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How to Get a 9 in GCSE Biology


Students often get nervous about their Biology GCSE exam as the subject requires remembering a lot of information. This creates anxiety about whether their grade boundaries will be high enough.

If you’re aiming for a grade 9 in GCSE Biology, you may be feeling stressed about your revision. Getting a high grade in GCSE Biology is essential if you want to study the subject at A-Level or want to go on to Biology-centric subjects, such as medicine, at university.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to achieve your goal of a 9 in Biology including study materials, recommended revision techniques and other valuable advice from the expert GCSE tutors at JK Educate.

HOW HARD IS IT TO GET A 9 IN GCSE BIOLOGY?

While GCSE Biology can be a challenging subject for many, achieving a grade of 9 is not out of reach. For those who regularly put the study time in, understand the application of the concepts in the curriculum and study smarter, not harder, a grade 9 is truly attainable.

Nobody knows for sure where the grade boundaries will be set because each year there are small differences in the difficulty of an exam paper. This is why every year there will be small changes to the grade boundaries.

In a normal exam year, grade boundaries are agreed during a process called “awarding” that takes place after all the exams are marked. Senior examiners from all the exam boards compare samples of exam papers from the current and previous years. This is to ensure that standards have been maintained over time, and a grade 9 in 2020 is comparable with a grade 9 in 2021 and 2022, and so on. In this process, the Senior Examiners also take into account:

  • Feedback from examiners about the exam paper
  • Data about the previous achievements of the cohort of students taking the exam
  • Previous statistics

Without knowing exactly what the grade boundaries are for a grade 9 score this year can be disconcerting for students. Don’t let this stress you. Focus on tactical systematic revision and do the best you can to increase your confidence. Feeling confident that you have prepared well will help you to feel more relaxed when exam day comes, and this alone can be a game changer for your exam performance.

WHAT PERCENTAGE DO YOU NEED FOR A 9 IN GCSE BIOLOGY?

The percentage needed for a grade 9 varies from year to year as it is, of course, linked to the grade boundaries. Approximately, we can say grade 9 is awarded to those in the top 5% – or 1 in 20 candidates.

To work out approximately what percentage you need to get a grade 9, you can refer to the previous year’s grade boundaries as a guide. Using that figure you can calculate the percentage score needed. So you can practice your GCSE Maths at the same time!

Here’s an example of how to calculate the percentage score:

The exam has a total of 200 marks. If 165 marks are needed to get a grade 9 that percentage can be calculated as: 165 ÷ 200 x 100 = 82.5%

82.5% is the minimum grade needed to get a grade 9 in this example.

Here’s another example; the exam has a total of 180 possible marks. 130 marks are needed for a grade 9. The percentage needed is 130 ÷180 x 100 = 72.2. In this example, 72.2% is the minimum grade needed to get a grade 9.

If you want to calculate your overall grade, including your coursework and exams, you can use an online tool like this one to make the calculation easy.

To help you calculate the score you need here are the grade boundaries, by examining board, for GCSE Biology in 2021 and 2022:

EDEXCEL Max mark 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
Nov 2021:
Foundation Biology 200 –  –  –  –  115 95 69 43 17 0
Higher Biology 200 150 130 110 87 65 43 32 0
June 2022:
Foundation Biology 200 –  –  –  –  115 95 69 43 17 0
Higher Biology 200 165 147 130 107 85 63 52 –  –  0
AQA Max mark 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
Nov 2021:
Foundation Biology 200 –  –  –  –  119 102 74 46 18 0
Higher Biology 200 130 114 98 81 64 48 40 0
June 2022:
Foundation Biology 200 –  –  –  –  126 104 76 48 20 0
Higher Biology 200 144 123 103 80 58 63 25 –  –  0
OCR Max mark 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 U
Nov 2021:
Foundation Biology 180 –  –  –  –  80 63 46 29 12 0
Higher Biology 180 128 112 97 78 59 40 30 0
June 2022:
Foundation Biology 180 131 116  102 83 65 47 38 0
Higher Biology 180 125 110 95 78 61 45 37 –  –  0
WJEC Max mark A B C* C D E F G
Nov 2022: No data available for this year
June 2022:
Foundation & Higher Biology 180 162 144 126 108 90 72 42 36
CCEA Max mark A B C* C D E F G
June 2022:
GBL1 Foundation  102 94 84 70 56 42 28
GBL1 Higher 140 112 103 84 84 70 63 –  – 
GBL2 Foundation  116 –  –  108 96 80 64 48 32
GBL2 Higher 160 128 117 108 96 80 72
GBL3 Foundation  72 67 60 50 40 30 20
GBL3 Higher 100 80 73 67 60 50 45

