The ultimate guide to scoring TOP marks in HSC Biology

Want to learn the secrets to scoring a band 6 in your HSC biology paper? Read along to find expert tips on how to maximise learning biology syllabus modules; heredity, genetic change, infectious disease and non-infectious disease and disorders.

4 months ago   •   4 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by Julia Koblitz / Unsplash

Hello there! My name is Ashaaz Shadmani and I graduated in 2022 with an ATAR of 98.50 with a band 6 in HSC biology. If you're preparing for HSC Biology, I'm here to share my journey and expert tips with you. Even a year after completing my HSC, the marvels of biology, especially the intricacies of our immune system, continue to fascinate me.

The Initial Struggle

In Year 11, biology was a subject I struggled with. The frustration was palpable, primarily because despite my efforts, I'd lose marks in exams for "lacking keywords". This setback placed me in the bottom 10 of my cohort. However, Year 12 marked a turning point. I revamped my approach to Biology, which not only made the subject enjoyable but also saw me rank within the top 10 of my cohort. With dedication, I secured 95/100 in the HSC for Biology. Recognizing that many students might be facing challenges similar to mine, I felt this blog could offer some guidance.

Diving Deep into HSC Biology Modules

HSC Biology is structured into four core modules:

  1. Heredity - Topics like reproduction, cell replication, and genetic variations.
  2. Genetic Change - Covers mutations, biotechnology, and genetic technologies.
  3. Infectious Disease - Discusses the causes and transmission of infectious diseases, responses to pathogens, and immunity.
  4. Non-Infectious Disease and Disorders - Touches upon homeostasis, non-infectious diseases, and epidemiology.

Note that your internal grades are as important as how you do in the HSC, so it is vital that you start putting in the hard yards from day 1.

Pro Tip: Aim to study ahead and complete all the content at least one term before the HSC. This approach gave me ample time for active recall practice, and I highly recommend it!

The Power of Active Recall

Navigating the expansive ocean of HSC Biology content can be daunting, but the compass to guide you is organization and study timetables which you must follow with discipline. Crafting a study schedule, where each day is dedicated to a specific topic in the module, ensures you cover all topics without being overwhelmed and put sufficient time into understanding each topic in depth. It is also vital to structure your study timetable in a way so that you can use active recall - a concept brilliantly elucidated by Ali Abdal on YouTube - doing that was a game-changer for me. How you do active recall is up to you, what I preferred was teaching my friends and diving deep into online discussion and study groups – you can find dedicated students on the discord server conquer HSC to study with - this approach not only reinforced my knowledge but also deepened my understanding and by default helped me memorise the keywords that markers are looking for.

Note-Taking with Active Recall

Taking notes can be a tedious process, but it's essential. During my HSC Biology studies, I used the syllabus and textbook as my anchor. The keywords, often highlighted in the syllabus dot points, guided me to ensure I covered all the crucial topics. But note-taking, for me, wasn't just a passive act. I actively engaged with the material. After delving into a section, I'd challenge myself to recall and jot down the key points without looking back. This technique, known as active recall, became a cornerstone of my study routine. By actively retrieving information, I felt the concepts cementing in my mind. Given biology's visual nature, I frequently incorporated diagrams and flowcharts into my notes, turning intricate ideas into digestible visuals. Another tool I found invaluable was mind maps. These allowed me to visually organize information, drawing connections between related concepts and providing a bird's-eye view of each topic. Over time, I'd revisit these notes and mind maps, refining and distilling them. This not only made my revision sessions more efficient and closer to the HSC but also deepened my understanding further. I made it a point to regularly review my notes, often using flashcards to test my grasp.

Mastering Past Papers

Another thing to incorporate within your schedule is time to practice past paper questions, however only do it once you feel like you know the content very well, unlike subjects like HSC Maths, where solving past papers might help you learn content, for biology I found that it is very important that you know the content well first and then use the questions to practice ‘placing’ the relevant content for the question. I say this because, exam questions have evolved, focusing more on application rather than mere recall. This shift means that a superficial understanding won't cut it. Delving deep, visualizing processes, and truly comprehending the content is essential. What makes a person who aces biology is someone who genuinely understands a topic. Also, if you do the application question without thorough content understanding you will probably get it mostly wrong, and you would’ve also wasted a potential practice question.

Harnessing YouTube for Study

It is important to immerse in the educational potential of YouTube. A few channels to check out are: Amoeba Sisters and EdxLearning

While watching these videos I actively engaged with each video, pausing to jot down notes, and sometimes revisiting complex segments to solidify my understanding. While YouTube was a treasure trove, I saw it as a supplement to my primary study materials, not a replacement. Its visual explanations were invaluable, especially for intricate biological processes. The platform's 'Watch Later' feature became my best friend, allowing me to earmark valuable content for future viewing. And I didn't just passively consume content; I engaged in the comment sections, gleaning additional insights from discussions and clarifications provided by content creators. However, YouTube's vastness can be a double-edged sword, with distractions aplenty. To counter this, I maintained a dedicated study account, ensuring my feed remained educational.

Conclusion

While HSC Biology can be daunting, with the right strategies and mindset, you can not only conquer it but also come to love it. Remember, it's not about cramming facts but about immersing yourself in the fascinating world of biology. Best of luck on your HSC journey!

Want more personalised tips to drastically improve your English mark? A private tutor can make the biggest difference!

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for HSC Maths and Biology, Ashaaz Shadmani. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies at UNSW and has received stellar reviews from his past KIS Academics students. You can view Ashaaz's profile here and request him as a tutor.

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