Reading around biology is so important. Here’s why…..

In my experience, the final paper of the A2 year of A level biology is the paper that students dread the most. Rather than being totally modular, as are the other written papers, this final paper has a large synoptic element and draws on knowledge gained from throughout the two year biology tuition Herts A level course. The expected answers are longer, and marking schedules more complicated. Often, “mini essays”are included and credit often given for information that is not necessarily covered in the actual syllabus.

I cannot stress how important it is to read around your subject at A level. This certainly applies to biology, and probably applies to other subjects as well. As a private tutor, I am often asked in April what it is that a student needs to do in order to do well on the final paper. The answer is to read broadly on topical biological issues – and two months before the final exam is not a good time to start. From the moment you commit to your two year course is the time that your background reading should begin. Magazines like New Scientist, Nature and Scientific American are available in newsagents. I’m not suggesting every magazine should be read from cover to cover, but a glance at the contents page or the headlines gives a flavour of the articles inside. Molecular biology, green issues, stem cell research, global warming and cancer are topical and included in the syllabus.

So, if you have finished your AS exams and have time on your hands this summer, pop down to the local newsagent or supermarket, grab a couple of magazines and get reading. Get a head start on your mates before September and be ready for those synoptic questions next year!