Every group of subjects in the IB has its own set of challenges, and no one strategy will fit every class. So this week, let’s talk about the essentials for studying good ol’ Biology during the IB!
1. Draw diagrams
One of the benefits of studying biology is that most topics we learn are tangible – which means we can easily visualise it using a diagram! Avoid the hassle of writing long-winded descriptive paragraphs and trust in the knowledge that a picture tells a thousand words. Don’t worry if you’re not the best at drawing – it’s not the exact proportions or artistry of your diagram that will make you a biology whiz, but your understanding of how a biological structure works, and where all the moving parts fit together.
2. Use different colours
To become a true master of diagrams, you need to make full use of colour in your drawings. Again, the goal here is not realism, but clarity – using more than one colour helps you pick out the different parts, which is important in biology because lots of things tend to overlap in a small space. Keep in mind that this is for studying purposes only – you can’t add colours in the exam! You can also colour-code your written notes to make it easier to find what you’re looking for when you’re reviewing for a test.
At this point, you may have realised how vocabulary-heavy biology is – every topic we learn, there are a totally new set of words to cram into our heads! Not only do these words count towards a lot of points on tests, but getting used to them can take your understanding to the next level. Flashcards make the sea of new words more manageable, and you can use them in various ways to keep things fresh – on your own, with a friend, even when you’re in between places and don’t have the space to take out your other notes!
4. Linking relevant sections together
Try not to study biology in a vacuum – each topic is meant to build off of the others that came before it, and you can and should use this to your advantage – as we know, time can be scarce in the IB! Save your time and effort by continuously linking back to things you’ve covered before in earlier chapters – these links will strengthen your understanding of both old and new information. It’s also beneficial to visualise these links in your notes – leave space in the margins for tips to your future revision self about which other sections of the syllabus you should refer to!
5. Get comfortable with the detail-heavy topics
So you’re a master diagram maker, a flashcard connoisseur, and a linking genius – now what? The most important thing in biology is to understand the big picture – but in order to tie it all together, you need to get comfortable with the fine details. Focus your revision on the detail-oriented sections (HL: Topics 7, 8, 11 and SL: Topics 2, 6). That is not to say the rest of the syllabus is unimportant, but IB exams do focus more heavily on the topics we’ve mentioned here, if only because there are simply more questions to ask.
There’s a lot of work that goes into excelling in the IB, but if you stick with these five essentials, you’ll have your biology course sorted! If you want a more in-depth look into studying IB Biology, you can check out our free biology revision guide, or speak to someone about cracking the secret of biology with some extra help here!