Top tips to help you achieve an A grade in A level Biology

Aiming high is daunting but don’t let that deter you. Getting an A in Biology could be what makes or breaks your offer on your dream course at your chosen university. So, if you’ve set your sights on getting an A in your Biology A level, ensure that you lay the foundations to make this happen.

As this article will reveal, achieving top marks is not just about hard work; it’s about working smart. Here at The Profs, 98% of our students achieve their predicted school grades whilst 75% achieve a higher school grade than predicted! Hence, we’ve got the insider knowledge to maximise your grades.

Stick around to uncover the top tips that will transform your approach and potentially your final grade in A level Biology!

Keen to begin elevating your A level Biology performance immediately? You don’t need to waste any more time. Just reach out to one of our expert A level Biology tutors

You might also want to check out our guide to A levels in 2024.

Understanding what you need to revise for A level Biology

In order to revise for A level Biology, you need to consider a variety of factors and prepare accordingly. Let’s run through them.

Getting acquainted with your exam board’s specification

To successfully complete your A level Biology exam, the initial stage is to familiarise yourself with the particular requirements of your examining board. 

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the specific requirements and curriculum of your examining board. For A level Biology, this will be the AQA, WJEC, Eduqas or OCR. It’s important that you understand how to approach your revision effectively and what topics to revise. 

Each exam board has its own unique specification, which outlines the syllabus, as well as the key concepts and skills they expect you to grasp. By becoming well-versed in this guide, you can focus on your revision process and make it more efficient. 

So, after identifying your exam board, go on its online portal and obtain the specifications. Next, print it out and highlight the key points. Knowing the ins and outs of your exam and the type of questions to expect plays a crucial role in your revision. 

Attaining a comprehensive understanding of the syllabus is crucial, as it guarantees that you cover all necessary topics without any exclusions. Divide the specification into manageable sections, shaping your study schedule accordingly. Pay particular attention to the sections highlighted as high priority or frequently examined. This knowledge will guide your revision process, allowing you to concentrate on the most important topics. 

Our expert tutors have plenty of experience working with different exam boards and can help shed light on what examiners are looking for.

Insider tip: It is beneficial to practise questions from alternative exam boards that align with your curriculum. Consider attempting extra application questions from past papers of other exam boards, particularly unit 3 and unit 6 papers, as they are designed based on coursework, which is now integrated into the final exams.

Mastering the A level Biology syllabus

Once you have familiarised yourself with the details of your examination board, your next task should be to fully understand the A level Biology curriculum. This involves not only identifying the areas that need to be revised but also grasping the level of knowledge and understanding that the Biology specifications require.

Start by breaking down the syllabus into smaller, more manageable sections. This can help to organise your revision and make it feel less overwhelming.

Experiment with different revision methods that are suitable for different parts of the syllabus. Techniques like actively recalling information and creating mind maps can be extremely helpful.

Don’t wind up overlooking any important elements from the syllabus. Our experienced Biology tutors shed light on everything you need to know.

Insider tip: Print a copy of the specification, focusing on the content rather than the mathematical aspects. Using a pencil, mark everything covered so far as red, amber, or green based on your confidence level. Prioritise revising the topics marked in red, and updating the markings as your confidence improves. Gradually transition items from amber to green, ensuring comprehensive coverage before the summer A level exams.

Understanding the structure of your A level Biology exam

Understanding the structure of your A level Biology exam is crucial for identifying the key areas to focus on during your study sessions and practise effectively. 

This involves familiarising yourself with the exam paper, the marking criteria, and the range of exam questions, all of which can enhance your approach to the exam and help you achieve top grades through diligent revision. See our table below for a breakdown.

Exam Paper.Get acquainted with question formats and sections.
Mark Scheme.Grasp what examiners are looking for in responses.
Exam Questions.Identify common themes and question styles.
Exam Technique.Develop strategies for managing your time and responding effectively to questions.

Our A level Biology tutors can whiz through the exam process, as well as what to expect from your paper and how to smash it! Don’t miss out on your opportunity to put your best foot forward.

How to revise for A level Biology?

To achieve top grades in A level Biology, being methodical with your revision is crucial.

Start off by creating a study timetable that allocates time for each topic, enabling you to cover all the necessary content efficiently.

Next, experiment with various revision techniques.

Creating a study plan for A level Biology revision

Developing a precise and efficient study plan is a strategic move towards achieving success in A level Biology. Start by creating a revision timetable, allocating specific time slots for study sessions, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the entire A level Biology syllabus.

