Biology Paper 1


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
— Matthew 7:7

The best way to fill up on content is by asking yourself questions
Biology, especially at Higher Level is probably one of the most content-heavy courses offered by IB and the paper that is primarily designed to test your knowledge of content is Paper 1. There is so much content that you need to cover in the guide and the textbook that just reading is so inefficient. Let’s face it - even though I am really fascinated by Evolution and Natural Selection, the biochemistry unit was just so boring. My teacher was a really strong Biology teacher, but really honestly, I just found studying for biochemistry so boring. Just reading the textbook to revise was not efficient at all because I kept falling asleep and skipped large bulks of the textbook because I thought I knew the content.

Instead, I feel the best approach was to ask myself 3 questions after reading every section of the Biology textbook. Eventually, when I made a study group, we would ask each other questions after reading a section of our textbook. I found this really efficient, because it forced us to really think about what we had just read - and to activate our brain through asking questions.


Know which content to improve on
Because the Biology syllabus is so huge, you often don’t know where to start revising. If you’re in this position, I recommend taking a past Paper 1, which most teachers have access to and seem to show in preparation for exams. Try to find which units you keep getting confused on and what units you need to work on, which becomes much clearer after you look through a Paper 1.

For me, this really helped in the lead-up to the exams, but I’m sure these would have helped before my finals exams each year as well, as the struggle for me was to know where my weaknesses were in each unit. Try to find where you are in need of support and ask your teacher to help, or look at the relevant sections of the textbook.

Read the question

In the exam, read the question carefully
I know this is common sense - but common sense doesn’t seem so common nowadays - and I reckon about half of the questions students get incorrect in Paper 1 is because of not reading the question properly. A small minority of questions in IB Biology Paper 1 seem to be deliberately tricky - they seem to not test content, but your ability to read the question closely. Since you usually have enough time for P1, I would recommend reading each question carefully at least twice before answering - this will ensure that you do not lose points when you don’t need to.