UNDERSTANDING THE EXAM

The exam contents and format can vary slightly depending on the examining board, but here’s a general overview of the exam format:

  • Multiple-choice questions: These questions present a question followed by several response options.
  • Structured questions: These questions may require shorter responses, such as filling in the blanks, labelling diagrams, completing tables, or matching items.
  • Extended writing tasks : These questions require more detailed and extended answers. You may be asked to explain biological concepts, describe processes or analyse experimental data, for example.
  • Practical or experimental skills: The exam may also include questions or tasks that assess your practical knowledge, such as interpreting experimental data, planning investigations, or evaluating experimental procedures.

Most exam boards assess GCSE Biology with 2 written exams, often referred to as Paper 1 and Paper 2. The duration of each paper can range from 1 hour to 1 hour 45 minutes, depending on the examining board. It’s important to check the specifications and guidelines of the examining board relevant to you. If you are not sure which examining board your school uses, ask your teacher for clarification.

WHERE CAN I FIND GCSE BIOLOGY PAST PAPERS?

Past papers are a great way to test your knowledge and improve your time management skills during the exam. They also allow you to familiarise yourself with the exam format and style. Past papers are easy to find, just be sure to use the past papers and marking schemes from the examining board relevant to you.

Where to find past papers:

Online – Revision World provides a wide range of past papers for GCSE Biology.

Examining boards – Each examining board has past papers and marking schemes available on their websites:

AQA – www.aqa.org.uk

OCR – www.ocr.org.uk

Edexcel – www.edexcel.com

WJEC – www.wjec.co.uk

MASTERING THE CONTENT

To get a grade 9 in GCSE Biology you need to have a solid study schedule that covers all the curriculum you have learned. You must start revising early, cramming at the last minute is not enough to get top marks.

Start by creating a study schedule and set specific goals, such as covering 2 curriculum topics per week. Identify your weak areas and focus on these, but don’t forget that you need to revise all the content in the curriculum, not just the ones you know least about.

Test yourself regularly to know if your revision is on target. You can do this in a study group with friends by asking each other questions based on the curriculum, by asking a family member to quiz you based on your study material or find online quizzes and tests. Use different learning and testing methods to keep things interesting and as a way of testing your knowledge in different ways.

Visual aids such as flashcards and mnemonic devices can be effective ways to consolidate big topics down to small prompts that trigger your memory. Mnemonics can be words – such as a phrase or acronym. A visual mnemonic could be a flow chart or other visual cue. Or create a ‘memory journey’, which involves making up a story or journey with each part of the story being a memory prompt.

To learn more about how to use mnemonics for revision check out these examples .

When revising content you should do more than just read your notes. Review the course book material, study with friends, find videos online about the specific topic you are studying and do quizzes – all these different inputs will keep you on track so you don’t get bored throughout your revision time.

Working with a private tutor is an incredibly effective way to study and revise. The tutor knows your target subject inside and out, having helped dozens if not hundreds of students like you. They know how the examining boards test and the common pitfalls that students experience. Working with a tutor will build your confidence also – which is a common factor for poor exam performance. Having their expert one-to-one support is priceless. So if this option is open to you seriously consider it.

GCSE BIOLOGY PRO TIPS AND EXAM TECHNIQUES FROM EXPERT TUTORS

Here at JK Educate our highly experienced and knowledgeable GCSE tutors have helped hundreds of students reach their GCSE potential. Here are some of their pro tips for achieving success in GCSE Biology:

Make a plan
Make a detailed revision schedule using the exam board specification as a checklist for each curriculum topic. Break topics down into smaller sections and spread them across your revision schedule. Remember that you will be revising for many GCSE subjects so start early, plan breaks into your schedule and don’t try to cram too much into one revision session or a week’s schedule. A steady constant pace will get you the best results.