Break down your revision into manageable chunks and focus on different topics in each session. Keep your revision methods diverse to maintain your interest – use flashcards, practice questions, and group discussions to enhance your understanding of biology revision concepts.

Create a precise and efficient study plan with a revision timetable, allocating specific time slots for study sessions.

Consistency is key. Stick to your timetable, but also include short breaks to refresh your mind.

With this structured approach, you are well on your way to preparing effectively for your exams and potentially achieving an excellent A grade.

Here at The Profs, we can create a bespoke study plan as well as help you stick to it.

Insider tip: Update your timetable consistently. Once you master your weak areas ensure that you move your focus so that you can keep improving and cover all areas.

Using revision techniques to revise Biology

Exploring the extensive range of revision methods can significantly enhance your understanding and memory retention of A level Biology material. Let’s jump through a few different methods.

  • Concept maps help visually represent the connections between different topics, aiding in a comprehensive understanding.
  • Summarising information forces you to condense your knowledge into key points, which improves memory retention.
  • Use diverse revision methods such as flashcards, practice questions, and group discussions, and interact with textbooks through drawing, writing, and highlighting.
  • Watch Biology explanation videos! There’s an endless supply online breaking down complex concepts so that you can have a fresh take. 

To effectively summarise and retain key information in Biology, flashcards prove to be an invaluable tool. Consider the following tips for optimising flashcard usage during your revision:

  • Generate flashcards for each chapter
  • Focus on recording only the most crucial information to enhance recall
  • Use the precise wording found in the mark scheme
  • Incorporate diagrams on flashcards to reinforce understanding
  • Pose questions on the front and provide answers on the back for self-testing
  • Keep in mind the primary objective: summarisation

Additionally, there’s no need to create flashcards from scratch, as numerous online resources cater to various examination boards. This allows you to save time and prioritise practice over card creation.

Mindmaps also prove invaluable in providing a comprehensive overview and showcasing the interconnectedness of concepts. They assist in making sense of the material and tracking your progress. 

Initiate the process by crafting mindmaps for individual modules. As you advance through the course, establish connections between the existing mindmaps to enhance your understanding of the subject’s cohesion. Generally, images and colour help us to process information and remember it.

Mastering these revision methods requires practice, but once accomplished, you will better be able to remember and apply biological knowledge.

Remember: Always strive to comprehend, not just memorise, and consistently aim to relate your learning to practical real-world applications. 

Insider tip 1: A level Biology frequently requires students to provide explanations and interpretations for certain reactions. While responding to ‘explain’ questions might appear challenging, a valuable practice is engaging in discussions with peers to verbally articulate your answers. This collaborative approach enhances comprehension and facilitates the identification of potential errors.

Insider tip 2: A last-minute review sheet is designed to jog your memory about information you tend to forget, such as definitions and equations. As you go through your regular revisions, compile a list of these easily forgettable items on your review sheet. During the final moments, calmly review everything you can, allowing your eyes to run down the paper slowly to aid your memory. It’s essential to avoid panicking and maintain a composed approach.

Need help revising? There’s no point putting in effort and work in the wrong direction. Ensure that you’re doing the right things to succeed. Our professional Biology tutors are on hand to help.

Maximising the potential of AQA, OCR, or alternative Biology textbooks

Mastering A level Biology could be significantly easier with efficient use of your AQA, OCR, or other biology textbooks. You can use these tools to enhance your understanding and apply your knowledge.

OCR even has an exam hint handbook which you can view here. It has plenty of instructional advice, including ‘comparative statements should be unambiguous’, ‘data may be presented at the start of the question and not repeated in each subsequent part’ and ‘when explaining the shape of graphs, be clear which part of the graph you are referring to’. Have a look!

To get the most out of your study materials, follow these tips:

  • Plan out your study time by assigning specific chapters or sections for review each week.
  • Condense the main points from each chapter to reinforce your grasp of the material.
  • Utilise diagrams and flowcharts to visualise processes and cycles.
  • Craft flashcards for definitions and key terms.

Remember, understanding is key, and these textbooks are valuable tools to help you achieve just that. Don’t just read them – practise active reading by interacting with them. Draw, write, highlight – do whatever you need to make the information stick.

Reach out for expert guidance.

How to maximise your Biology exam performance?

To optimise your A level Biology exam results, mastering a few key tactics will be your game-changer.

