology

If you are currently awaiting your GCSE results, and are due to start studying A-level biology this September, here are some tips for preparing yourself ahead of the new year.

Firstly, a lot of students express that the biggest shock when progressing from GCSE to A-level is the sheer volume of content. The GCSE biology syllabus includes 7 main topics with 24 sub-topics in total whereas the A-level syllabus comprises of 8 main topics with 39 sub-topics. 15 additional topics, as well as developing analysis skills and learning how to write a detailed and comprehensive 25-mark essay can easily become overwhelming. Not to mention a similar situation with your other subjects (sorry for the not so warm welcome!)

The most effective way to overcome this initial shock seems obvious, but not many think to do. That is - look at the specification online. Familiarise yourself with the first couple of topics. I'm not suggesting that you learn the entirety of the A-level syllabus before you even step foot in a college classroom, but just look. Identify words and concepts that you are familiar with from the GCSE syllabus. Maybe research some that you have never seen or heard. Giving yourself this time to prepare will have you strolling into class with ease and an open mind, ready to learn and absorb this new content. With all the chaos and anxiety that comes with starting a new year - finding your new classrooms, making new friends, settling into new routines and everything else... feeling like you're well-prepared will prove a lot more valuable than you might think.

Secondly, it is really important to stay on track. You might have felt that your GCSE's were somewhat 'easy' and that you could pay little attention and come back and revise closer to the exam. You will not get far with that attitude towards A-levels. The fast pace of learning means that if you fall behind, it can be quite hard to catch up. The same applies to those who did not find school easy, but are reluctant to reveal that they are struggling to understand. My advice would be to recap the content after every lesson, and make sure you have really understood. Check that you can recall information accurately. If you haven't, ask for help (your teachers will not be annoyed). Watch videos. Read revision articles. There are so many resources available online these days, tailored to all different learning styles, that is is theoretically possible to learn any syllabus entirely online. Making sure you stay on track will prevent you spiralling into panic come exam season.

Finally, enjoy the syllabus! A-level biology introduces you to some really fascinating topics and, when approached with the right attitude, can equip you with some really valuable knowledge. Whether you are looking to pursue further education or even a career in science, or just doing biology because you like it, taking time to really absorb your new topics will help ensure your enthusiasm won't fade.

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