Create a revision guide
Using the main curriculum topics as a starting point, go through all your class notes for each topic to ensure that you have all the information to work from. Create a ‘cover sheet’ for each curriculum topic that highlights key topics, formulas, units of measurement and any other key terms that relate to that topic. Create a summary paragraph for each cover sheet that sums up the topic. Be sure that you understand what you’re writing here and not just copying notes.

Mix things up
If you don’t have a preferred style for memorisation, be sure to utilise lots of different techniques in your revision. This not only minimises your chances of daydreaming but it can make difficult topics fun. Students can get bogged down in complicated terms and processes when revising Science subjects.

Try different learning methods such as watching Youtube videos for any tricky topics and concepts you struggle with. Write notes on what you’ve learned, try to explain the concept to a friend or family member (recalling information in this way solidifies learning very effectively) and use mnemonic visual aids as a way of expressing detailed topics in a simple form. Connect concepts and information to real-life examples to enhance your understanding.

Practice the exam
You are not just revising the curriculum of Biology but you are also learning how information should be presented in the exam, how questions may be asked, and how to answer exam questions in a way exam boards are looking for.

Failing to read the question carefully is a common way for students to drop marks in the exam. Practice analysing the exam question carefully, paying specific attention to keywords and command terms used. Review answers from top-mark students. Observe how they structure their answers, give as much detail as possible, use examples to demonstrate understanding and problem solving and show their process of thinking such as the formulas used.

Exam technique
Past papers are perfect for this. Be sure to practice many and score your finished paper using the marking scheme so you can track your strengths and weaknesses. Practising exam time management is also important. Time yourself, and practice answering the questions you know first, then come back to tricky questions later, so you don’t waste precious exam time.

Revise with friends
Don’t just sit in your bedroom reading your notes alone – this is a guaranteed way to get bored and start daydreaming. As well as being an ineffective way to memorise information. Find a friend who you can study with, you can test each other and share different ways of revising and recalling information. A big study group can be a fun way to practice recall – make teams and quiz each other, turning it into a game.

Use online resources
There’s a wealth of information online, from study schedule templates and quizzes to past papers, videos, online forums and much more. Working with a tutor is one of the most effective revision methods. One-to-one tutoring can assess your knowledge, give tips specific to you, and you can tap into their wealth of knowledge and experience. JK Educate offers online GCSE tutors so no matter where you are in the country you can benefit from their expertise.

MANAGING EXAM STRESS

The exam period is a stressful time. Fear of failure, the pressure to perform well and high expectations from yourself and others can add to the stress. Intense revision periods and last-minute cramming can result in feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by the time exam day rolls around, all of which will negatively impact your exam performance.

It’s important to manage your stress during this time. Here are a few tips to keep you calm and focused:

  • Create a study environment that promotes focus and relaxation. Revising while feeling calm and relaxed means you will be able to absorb and learn much more effectively.
  • Practice mindfulness and deep breathing exercises. Stress is physical as well as mental. Deep calm breathing practices instantly calm the body and mind. Try deep breathing exercises every day, and use them as a way to calm yourself if you find your anxiety rising.
  • Take regular breaks, making sure you plan this into your study schedule. Revising all day with few breaks is much less effective than short bursts of focused revision. During breaks be sure to get outside, take a walk, do some sports, or other activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing.
  • Seek support from family, friends and professionals. Remember that those around you not only have experience of what you’re going through but they know you well and are rooting for you. Don’t be scared to ask for help from teachers, parents and tutors. Teachers and tutors can offer detailed guidance and support. Equally, friends are not only great study buddies but can give us a safe space to unload our feelings and share ideas.

GET SET FOR SUCCESS

With this clear guidance you have all the tools you need to optimise your revision efforts and get you closer to achieving a grade 9 in GCSE Biology. Following these steps and being as prepared as possible for exam day will give you the best chance of success while keeping stress and anxiety at bay.

If you still have concerns about your revision technique, or ability to learn particular topics in the curriculum, seek the support of a professional tutor. Working with a tutor is the fastest and most efficient way to get your studies on track while boosting your confidence.

Get in touch with JK Educate today to find out how an expert GCSE tutor can help you . We offer flexible tutoring services face-to-face or online with our highly experienced and much sought-after tutors. Call us on 020 3488 0754 or fill in our online enquiry form .

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