Are you, like so many other students, disappointed that you won't sit Higher or Advanced Higher exams this year?
Most students see their Higher exams as the final step of the elaborate ritual that signals their transition from childhood - when everything is compulsory to adulthood, when they get to make their own choices.
If you were meant to sit Highers this year, especially Advanced Highers, that part of your natural progression has been stripped away.
It's a bit like attending church online or watching people enjoying a sumptuous feast on the telly. Fellowship and breaking bread together are essential parts of the human experience but doing so virtually... Why, you don't even get to smell the food!
Still, life goes on.
Although you won't report to a testing centre with sharpened pencils and a boatload of anxiety this year, you will still endure an assessment of sorts. Your teachers will review your class participation, assignment grades and chapter tests to cobble together ersatz Higher marks.
With them, you'll be able to register with UCAS for the university Biology study course you have your sights set on or, if you're not an Advanced candidate, you can look forward to sitting the next-higher level exams next year.
In either case, you have to earn good grades. Where Biology is concerned, Superprof has all the tips and tricks to help you.
Higher Biology Past Papers
The disruption to the normal course of affairs has left many pupils (and their parents) wondering how to proceed. Should they go all out - get their hands on everything Higher Biology related, study like mad till all hours and forego life as they know it - like they would have had Highers still been scheduled? Or should everyone just take a more relaxed approach to the whole situation?
As course work will determine your grade, you only need to study your course materials, right?
Well, if your aim was mediocrity all along, that would certainly get you there but if you want the highest possible grade, you should take advantage of all resources available to you, including SQA past papers and marking information.
As you surely know, those papers - four years' worth - are available for download on the SQA website. So are Examiner Course Reports. Have you taken a look at them?
These course reports detail which portions of the exam past students did well on and where their knowledge of biology was lacking. It also details circumstances beyond students' control that influenced exam outcomes. In one report we scanned, it mentioned that students had been taught from outdated course materials and suggested that pupils make sure they're taught to the current standards.
Wouldn't it be terrible if you had spent all that time studying obsolete information, only to discover that your grade suffered for it?
Even if you have no inclination to revise using past papers and marking information - something your Superprof strenuously advises against, you should at least read the Examiner's Course Report so that you'll know what to look for during your courses.
To learn more tips, tricks and study hacks, consult our Higher Biology report.
Advanced Higher Biology Past Papers
For you, the lack of testing might be a bit more impactful than for those who anticipated sitting National 5 and Higher exams this year. You might have been looking forward to the challenge of proving your ability to apply your knowledge of biology, possibly to inform your future career choices, if you were still undecided.
Do you have your heart set on marine biology or does research in cellular biology appeal to you more? How about combining biology with astrophysics: wouldn't you love to join the astrobiology team that will analyse Martian samples for signs of extraterrestrial life?
Astrobiology is at the cutting edge of two profound disciplines, astronomy and biology. A very exciting field for anyone interested in whether there's life on other planets...
Considering the reach that a degree in biology extends to - anything from veterinary medicine to studying potential life in the cosmos, you would naturally want to give yourself every advantage possible to make the highest grade.
As you likely sat Higher Biology exams last year, you probably already know what a valuable revision resource SQA past papers and marking information (and, hopefully, examiner course reports) can be. Furthermore, you know that they don't cost anything to download.
We want to point you to other zero-cost online resources that could maximise your chance at the best possible marks.
Quizlet is a US-based educational study platform that allows users to create study sets. Once all the data is entered, users may then call up the flashcard utility that will present a keyword or phrase for you to define. You may also answer questions, take quizzes - hence, the platform's name, or play games based on the data you entered.
If you have neither the time nor the inclination to enter the masses of information into the Quizlet database, feel free to use the Advanced Higher Biology study sets already created. For instance, Quizlet user Abigail1609 created an Advanced Higher Biology study set just last month!
Her hard work calls to mind a caveat: any time you use external resources, make sure you check the date so you'll know you're studying the latest information.
Are you a YouTube fan?
If so, you might be delighted to know that there are several channels dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of Advanced Higher Biology. Some host videos that are less than three minutes long while others' videos are longer than 15 minutes. All of the videos we looked at were well-narrated and included clear graphic information.
Here again, though, we advise you to check the upload dates to make sure you're getting the latest information.
Finally, if you're a student at Saint Andrew's Academy in Paisley or Broughton High School in Edinburgh, you know about the extensive revision resources available on their websites. What if you're not enrolled at either of those schools or any other that makes a generous supply of revision resources available?
You can still benefit from those vast troves of revision materials. A brief query to your favourite search engine will turn out multiple hits of schools with online materials to help you revise.
You may download any of their PDF papers or view their Powerpoint presentations on various topics pertaining to biology; anything from environmental concerns to the human vascular system.
Naturally, this is but a brief overview of what's available to you beyond Advanced Higher past papers...
How to Pass Higher Biology
Even though you won't sit exams this year, you still need to study your subject material, participate during lessons, turn in assignments and pass tests in class - even if those classes are held online.
All of that doesn't mean you only need to know and memorise everything your teacher presents; you have to have learning strategies in place.
For one, you have to know what's expected of you. Sure, course attendance and participation rank high on that list but, in this age of remote instruction, their meaning can be ambiguous. For instance, one pupil - Natalie logs into the online learning platform to be counted as present... but then, goes back to bed for another snooze.
Clearly, that's no effective learning strategy. Natalie's attitude amounts to "What's the point?". That's a common sentiment these days among students of all ages. Let's hope it's not yours!
In the absence of anyone holding you accountable, you must be accountable to yourself. No doubt, you have plans and goals for your future as a biologist of whichever stripe you've set your mind to; it's up to you to reach them.
It's always been up to you to achieve, anyway, so knowing what's expected of you beyond merely logging in and being counted as present will go a long way toward helping you get on the path to your future success.
You also need to know about the challenges that lay ahead, both in your current course and for your future as a biologist.
As you progress through your lessons, you may find your interest shifting from the type of biology you'd long thought would be your future to a completely different speciality. There's nothing wrong with that; it only means that you have to expand your knowledge base to accommodate any change that might come down the pike.
You may conclude that, by studying from the various resources available to you, you're just not getting the whole story where your biology education is concerned. If that's the case, think about learning with a private tutor.
Besides keeping you on track with your studies, a biology tutor can:
- help you set up and stick to a revision schedule
- show you new ways to think about your study materials
- introduce you to learning tools you mightn't have ever used, such as mind maps, flashcards and the like
- encourage you and help you build/maintain confidence
This COVID-19 situation has had a whole range of effects on students of all ages. For some, it has shattered their confidence and, for others, has made them more determined than ever to overcome and succeed.
We certainly hope you're in the latter category and every Superprof biology tutor is on standby with insight on how you can keep your focus, stay strong and pass your Higher Biology ordeal even though there will be no exams this year.