Your exams are on the horizon – and it is time to start thinking about how you are going to approach your revision. If you are a GCSE student, you will have many subjects fighting for your attention, whilst, A Levellers, you will have to plan your time wisely to balance the subjects upon which you are working. Time-management is the name of the game here.
Luckily, we’re here to help out with that by making the whole process a little easier. For every subject, you’ll no doubt be having to track down the right resources for your studies – either because you have gaps in your notes or because you are just looking at ways to shake up your revision strategies.
This can be a pretty time-consuming activity, as there is a lot of dross to sift through online and in the libraries – and you never really know whether the information these things give is actually worth reading or not.
That’s why we’ve put together this little library of great resources to help you with your revision. Whether you’re the sort of old-fashioned kid who likes to learn from books, or someone hip and edgy who is all about the latest apps, we have something for you here. So, listen up.
Studying for Biology
Here, we’re talking about biology, that wonderful discipline that spans from ecology or zoology – which focus on the interaction of individual organisms with the diversity of life and ecosystems – to genetics and genomics, which study the inheritance of DNA and genetic characteristics from parent to child.
It’s a fascinating and broad subject, and for both A Level and GCSE – as well as for iGCSE and International Baccalaureate – biology covers a lot of ground and demands a lot of different academic skills. This is why you need to know your resources – as it is difficult to cover so much through only a single source of information. Different resources make you think in different ways, aiding different ways of learning.
So, think about which resources might work best for you, and which might work best for particular biology topics. Because whilst it might be easy enough to study evolutionary theory by reading it in a biology book, you might find it easier to click with cellular respiration, osmosis, or protein synthesis by watching a video or a diagram – for example.
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Apps and Podcasts for Revising Biology
Apps are one of the most innovative ways to revise for biology these days – fusing accessible content and the opportunity for audio/visual extras with everyone’s favourite object, the mobile phone. With an app for revising biology, there’s never an excuse not to be studying (and it might make the whole experience a little more engaging and interactive too).
But let’s not forget podcasts, because, usually, where there’s a phone, there probably isn’t a pair of headphones too far behind. This is all you need to enjoy podcasts, and, with them, you can have all your favourite facts about photosynthesis, enzymes, and ribosomes plugged straight into your ears. It might be a great opportunity to turn those walks to school into casual revision sessions.
Biology Revision Apps
There are lots of great revision apps around these days – from those designed to make flashcards and mind-maps to those that quiz you on everything you need to know for your biology course.
Gojimo is one of the most popular, as, with it, you can revise every different subject that you can think of. It tests you on content tailored towards your GCSE or A Level course – or any other for that matter – and provides explanations after each round of questions. Once you have passed your exam, you can move onto information about applying for university or making a top-notch CV.
Another great app is Quizlet, one of the most-used educational apps in the world. This one makes flashcards, which you can test yourself with (without carrying around a massive stack of paper like in the old days!). And you can also download those cards made by other people; there are some three hundred million of them.
Science and Biology Podcasts
Podcasts are a little less innovative in format, because they sort of have to be: they are just audio. This is not to say that they are boring or unhelpful (they are neither), but that you can only really do one thing with them: listen.
Whilst there is that, that’s just about the only limitation that they do have. If you like your evolution packed up with fun, your biochemistry very serious, or if you want a no frills lecture with biodiversity or microbiology facts coming straight into your ears, then you’ll find them.
The Naked Scientists podcast is a great option if you want the former, as these focus on the parts of chemistry, physics, and biology that you might not necessarily find in the classroom. If there were a downside to their podcast for revision, it might be that: they don’t really tailor their content for the exam boards.
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Luckily, others do. Try the Letts Biology Audio files or Audiopi’s podcasts for some GCSE revision.
Books to Prepare you for your Biology Exam
Books are the age-old, magisterial source of knowledge, and all these fancy gizmos like apps and websites will never quite dethrone them for their usefulness for revision. And whilst the printed page sort of takes the interactiveness out of studying, you really need to engage with it if you are intending to go anywhere with biology – or indeed any subject.
Luckily, you have plenty of options, which can be neatly divided into three things here: textbooks, proper books by proper biologists that might actually be half interesting, and magazines, which are perfect for dipping into lots of different subjects (because anyone might find it a bit daunting to tackle a whole book on digestive tissues or the cell structure of plants).
You can find more information on all of this in our dedicated article on biology books for revision!
Your Exam Textbooks
Depending on your way of thinking, a biology textbook is either the first port of call in your revision or the very last. The first because it will include everything you need for your biology courses – whether A Level, GCSE, or anything else – as they are written and endorsed by the examination boards, meaning they direct their content towards the exam. The last because it sort of takes the fun out of science – and you can get the information from more interesting sources.
Regardless of your point of view, some of the best ones are published by CGP, by Oxford University Press, and by Pearson. Between them, they cover all of the main exam boards – and they are guaranteed to have quality content.
Biology Books Written by Proper Scientists
The world of science is loaded with brilliant books that are incredibly accessible for all ages. To get some inspiration, and some insight into the world of biology beyond the classroom, these are a brilliant resource.
Where to start? Try with Charles Darwin, the British scientist who 'discovered' evolution, the idea that living organisms, all life on earth, have developed and changed through history due to the conditions of their environment. Or try Richard Dawkins, a popular biologist who continues Darwin’s work today.
Otherwise, if you are interested in conservation, try Rachel Carson. If, on the other hand, you have a passion for bacteria, try Ed Yong’s recent book, I Contain Multitudes.
If none of these, find something that inspires you yourself!
Some Magazines to Develop your Biology Knowledge further
Magazines offer shorter articles than books – meaning they might be a better place to begin for people who want a broader, more accessible view of science – and there are many many to choose from.
Try the New Scientist for a start. This is a British publication aimed at a popular audience, and it covers lots of different things that will stretch your knowledge beyond high school biology. Some of the articles are really fascinating, so pick up a copy.
Websites to Help with your Biology Examination Preparation
Finally, we come to websites – and there are more websites for revision than anyone could possibly visit in their lives. But the great thing about them is that they can provide different perspectives on the problems with which you might be stuck. And, given the fairly democratic nature of the internet, anyone can contribute their own resources and material. You might find someone’s work a little more accessible or engaging than another's.
A great place to start for revision is always BBC Bitesize, which provides authoritative information based on the course that you are studying. And S-Cool is a contender for the most trusted revision website out there.
If you want to find out more about some of the best places to find revision resources, take a look at our article on options for online biology revision.