AS/A2 Independent Study

‘doctrina postulat horas simul studio singular’ GryphonScience

The above latin sums up A level Biology’s requirements for independent study: ‘for every hour taught an hour of independent studied is required’

Independent studied should start by consolidating your biological knowledge and understanding. Why? Well if you do not master the basics to the specification then you will struggle to obtain a D at AS and an E at A2. So what do we mean by knowledge and understanding? Is this simply memorising everything in your textbook/revision guides? Now doing this at GCSE will allow you to attain an excellent grade, however at AS/A2 it is not the case. Meaning your independent study needs to be varied and challenging. The rest of the assessment includes: application, How Science Works (HSW), linking across chapters and synoptic at A2, all of which require the basic knowledge and understanding across the specification. These additional skills will be introduced as you work you way through your AS and A2 so do not panic.

One recommended way to consolidate knowledge and understanding is to produce consolidation cards.

How to produce a consolidation card:

  1. Each card should be about A6 in size
  2. Write one full spec. point on one side of the card.
  3. On the other side of you card you are to summarise that spec. point as concisely as possible using a style that is suited to you. It may be any of the following: highlighted key words with definitions and appropriate examples, make use of sequenced bullet pointed lists, annotated diagrams, mini mind maps, story board or tabulate information where appropriate.
  4. Particular spec. points may require more than one card, your Biology Teacher will advise you on this.
  5. A set of cards should be produced for each chapter studied and they should be produced on a lesson by lesson basis.
  6. A 1 hour lesson should typically take at least 30 minutes to fully consolidate.
  7. In the build up to the exams your Biology Teacher will train you on how to actively use your consolidation in various ways as a part of your revision.


Examples of consolidation can be found from the drop down menu of AS/A2 Independent Study  consolidation-examples

However consolidating your knowledge and understanding is just the start of independent study!!!

Independent study will or may include the following:

  • background reading – this is simply reading the appropriate areas from you text books/revision guides. This should be done on a lesson by lesson basis where you read what was covered in the lesson and forward read what will be covered in the next lesson. If you are not sure ask your teacher in advance.
  • making individual notes – good old-fashioned make your own notes on ….. may be requested from your teacher. This will typically be in areas that you may have experience in before (For example GCSEs if you are completing AS).
  • peer marking – you may be asked to mark the work of a fellow class mate to a certain mark scheme or success criteria. Then you will feedback to this individual giving them advice on how they can improve their answers.
  • monthly open-ended projects – every month AS and A2 Biologists will complete projects (maybe in the form of a debate, mini essay based questions, presentations, mind maps, quizzes, etc) on chapters that you are currently studying. This will be designed to be completely open-ended to your individual interpretation of the task set, meaning there may not necessarily be just one answer to the task in hand. These tasks will be posted on the BLOG with clear instructions, success criteria and deadlines. Your Biology Teacher will keep you updated on these tasks.
  • video clips – your Biology Teacher may place relevant clips for you to watch on this BLOG or via other media sources.
  • current affairs – watching the news may be relevant to what you are studying. GryphonScience would advise you spend 15 minutes a week scanning science news stories that are relevant. Science and Biology stories (look to your right to see them) are updated daily on this Blog. You may have to click on the home tab at the top of this page and scroll down a bit!! There are many weekly periodicals and newspapers available in the LRC.
  • past exam questions – the best way to do well in an exam is to practise using numerous past exam questions. However how you answer them independently is important. To find out how to do this look at the how-2-complete-exam-qs from the drop down menu of AS/A2 Independent Study. The command words from the same menu will be very useful! If you are struggling to find past exam questions please speak to your friendly neighbourhood Biology Teacher.

“We can do science, and with it, we can improve our lives…” Carl Sagan

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