Start by thoroughly going through past paper questions and practising under timed conditions. This approach will hone your skills effectively.

It’s also worth noting the importance of getting to grips with mark schemes and steering clear of common pitfalls.

These steps are fundamental in improving your exam technique across a range of question styles.

Analysing past paper questions

Reviewing previous examination papers is a valuable exercise in optimising your performance in A level Biology exams. This process goes beyond mere practice; it involves recognising patterns, understanding the types of questions asked, and meeting the examiner’s expectations.

Here’s an effective way to scrutinise past papers:

Identify Question Types.

  • Short Answer: Take note of recurring keywords in various exams.
  • Essay Questions: Study the structure of answers that scored well.

Understand Mark Schemes.

  • Mark Allocation: Pay attention to how marks are awarded for different sections of a question.
  • Keywords: Spot the words or phrases that are likely to gain marks.

This critical analysis of previous papers is a practical approach to familiarise yourself with the examination’s pattern and to gain insight into the examiner’s mindset. It helps in focusing your study efforts and can equip you to predict and prepare for the types of questions that may appear in your exams.

This method encourages a thorough understanding of the subject, rather than rote learning. By identifying recurring keywords, you can hone in on the topics that are frequently tested. Similarly, by studying the structure of successful answers, you can gain a clear idea of how to construct your responses effectively.

Understanding the marking scheme can serve as a guide to prioritising your answers during the exam. By noticing the mark allocation, you can decide how much time and detail to give each part of a question. Recognising the keywords that earn marks can help you tailor your answers to meet the examiner’s expectations.

This process is about developing a deeper understanding of the subject, refining your exam technique, and boosting your confidence. So, when you’re preparing for your A level Biology exam, don’t just practise – analyse.

Insider tip: Keywords are often worth marks so you want to use them in your explanations rather than use layman’s terms. It often doesn’t matter if you explained the process perfectly in response to a question if you don’t use the right words examiners are looking for! Examine the mark schemes each time you study and analyse a past paper. In fact, paraphrase mark scheme answers into your notes and flashcards. Read them. Integrate that knowledge into your long-term memory with constant repetition. And you’ll be spectacular! 

Knowing how to analyse past papers can be confusing. You want your efforts to be fruitful. Our Biology A level tutors make the process easy. Allow us to guide you to success! 

Anticipate potential queries based on previous paper patterns

By studying the frequency and nature of questions from previous years, you can focus your study time on the topics most likely to be examined. Here’s a simple guide to get you started:

YearNoteworthy TopicsType of Questions
2021Genetics and evolution.Essay-style, short answer.
2020Human physiology.Data analysis, multiple choice.
2019Ecology and environment.Scenario-based, practical skills.

The table above emphasises the importance of being adaptable and prepared for a variety of question formats, ranging from essay writing to data analysis. Concentrating on these patterns will give you the confidence to tackle your exams.

Practising past papers

Along with reviewing past paper questions, you should be completing past papers! This will help you too:

  • Familiarise yourself with the exam format.
  • Understand the pattern of questions.
  • Notice recurring themes.

This method gives you a clear indication of your level of proficiency and areas that require further study, thus guiding your revision focus.

Carefully assess your performance to pinpoint areas where you could do better. Here’s a guide:

  • Compare your responses with the mark schemes.
  • Identify the areas where you didn’t score.
  • Understand why the correct responses were accurate.
  • Ask for feedback on your mock exam papers. Teachers can provide valuable tips on improving your responses.
  • Discussing with classmates can help you see different perspectives and approaches.

Insider tip: At the start of the year (say January), aim to complete about 70-80% of the past papers that are accessible. Next, identify the questions that you answered incorrectly and compile these questions in a document for your revision so that you can work on them again at a later date.

It’s important you get your papers marked by a teacher or one of our excellent Biology tutors so that you can track your progress, as well as learn where you need to improve. Our tutors will go the extra mile to ensure you keep improving. 

When you mark your papers, record your scores in a tracker so that you can identify your weaker areas. Again, our experts can help with this!

Practising Biology questions under timed conditions

Practising biology questions in a timed setting is a crucial part of improving your exam results. This approach sharpens your skills in dealing with time constraints and tackling complex questions.

