These days, revision isn’t all about trawling through textbooks looking for the information you need. It doesn’t even really need to be about searching through the notes that you made in class – or navigating your school’s online system to find where your teacher left the PowerPoint.
Rather, there are hundreds of new ways to study – and most of these are due to the developments in technology over recent years. With a mobile phone in your pocket and a pair of headphones slung around your neck, there’s now no obstacle to studying wherever you are and whenever you have a free moment.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like such a great thing for you! But rather than being shackled, at all times, to the possibility of revision, you should see these developments as something of a liberation. The new educational apps and podcasts provide different ways of communicating information for those with different learning styles: learning is not synonymous with reading – and it is not bad to not find it easy to learn by reading.
Mobile phones do a lot these day – and you should take advantage of them for your biology revision.
Further, whilst podcasts can transport any biological information you’ll need for your exams straight into your ears – making studying possible whilst you are waiting for the bus or walking to school – apps are particularly useful for learning biology.
This isn’t history or English, or some heavily book-based subject. Rather, the biological sciences demand the use of diagrams and images, and an understanding of processes. These are much better presented with the dynamism that apps offer, rather than on the still, dry page of a book.
Like, honestly, how much more effective is it to see the process of cell division, rather than just read about it? How much more engaging is it to be able to visualise the structures of DNA or organ systems in an organism?
Biology is a beautiful and amazing subject if you think about it (think about how an eyeball or a heart or a rose just grew that way!), so you may as well use some revision tools that do justice to that beauty. And, without further ado, here are some of the best apps and podcasts to do precisely that.
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Gojimo has become one of the biggest education apps around, with a massive third of all GCSE and A Level students using it. It covers nearly thirty GCSE topics and twenty A Levels. That’s not even all, as it also helps you prepare for entrance exams for universities across the world and for schools in the UK.
The app works by giving you random test questions in your chosen subject or unit. Once you have answered the question, you’ll get the answer – and a detailed explanation of where you went wrong (or right!). These explanations are fully illustrated and diagrammed, meaning that it ain’t all text.
It’s completely free and can be used offline, so you can study genetics, photosynthesis, or evolution literally wherever you are.
Once you have nailed your biology exam, the app also provides information on destressing after your studies.
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Audiopi provides audio training that complements your studies in any subject – from chemistry to English, from physics to maths. Of course, biology is covered too, so you can go over your studies in zoology, ecology, or physiology whilst on the move.
The biology resources they offer are mostly focused on the iGCSE biology course, but the information that they present is relevant to all courses. Written by actual university professors and endorsed by schools and teachers up and down the country, the podcasts are very well respected, and the quality is very high. They are all available on the Audiopi app too – so you can have all your information about microorganisms and biodiversity in one place.
The podcasts are performed by actors with sound effects and an incredibly engaging script. This might make your biology topics a little more fun.
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LearnOutLoud are an American company with the honourable intention of turning ‘dead time’ – that time you spend travelling to school or doing chores – into ‘learning time’, in which you prepare yourself for your biology class or exam. They now have a catalogue of over fifty thousand different audio and video downloads for you to learn with.
The biology selection is substantial, with over a hundred different audio guides to choose from. The topics range from anatomy to evolutionary theory and are all written and read by experts.
Watch out that they are not designed with the biology test of any particular exam board in mind, so you will still need to use them in combination with your biology textbook.
With their cheeky name and their determination to sniff out the weirder bits of science, the Naked Scientists provide a really fun way to learn all about your subject.
Don’t expect them to be geared towards your exam at all, but the podcasts here remind you that biology is actually a subject that’s enjoyable, relatable, and interesting. Well worth a try for those who want to realise that biology can be fun.
Letts is an imprint of the publisher, Collins; it’s the part of the company that deals with textbooks for schools. As such, it is a super-reliable source of information for students, and of course this applies to those on biology courses too.
The biology files are quite heavy – packed as they are with info on all life on earth – but they are worth it once you have downloaded them. They are audio files, or podcasts, and the twenty or so lectures contained provide comprehensive detail on everything you will need for a GCSE course – from cell structure to the digestive or reproductive system.
If you are looking for something to give you the edge over your fellow students in your high school biology class, you may want to dip into something a little more difficult. The University of Oxford’s audio downloads, with lectures from academics at what is arguably the best university in the world, are of course of incredibly high quality, but they might not be immediately accessible to all.
Topics include genomics (the study of the genome!), the relationships that living things build between each other, how eyes work, and the ways that neuron behaviour affects your mental health. If you are looking for something inspiring, this is the place to come!
The University of Oxford provides lots of resources for studying biology.
Quizlet is an app for those who are sick of carrying the content of their biology syllabus around on physical flashcards that are doomed to get destroyed. With this app, you can make your flashcards on your phone, or use those made by other people, to help you revise. (Just to let you know, there are nearly three hundred million flashcards available to download and use. That’s a lot of flashcards, if you were in any doubt.)
Just get onto the Quizlet website and make a search (try ‘GCSE biology’, say) and you’ll find hundreds of sets of flashcards to help you. Just download them to your phone. Didn’t know the definition of cellular respiration? It’s there. Can’t remember what cytoplasm is? It’s there. Can’t remember the details of the circulatory system? Fear not: it’s there. There are enough biology notes to go around.
You might know The Student Room as an online forum for students to talk about revision, university applications, or their favourite football team. But they also have a website (and app) that is designed to help you with your revision.
Here, you can download flashcards for literally any biology qualification – GCSEs and A Levels, International Baccalaureate, or Scottish Highers and National 5s – and each set is rated by other users, so you can tell the quality before you download them.
This app also comes with a study planner, meaning that you can timetable your revision in and get notifications when you have already scheduled to be studying.
Using mindmaps can be very helpful for biology revision – particularly with apps that make it easier.
iMindMap is an app used by business leaders, students, and teachers alike. Bet you don’t know what it does? Of course, you do: it helps you make mind maps.
If you have been having trouble organising your thoughts and ideas or can’t remember the cell cycle or the process of osmosis, a good mind map might be the best way you to get you through the maze.
Supposedly NASA, Disney, and Microsoft use this app, so there might be something worth thinking about in it.