One of the things I do at Schol Bio workshops is work with students to identify the key themes that run through the exam questions from year to year.
On the macro scale, there are three: human evolution, genetics, and animal & plant behaviour/responses to the environment (with an occasional admixture of biotechnology). At yesterday’s workshop in Tauranga, my friend Richard H. told me how he’d used previous marking schedules and wordle to drill down for a bit more detail, and was kind enough to let me share the image he’d made. He stripped out all the contextual material, which varies from year to year, and this is the result:
Richard’s image reinforces those three main themes, and shows the breadth of conceptual knowledge that students should bring to the exam. And it’s occurred to me that from a teaching perspective, it could be useful to use the terms that wordle’s identified as the basis of a concept map, showing how the various concepts are linked.
That conceptual breadth also means that your preparation for the exam will be supported by reading widely about biology: this doesn’t have to be textbooks alone (though they have their place). Try science blogs (sciblogs.co.nz is a good place to start), science magazines – heck, follow science pages on Facebook! You’ll find a wealth of short(ish), snappy, interesting articles that will broaden your knowledge in advance of the exam (& beyond, I hope).
Of course, you’ll also need to practice developing essay plans and writing first paragraphs & then essays, but that’s a separate story.