I’ve written about the mistake that A-level Biology students make with exam technique and I’ve given you some detailed advice about specific aspects of A-level Biology exam technique here. I’ll give you some advice on Chemistry exam technique shortly.
But whether you’re studying Biology or Chemistry, the most important part of your exam technique is approaching the questions with the right mindset. If you expect to open up the exam paper and know straight away what the question is asking you and what the answer is, you’re going to be disappointed.
So the most important thing you can do to improve your A-level Chemistry and Biology exam technique is to remember this:
While you might get the odd definition question or the odd simple calculation, most A-level Chemistry and Biology questions are testing your understanding, not your recall. This means that the questions will be application-based, and you’re likely to have to work quite hard to figure out what’s going on. If you accept that you’re going to see lots of unfamiliar stuff in the exam, are prepared to stop and think about what’s going on, you’ll be absolutely fine. But if you panic when you see something new or that looks a little bit more complicated than you’ve seen before, you’ll struggle.
Even when you have a fair idea of what to say you need to stop and think about what you’re saying and construct the answer so that it contains the correct language, links back to the questions and covers all the points you need to make. If you just write down the ideas that first come into your head they’re not likely to be ‘correct’ enough for full marks.
I say this to my students constantly because I honestly think that this is the key to being able to do some of the harder questions and this is why I consider it to be the most important part of exam technique for A-level Chemistry and Biology. They just take that little bit more thinking and working out than you might expect. It’s totally normal to not have a clue what to write at first.