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It’s going to get pretty quiet around here…

…find out why after the page break.


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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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Command Terms in IB Biology

Here’s a presentation to help you with your revision and to become familiar with the command terms – the ‘instruction words‘ that will be used in all exam question and that are used in the assessment statements in the subject guide.

If you go over to SlideShare to view the presentation, you should be able to download it as an editable powerpoint.

We’re almost there, Grade 12!

Almost there Grade 12!

Content completed, IA’s done. You can sign off your 4PSOW on Tuesday and from now on it’s revise, revise, revise.

Tomorrow we’ll set up our revision folders, and I’ll release the first two past papers. These are your tasks to complete each week, and are to be done to the best of your ability, without cheating!

We will mark each week’s papers using the markschemes.Learn from your mistakes and highlight areas of weakness.


1. Do not print the papers – read them as pdf. Conserve paper!

2. I’ll give you copies of MC answer grids to use.

3. You can print only the pages with diagrams and measurements, and stick them in your notes.

4. Write all your answers on lined paper.Practice completing the exam in the allotted time.

5. Look for trends in favourite question topics.

6. If you hit a topic you don’t understand, use it as an opportunity to revise – check those notes and make sure your essential biology library is complete.

7. Take care to erase questions from older papers that don’t apply to our syllabus – you should be able to cross-check them with the assessment statements.

8. Go through your handbook again, and check off all the assessment statements. Rip out the pages for options we’re not studying. Recycle them.

9. Build libraries of the following:

– definitions and key terms (the marks are in the correct use of language, as shown by the markschemes)

– diagrams and labels

– calculations and examples

10. Pace yourself. Leaving your work until the last minute will not work. Just 6 weeks to go!

11. Teach each other, but do not be a parasite to your friends. If you can explain concepts to others and lead them to understand it, you are doing well.

12. Check out some review skills here.

13. Evaluate your revision techniques – just because you like it does not mean it works.

14. Don’t waste forever colouring in nice pictures of things you already know. Tackle the hard stuff. Learn!

Good luck!

End of Year Exams: Online Revision Tools go to the shared area for free quizzes and games go to the shared area for free quizzes and games

It’s that time of year again: Middle and High School semester exams. Make sure you know what is going to be covered in your exams and study effectively. Here are some links to help make your study more fun.They are for free and online services only. Don’t forget all of the resources we have on the school network.

Quizzes and Vocabulary: for lots of games for all subjects, including ‘Rags to Riches’ (Who Wants to be a Millionaire). The Grade 8 Chinese students had fun here.There are lots of vocab and flashcard activities for ESL/CAT students.

FlashcardExchange is a huge resource of flashcards for students to study keywords and terms. Some sets are based on diagrams and images, such as in Science. You can test yourself, play memory games and keep track of your progress. Awesome. If that’s not enough, you can make your own sets. has more flashcards and an interesting game called scatter for each set. Free and online, so try it!

Mind Mapping online

Genetics Concept Map

Genetics Concept Map - made in CMap tools is my favourite (and easiest to use) online mind-mapper. Have a go (no sign-up needed)!

BBC Bitesize also have one which is online and free, but can be a bit frustrating.

Mindomo works well and can be used collaboratively. It looks good, but requires a sign-up.

The best for concept mapping (we describe each relationship on the connector) is CMap tools, which is free but needs to be downloaded and installed. It is excellent, though. This Genetics review was made using it. For the answers, click here.

OK, get to work!

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