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Below you will find advice that I give to students every year before they sit their final exams but they will also be useful for you to consider for internal exams. You have an average of 90 seconds for one mark in the various papers. Some questions will require less than that to answer which will give you some more time to answer the more difficult ones. What is very important is that if you use an extra sheet of paper for rough work, you must attach it to your answer sheets but you must make sure you draw a line through it and indicate that it is rough work. Don't bother filing in the sheet number box but include your name and candidate number.

There are sections for the different papers and one that shows some common IB stationary that you will come across in the final exams.

The IB has recently changed the way papers 2 and 3 are marked. Within the paper, you will still have spaces to answer the questions but the lines are now surrounded by a black boarder. This is because the papers are now scanned at a center instead of being sent around the world. The markers then mark it online but the only thing they can see is the content of the answer box so it is vital that you do not go out of the answer box or it will not be part of the answer. If you run out of room in the box, write within the box that it is continued on a seperate sheet and use a seperate sheet but make sure you indicate wich paper, section and question it is continued from. Don't forget to write your name, candidate and page number at the top.

Paper 1

For paper 1 you have to answer multiple choice questions on a seperate answer sheet. The important thing is to try and keep to 90 seconds per question and if you can't answer it, move on and come back to it later.

If you do leave an answer blank, make sure you don't get mixed up on the answer sheet!

I am not an advocat of the system where students write all their answers on the question paper and then transcribe it to the answer sheet at the end, I have seen students who didn't leave themselves enough time and they didn't manage to transcribe all their answers.

Some people fond multiple choice questions easier than others but there are some tips that people use to good effect:

  • Try and answer the questions before looking at the possible answers to help you narrow your options when you look at the possible answers.
  • Exclude all the options you know are wrong (cross them out) before you start looking at the correct ones.
  • If you are unsure, go with your first instinct. More often than not you will subconsciously know the correct answer and your instinct will guide you.
  • If you have no idea, exclude all the ones you know are wrong and then pick the one that looks less wrong. This isn't an ideal situation to be in but the important thing is to not leave any blanks. The IB does not do negative marking for wrong answers (multiple choice questions often do at university) so make the most of it.

If you do end up with loads of extra time at the end, something has gone wrong and you really need to review your answers. The best way to review your answers is to try and reanswer the question without looking at the answer you already selected; if you do, you will most likely select the same answer again even if it is wrong.

The important thing is to take it nice and slow with paper 1, there is no point in rushing as you will not be allowed to start paper 2 until the allocated time is over.

Paper 2

Paper 2 consists of two sections, A and B. Section A is the data response and short answer questions section whereas section B is the long answer or essay section. Make sure that you know the command terms as this will help you guide your answers.

Data analysis

The data analysis section tends to be the most difficult for most students as it involves analysing unknow data. I have always found that looking at the data / graph before reading the paragraph above explaining it is the best way to approach it. Look at the data and try and make sense of it first, look at the labels and try and work out what it is trying to show. Once you have done that, read the explanatory paragraph above it. By doing this, you will be able to visualise what the explanatory paragraph is refering to and it will help to make more sense. Don't forget to underline key points in the text, I'd recommend you do it in pencil so you can change what you underline in case you underline something irrelevant.

Once you have understood the data, start answering questions:

  • Don't bother with pretty long sentences where you repeat the question, you have a finite amount of space available.
  • There are no marks for the quality of prose so if you are running out of time or have writing difficulties (such as dyslexia) just answer in very short sentences or bullet points.
  • If there is a comparison element, always make clear which one you are refering to.
  • It is always hard to tell what the markscheme is after exactly so try and include as much information as possible.
  • As it is a data analysis section, try to refer to data when possible and don't forget to use units!

Short answer questions

This is just a set of factual recall questions with a strenuous link to what the data analysis section was about. All you need to do is answer them the best you can. The best advice I can give you is:

  • Do not bother with pretty long sentences where you repeat the questions, you have a finite amount of space available.
  • There are no marks for the quality of prose so if you are running out of time or have writing difficulties (such as dyslexia) just answer in very short sentences or bullet points.
  • If there is a comparison element, always make clear which one you are refering to.