Set a timer.Replicates exam environment and builds stamina. Timed practice is highly effective in preparing you for real exam conditions, thus enhancing your endurance. 
Answer in order.Answering questions in a systematic order allows you to approach the exam in an organised manner and fosters a methodical approach.
Review mistakes.Most importantly, reviewing your mistakes provides insight into the areas that require more attention and pinpoints areas for further study.
Simulate setting.Simulating the exam environment can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety you may experience on the actual day. This can reduce anxiety on the day of the exam.
Use examiner reports.Utilising examiner reports can prove invaluable in understanding the specific marking criteria. It’s helpful to grasp the grading standards.

This technique of timed practice, though challenging, is integral to your exam success. It not only prepares your mind for the exam environment but also helps you identify and improve your weaker areas. The more you practise under timed conditions, the better equipped you will be to handle the exam when it comes.

It can be tough to motivate yourself to take frequent practice exams and emulate the right conditions. Our expert Biology tutors are pros at this and can support you.

Insider tip: Timing gets better with practice so ensure that you time as much as you can. Don’t simply time your practice exams, also time yourself when answering 6 mark questions etc. This will keep you on track and get you in the habit of timekeeping!

Understanding mark schemes to achieve maximum marks

Understanding the intricacies of mark schemes can greatly enhance your performance in A level Biology exams. Grasping how exam boards allocate marks allows you to personalise your responses to achieve the highest possible score. 

By clarifying the meaning of these key terms and focusing on the command words, you can tailor your answers to meet the expectations of the examiners. It’s not just about having knowledge of the subject matter, but also about understanding what the question is asking of you. By doing so, you can ensure that your answers are clear, concise, and to the point, thereby increasing your likelihood of achieving the highest possible marks.

Insider tip: Whilst comprehension is number one, you should still memorise mark schemes. This will enable you to constantly employ every necessary detail and tick it off in your answers, and soon, that’ll become muscle memory. Obviously, you can’t bring notes into your exams, so it’ll help your exam technique if you can apply all your knowledge to the mark schemes memorised in your mind. Even leaving out one or two details can mean missing out on marks, and as we know, every mark counts towards securing your A grade.

Our A level tutors have plenty of experience with mark schemes and can help to decode them as well as train you to fulfil them.

Avoiding common pitfalls that many students get wrong

Learning to avoid common mistakes is just as important as understanding the marking criteria to excel in A level Biology exams. Misusing specific biological terminology is a frequent error made by many students. Remember to use accurate scientific language in your responses.

Misinterpreting A level Biology questions is another typical problem. Make sure you fully understand the question before writing your answer.

Also, do not underestimate the effectiveness of diagrams. A well-labelled diagram can help you earn those additional marks.

Lastly, practice applying your knowledge in unfamiliar situations, as this is often assessed in exams. 

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can greatly enhance your exam performance. Our Biology tutors have witnessed everything that can go wrong and can personally help you to avoid making the same mistakes.

Improving exam technique for various types of questions

To give your best in A level Biology exams, you need to adapt your exam techniques to the specific types of questions that arise. Here’s some advice for different types of questions:

  • Short answer: Double-check the questions for a better understanding. Keep it short and sweet; omit unnecessary details.
  • Essay or long answer: Sketch an outline first to organise your ideas. Incorporate the correct terminology and examples to demonstrate comprehension.

Boosting your exam technique requires relentless revision and working through past papers. This strategy not only familiarises you with the question formats but also helps with time management during the exam. The secret to doing well in A level Biology lies in fully grasping the concepts and applying them effectively in your responses.

Please remember, this isn’t about memorisation, but about understanding the subject matter and being able to apply it effectively. Actively revising past papers can give you a sense of the exam format and help you get accustomed to the time pressure. So, keep practising, stay focused, and good luck with your studies!

Need help perfecting your exam technique for different questions? No problem, just chat with our dedicated Biology tutors.

Insider tip 1: The most effective approach is to thoroughly familiarise yourself with the mark schemes for common questions, which typically revolve around science concepts. For the “how science works” questions, rely on reasoning and logic to provide your best answers. As others have suggested, practising past papers is the most efficient way to prepare for these questions. Rather than attempting to memorise specific content, focus on cultivating the right mindset to tackle these questions successfully.

Insider tip 2: Decode the question before answering it to ensure you’re answering the right thing. For example, you should highlight the command words (suggest, describe, evaluate, explain) and tailor your answer to them as they all require something different from one another.

