Blog Archives

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.

Scitable – Authentic Science Learning from Nature Education

Nature Education’s Scitable project is a free, collaborative online project which opens up lots of peer-reviewed, high-quality Nature content to students, teachers and learning groups.

The goal was to put high-quality Science information onto the web, and to give control and flexibility over learning. Having signed-up and looked at some of the brilliant readers and resources there, I will surely be using it in future! Scitable represents an authentic, evolving and engaging alternative to science textbooks, one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. Check out some of the student blogs, too!

Here’s a quick video overview, but there is more information after the jump.

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Manipulative Skills self-assessment

Word 97-2003 version here.

This is only formally assessed once at the end of the course, but can be a good exercise in student self-assessment. I have unpacked the aspects into some skills and indicators in the second table. Feel free to download and edit to suit your own needs.

Awesome Random Reviews

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Here are two quizzes which you can take online and will give you 50 randomly-selected questions from my Quia questionbank each time.

Higher Level Random Review (Topics 1-11)

Standard Level Random Review (Topic 1-6)

You do not need to log in.

IB Biology Teachers – your subject needs you

You may be aware that the curriculum review for Biology is currently underway and feedback from IB Bio teachers is very useful in the process. The curriculum review team posted a report on their meeting from October in 201o onto the OCC (login needed). There is a survey on the OCC for teachers to complete.

To find the report and complete the survey, please log in to the OCC and go the Biology area:

Click here to log in to the OCC and scroll down a bit to complete the questionnaire.

Please note that I am not part of the review team, but do feel that this is an important role for teachers to play. This is where we get the chance to have input into content and internal assessment. There are also discussion threads on the OCC dedicated to this review.

It’s going to get pretty quiet around here…

…find out why after the page break.


Click to donate

First off, my students’ and my thoughts are with all those affected by the recent disasters in both New Zealand and Japan. We are following all stories closely and wish everyone the best possible outcome, despite such horrible circumstances.

We should also consider those in Egypt, Libya and other regions of instability. We must think ourselves fortunate compared to those whose access to education, especially the quality of education you get in international schools, is limited.

It may look like doom and gloom in the world right now, but you guys – IB students – can be the change that needs to happen. When you graduate, do something useful. Science can help build a sustainable and stable future.


With exams looming, it is time for some real, self-directed review and study. Search the internet and you’ll find loads of ideas, but here are some specific tips for my students and others involved in IB Biology.


1. Practice. Get the QuestionBank CDRom, past papers and practice questions from the textbooks and use them extensively.

2. Get used to writing for extended periods of time, and under timed conditions. Think ‘a mark a minute’ and you’ll be fine. If your handwriting’s rubbish, get working on it ASAP.

3. Audit your knowledge using the subject guide. Remove all the pages for topics you do not need to cover (e.g. Options that are not yours, AHL content if you are in SL), and you will find it more manageable. Then work through each one – do you feel like you could answer an exam question for each?

4. Understand the Command Terms.

5. Pay attention to the number of marks available. For the 6-8 mark questions, write at least that much, and take care of structure and logic in your answers. Lay it out clearly and don’t waffle.

Writing about exam stress

6. Practice the data questions. Can you make your own from graphs and charts in works that you have read?

7. Write about your exam stress. Ed Yong tells us why.

8. Use whiteboarding to practice diagrams, annotations, explanations and so on. Teaching others clarifies the ideas and explanations in your own mind.

9. Know your way around the calculator and practice means, standard deviations, percentage changes and calculating sizes and magnifications.

10 Sleep, eat well and keep fit. All night cramming is no good for you – if it’s not in your brain by the day before, it won’t be, so stop stressing and get to sleep. Decaffeinate yourself, get some exercise and stay healthy so that you don’t risk getting sick in the exam session. Find out more about Brain Compatible Education at Derek Pugh’s website (Derek was my predecessor at BIS).

Some more techniques my students have used:

You could also record podcasts or vodcasts (like at Click4Biology).

Always think about how effective your use of time is when you are carrying out a task. Some students may spend hours copying out their notes, but to what extent does it have a positive impact on exam grades?

Good luck,


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Evolution of resistant Staphylococcus aureus

This is a lovely SlideShare presentation, if you’ll excuse the anthropomorphism of the bacterium!


Final topic in the Core for SL students! Wednesday we’ll get started on the G4 project and soon begin Neurobiology and Behaviour, our final topic.

All the Core resources are here: 6.6 Reproduction

And the resources for HL students are here: 11.4 Reproduction


Think about the following questions to make connections across the curriculum:

1. Explain how sexual reproduction leads to infinite variation in a population.

2. Explain hormonal control of the menstrual cycle.

3. Explain the process of meiosis, suitable to your level of study.


Nobel Prize for Medicine 2010: Robert G. Edwards for IVF!

Bean there, done that…

Plant Science is one of my favourite topics for HL students as it is a real opportunity to link many of the core ideas of Biology together. Think of it not just as a series of out-of-context assessment statements to check off, but as a chance to revise everything you have learned so far.

Consider this diagram of germination. How many links across the syllabus can you make? Try pasting the image into the middle of a large sheet of paper and surrounding it with explanations of all the concepts that link to it. It could form the centrepiece of a Prezi or a concept map, or simply a large revision poster.

Germination – how many links can you make across the curriculum?

This image is adapted from a diagram at Click4Biology. For some of my suggestions of how this diagram alone represents over 20 links across the curriculum, click here: Bean there, done that…

Statistical Analysis and Internal Assessments

Welcome back BIS students!

Now that we’re well settled back into school, here are some updates for Statistical Analysis and your IA’s.

More resources have been added to the Statistical Analysis page, and the presentation has been updated to replace bar charts with simple plots of the mean:

If you look in the menu bar above, you’ll find more pages added over the summer break. I need to get a life. Included are some pages under development for IA help (including Design, DCP and CE), and the IA rubric checklist has been updated with some of the checkboxes edited.

Also, we now have Turnitin working on Moodle – Rock on! All of your work will now be submitted and graded online, so keep checking there for due dates.You no longer need to log in to Turnitin, so go ahead and forget that password – Moodle will do all the hard work for us. Actually, no it won’t. You will do all the hard work, but Moodle will make it easier for us to ensure academic honesty and for you to submit drafting stages.

All classes check the MrT’s Classes tab above for the most up-to-date handbooks and assessment outlines. There is also a new page to help the class of 2011 write their TOK essay using Biology.

You will also find new assessment criteria and formats for Essential Biology as we go along, with an emphasis on command terms, citing your sources and researching beyond the presentations and green book. Your handbooks/ folders now have yellow pages for in-class note-taking and lab work, using the Cornell style, so let’s give that a whirl.

Speaking of Command Terms:

Finally, there is a new opportunity for extra credit: Bio Book Club. Sound like fun? Then get reading!

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