Long answer questions

HL students have to answer two questions out of four and SL students have to answer one out of three. There are five areas you need to address: content, layout, quality of prose, linking the sections and priority

Content
Make sure you include as much detail as possible when answering each section of the section B question. There are always some obscure points on the markscheme so it is always worth including as much information as you possibly can that is related to the question. Vague statements will rarely get you any marks. When possible, you need to include a diagram as it will help make your point more clearly and help arrange your thoughts. Whenever you draw one, make sure you draw it in pencil and add labels otherwise it's just a pretty picture that's won't be worth any marks.

Layout
You can answer the different sections in any order you want but you need to be absolutely clear which section you are answering. At the start of a question, always write the question number and then write the section letter at the start of each section. It is always best to leave a one line space between each section. There is nothing worse than trying to read a question where the order is nonsensical. Before you start writing an answer, get a seperate sheet of paper and do a plan in bullet points. Once you've done that, put the bullet points in order so that your answer will be in a logical and clear order. It will also help you ensure you've included all the information you need to. Don't spend long doing the plan though, no more than a few minutes.

Quality of prose
You will notice that the sum of all the subquestions in a question is 18 marks but the question is out of 20. The first of these two hidden marks is the quality of prose which you get if your answer is clear, can be understood just by reading through it once and is free of major spelling mistakes.

Linking
The second of the two hidden marks is for linking the subquestions. There is a theme in every question and you need to find that theme. Once you have found the theme, you need to decide the order in which the subquestions will be answered to help explain the theme. You can answer them in any order you want but make sure you have clearly indicated the letter for each subquestion.
To explain the theme and get the second mark, you need to create linking statements:

  • A quick intoduction before you answer the first subquestion (no more than a few of lines).
  • At the end of the first subquestion, introduce the second subquestion.
  • At the start of the second and third subquestion, relate it back to the theme in the introduction and the previous linking statement
  • At the end of the third suquestion, do a very quick conclusion to wrap-up the theme

Priority
You need to prioritise where you will be spending time. Students hoping for a 6 or above need to make sure they do the quality of prose and linking tasks for each question as well as including all the required information. Other students, it's about the amount of time you have available. If you have the time, attempt it but if not, it's not worth a lot of marks in the grand scheme of things. For any student, if you are running out of time, prioritise content as that is worth a lot more marks. If you have dyslexia or another condition that make writing difficult, I wouldn't recommend you spend a lot of time on the quality of prose or linking aspects as that will make your life a lot more difficult for not many marks; just write your answers in bullet points.

Paper 3

Make sure that you know the command terms as this will help you guide your answers.

Both SL and HL students need to answer two of the options. SL students can answer options A to G and HL students can answer options D to H. You are prepared for two options by your teachers and these are the two that you should try and answer in the exam but teachers do not inform the IB which options you were taught so you are free to answer any two options you want although I would not recommend it. Paper 3 involves some minor data analysis and some short answer questions. All you need to do is answer them the best you can. The best advice I can give you is:

  • Do not bother with pretty long sentences where you repeat the questions, you have a finite amount of space available.
  • There are no marks for the quality of prose so if you are running out of time or have writing difficulties (such as dyslexia) just answer in very short sentences or bullet points.
  • If there is a comparison element, always make clear which one you are refering to.
  • For any data analysis, try to refer to data when possible and don't forget to use units!

Stationary

These are generic versions of common stationary you will come across in a biology exam. If there is more than one side to it, the pdf will include both sides. Just click on the image icon to view the document.

Multiple Choice Answer Sheet

This is a generic multipla choice answer sheet. For the final exam, you will have one with all your details already printed on it. At the start of the exam, you will need to make sure that all the details are correct. Remember to answer it in HB pencil only!

Paper 2 and 3 Cover Sheet

This is a generic cover sheet. For the final exam, you will have one with all your details already printed on it. At the start of the exam, you will need to make sure that all the details are correct. Once you have finished the exam, don't forget to indicate which questions you have answered (you will need to indicate which questions you chose to answer for paper 2 section B) and how many extra sheets you are attaching to the exam paper. If you have attached none, you write 00.

Extra Answer Sheet

This is a generic answer sheet like the one that you would use if you ran out of room on the question paper for papers 2 and 3. Please take note that you need to fill in your name, candidate details and indicate wich sheet number it is on the first side of the page. I would advise you to leave filling in the name and candidate details for when you have finished the exam but always number the sheet so that you can easily find the order at the end of the exam.

Graph Paper Sheet

I have never come across a biology exam where this was required or necessary but I thought I would include it anyway.