Category Archives: Exam Skills

BioNinja: App & Website

Click to visit BioNinja

BioNinja is website and app for review in IB Biology that you might find useful. It has some summary notes, tutorials and songs and quizzes on the free app.

For other review resources for the IBBio exams:

  • This site ( has presentations, links and review sheets.
  • has good summary notes, with depth

Definedly… maybe? Get the definitions right in your review.

Nail down those definitions

Define is a ‘simple’ objective 1 command term… but you must be precise in your answers.

Definitions are also a great start to review and build into deeper explanation of the concepts.

  • Quiz yourself on the definitions, check your answers. This Sortable Syllabus might help.
  • Pay attention to the markschemes – what is the importance of the underlined terms and why can’t you get marks without them?
  • ‘Unpack’ the definition into its component parts – what is the relevance of each and how does it lead to more in-depth explanation of the concept?

Here’s a quiz for the define assessment statements in the SL Core and for the two options my class did this year. It’s a GoogleDoc – here’s the link.

IB Biology: Sortable Syllabus

I made this document to help my students review for their mock and final exams. It is the syllabus presented as a sortable Google Spreadsheet. There are tabs at the top for Paper 1 & 2: Core content, Paper 1 & 2: Core & AHL content, and for each subtopic.

  • Go to “View –> List view”.
  • Use the sort feature to target individual command terms, topics, objectives or levels.
  • It also has the ability to sort by suggested TOK connections or aims.

It does not include any images from the subject guide, as these cannot be included in cells to sort, so you will need to use your own copy or the text(s).

This could be a powerful review tool if used in response to practice papers or as a formative/ self-assessment tool. If a student is identified as weak in a particular command term, they can sort their revision and set priorities. It should allow for quick and focused differentation of exam preparation.

SortableSyllabus: IB Biology. Click to open and go to List View

Aligning IBDP Biology and SAT Biology subject tests. Any takers?

This weekend is SAT Biology subject tests, which will be fun for a handful of kids in our IBDP school. I spent some time today with some IBSL year 1 students who needed help covering the content. We had fun with the respiration, photosythesis and DNA replication, but it made me realise I don’t know how and where the two testing systems overlap.

Are you experienced in teaching both and do you want to help out? If so, please open this GoogleDoc and add the relevant SL/HL subtopics in line with the SAT Bio subject test topics. If you really want to, add the links to the relevant i-Biology pages.

Let’s see how this works!

Biology4Good – Please pay it forwards!



So it’s D-Day for the Bi-ologists! 

There has been a run of new site records here this week,  with 6,941 views on 16 May, 11,709 on May 17 and 15,982 on May 18.  That’s cool and thanks for the support of the site. Now before you go (and many of you never visit the site again once the exams are done), please take a minute to flick through the presentation below and think about making a donation to one of my chosen charities.

The resources here are free, though take many many hours of work. If you feel they have been worth your time, please think about donating the cost of a revision guide. All the money goes to the charities – I do not collect any.

Best of luck, and try to get some sleep between papers 2 and 3!


Joshua Foer: Feats of Memory [TED]: Just in time for exams!

Serendipitously timed in the TED Twitter Stream, here is a talk by Joshua Foer* on feats of memory that anyone can do. In his research for this, science-writer Foer ‘accidentally’ won the US Memory Championship. If you really like his talk, he also has a book: “Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything.”

IBDP Biology is quite the memory challenge in itself, so take a break from your review for 20 minutes and see what you can pick up!

“Our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries and iPhones, by not paying attention? […] You have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember”

Have a go at the memory palace technique here. Remember – the more outlandish the image, the better.


*He’s also the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and one of my favourites, Eating Animals

Command Terms & Drawing Skills for IBDP Bio Exams

The 17th and 18th May are just around the corner! Here are some tips for your studies. Find more on this page: Exam Skills.

Do make sure you have a solid grasp of the command terms. Work through your syllabus, and realise that the objective three command terms (explain, etc), include those below.

You could also use the ‘draw’, ‘label’ or ‘annotate’ command terms as stimuli for organising your knowledge visually. If only there was an IB Bio version of Draw Something

Command Terms and Drawing Skills

My class need to review the definitions and the way we approach some of these command terms, so here is the Command Terms presentation as a reminder. November sessioners – your exam is in one week! Maybe these resources will help.

Get practicing with those calculators, too.

Pay It Forwards – Please!

Biology4Good - click to make a donationI hope Paper 1 and 2 went well for all you May-sessioners today. I can see from the stats that many have been busy on this site, and I’ve had three record-breaking days in a row. Many of you may never come here again once IB is done, so I wanted to catch you before you left!

Please take a couple of minutes to look through this presentation. Pass it on to your friends and teachers and please make these efforts worthwhile. There is more information about Biology4Good here:

Good luck for tomorrow. Put today out of your brain and look only at your Options work. Pay attention to command terms and don’t foolishly think you can do an Option that you didn’t do in school.

For many of you, tomorrow marks the end of the IB Diploma Programme. I sincerely hope that it has helped you grow into decent human beings – compassionate, knowledgeable and motivated to make a positive impact on the world.

BIS students – I am proud to have been your teacher.

Everyone else – thanks for the comments!


Good Luck for Tomorrow!

Sleep tonight, not during the exam.

Sleep tonight, not during the exam.

After all your work, you should be well prepared, but there are always last-minute strategies that you can take on board.

1. Get some sleep. Zombies are generally rubbish at Bio exams. Scientists are yet to determine whether this is because of changes to their brains or if they just can’t hold a pen. I’ll see you in the morning for any panic questions.

2. Pay attention to the Command Terms! We’ve been over this, so don’t forget.Don’t make the mistake of writing a beautiful answer to the wrong question!

3. Make good use of the reading time in paper 2 and 3. This is an opportunity to think about which question(s) to choose in section B and how you are going to structure the answers. Knowing what’s coming up will help you pace yourself.

4. Stay inside the boxes on paper 2. It will be scanned and the bits in the boxes sent to the examiner – who cannot mark what he/she can’t see!

5. Write clearly and use language appropriately. Make it easy on the examiners – they could have hundreds of copies of the same question to mark, so get your ideas across succinctly.

When you’re done, get some rest and focus on Thursday’s Options. You know it, so be confident.

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