Dealing with the Biology Trial

It’s probably still taking some time to process just how quickly this final year has passed, but now is the time to step up, because trials have come around. Before the new syllabus was implemented, the trials in some schools made up almost 50% of the internal mark for the HSC, and even though its effect has been ‘tamed’ the fact stands that the trials still make up a plurality of the percentage towards your internal assessment mark.

No matter how you feel about your marks up until this point, the trials are still incredibly important even though you have completed most of your internal assessments. The trials are either the final hurdle that you must pass in order to secure your excellent internal mark, or it will be the safety net that saves your HSC mark from a less-than-expected mark in your other internal assessments. And unlike the other assessments, the trials are meant to replicate your HSC.

This ‘replication’ doesn’t mean that it is like your at-home practice papers that you complete in a room that you have tried to replicate HSC conditions in, this is actual replicated HSC conditions before the main end-of-year exams in October. It is probably the best chance that you have in order to have a taste of the stress, the content, the environment and the questions that you can be expected to encounter when the proper time comes.

And because the trials are so different from the other assessments, the way to prepare for it is also somewhat different. Rather than treating it as another assessment or in-class test, it is best to treat it how you would the HSC itself and any other final exam – with a weeks-long roadmap. Preparing from today, late in June, gives you the best chance to collect and formulate your plan going forward before being inundated with endless studying of Biology content without any structure.

The first few weeks from now should mainly be spent on studying your content. This goes for any of your subjects, not just Biology, but especially so for it. What you should do when you are studying your content is not to formulate notes. It is too late to prepare written notes while going through your class-content or textbook – that should be left for after your trials and before your HSC. Instead, go through and print out a copy of the Biology syllabus. It is very easy to locate by just searching for HSC Biology on the NESA website. This printed (or online) version serves as the basis for the annotations that you will add on to it. Starting of with any of the keywords that you can recognize from your own study, and then (crucially), going through the in-class quizzes or tests you have done regarding that dotpoint and noting down any of the mistakes you have made. This includes graphing errors, skills questions, missing out on a keyword. The point of this exercise is that once you have gone through the Biology syllabus, every mistake you have ever made has been categorized into their respective syllabus dotpoints.

This does not seem like much so early on from the trials but the week before your Biology exam, this single booklet will serve as the single most important resource that will allow you to achieve a Band 6. You already know that silly mistakes or missing out on keywords is the way in which 90% of your mistakes are made in – not in a misunderstanding of the content itself.

However, this is done when you are going through the content as well. All of it, from module 5 until module 8 – every single chapter must be thoroughly ‘memorised’ in a sense. Now that this is done, the foundation for your second half of the weeks leading up to the trial has been prepared – the trial papers stage. Since the content has already been covered, there should be at least 2 solid weeks that you can use to cover past paper questions. At the beginning of this stage it is not incredibly important to do full 3-hour papers under exam conditions – instead going through questions one at a time. What is important is doing each of the questions individually under exam conditions. This includes long responses – do not write one half of your answer, take a study break then come back to write the other half of that 9 marker. It would have served you better to study content than do that question if that is the case. Doing an entire question in one sitting forces you to come up with the analytical skills required to recall information from all parts of the Biology course that you have learnt, rather than having fixed and compartmentalized ‘topics’ that are hard to think outside of.

Keeping these tips in mind, you should have no problem in formulating your own study plan in the weeks ahead. Good luck and remember that the final stretch of this year is within view – do not give up!

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