Improving your understanding of difficult topics like ‘Respiration’

A level Biology can be a tough nut to crack, especially when it comes to intricate topics such as respiration. Here are some strategies that can help:

Simplified diagrams.Makes intricate processes easy to digest.Ask your teacher to draw an easy-to-understand respiration pathway.
Conceptual linking.Associates new data with information you’re aware of.Linking respiration to photosynthesis.
Practice questions.Strengthens comprehension through practical application.Ask your teacher for custom-made respiration questions.
Textbook selection.Proposes resources that offer clear explanations.Consult the most useful textbooks for studying respiration. Your school may have recommendations and you’ll also find reviews online.
Regular revision.Keeps data fresh and pinpoints areas needing improvement.Hold respiration review sessions every week with your peers.

The above strategies are much easier with a tutor to help you! So, ensure that you reach out for expert guidance bespoke to your needs. 

Insider tip: Broaden your knowledge by delving into additional resources, including newspapers and journal articles. Stay informed about the practical applications of Biology by listening to related podcasts, and gaining a newfound appreciation for your study topics. To optimise your understanding, engage in critical analysis. This involves examining news stories and assessing the credibility of authors’ statements, a skill that proves valuable when crafting essays for your exams.

Get 1-to-1 help from one of our expert A level Biology tutors

If you’d like to achieve an A or A* in A level Biology, you can reach out to our expert team for dedicated and bespoke support. 

Unsure? Trust our results. 35% of our students achieved an A* in 2023, compared to the national average of 7.7%. Hence working with us will increase your chances by a whopping 78%!

Our experienced Biology tutors offer methods for improvement by breaking down complex concepts and providing exam strategies. They also offer a deeper understanding of Biology by providing additional learning materials and offering immediate feedback.

Our personalised support accelerates your learning process, ensuring that you are thoroughly prepared and confident when facing your Biology exam.

If you’re making the jump from GCSE to A level you might find it especially useful to get bespoke help from one of our experienced tutors! We also have excellent GCSE tutors.

So, if you’re ready to claim your A in A level Biology, reach out to our friendly team today. Take your future into your own hands.


How can I improve my Biology A level skills?

To improve your skills in A level Biology, it can be advantageous to adopt effective study methods and resources that suit your preferred style of learning. Begin by creating a well-organised study timetable that includes regular breaks and revision sessions.

Utilise a variety of materials, such as textbooks, online courses, and past exam papers, to enhance your learning journey. Answering different types of questions will help you become familiar with the exam format and identify areas that require further attention.

Actively engage in your revision by creating concise notes, using diagrams to understand complex concepts, and explaining what you have learned to others. This approach not only deepens your understanding but also aids in retaining information.

Maintaining consistency and maintaining a positive attitude towards your A level Biology revision are crucial factors in mastering the subject and achieving your desired grade.

For more tips, read the rest of this guide. Or even better, get support from one of our expert tutors.

What is the pass rate for A level Biology?

Understanding the pass rate for A level Biology can provide a glimpse into the general performance of students in this challenging subject. 

In 2021, the pass rate for A level Biology was 99.5%. In 2020, it was 99.7%, hence there has been a slight drop.

In 2022, 12.8% of students received an A* whilst 21% achieved an A. Contrastingly, 35% of our students get an A*! Reach out to our tutors for expert support.

How do I achieve an A* grade in A level Biology?

To achieve the highest marks and top grades, follow these guidelines:

  • Begin by revising for A level Biology systematically.
  • Establish a study timetable that covers all topics, with a particular focus on sections that you find challenging.
  • Make effective use of a range of resources such as textbooks, online courses, and past papers to deepen your understanding of the material and perform at a high level.
  • Practise answering exam questions within a specific time frame to enhance your speed and accuracy.
  • Ensure that you receive feedback on your work to identify and rectify any weaknesses.

By demonstrating commitment and employing smart strategies, you are paving your way to success in A level Biology.

For more tips, read the rest of this guide. Or even better, get support from one of our expert tutors.

Can you retake A level Biology?

If you’re curious about the option to retake A level Biology, rest assured, it’s indeed a possibility. This allows students an additional opportunity to improve their grades. Here’s the essential information you should be familiar with:

  • Timing: Retake examinations usually take place during the subsequent exam cycle. Ensure you have a well-planned timetable to be fully prepared.
  • Preparation: Request feedback on your previous exam to identify areas that need improvement. Make good use of study aids like revision guides and practice papers.

You should also check if your school administers linear or modular A levels, as this could affect whether you’re able to solely retake selected exams or must retake all exams. Check out our previous article or chat with one of our advisors. We also have excellent retake tutors!