Preliminaries

Preliminaries

Welcome to Imago Education's biology course which will prepare you for the Cambridge International AS-Level biology exams (Code 9700). We trust that you will enjoy your study of AS biology and come to a deeper appreciation of the complexity of living organisms.

Let us begin by explaining how this course works and what you need to do to get the most out of your studies.

Text book

The text book is very important as this will be your main source of content. This study guide is based on the following text book: Cambridge International AS and A Level Biology Coursebook by Mary Jones, Richard Fosbery, Jennifer Gregory and Dennis Taylor, fourth edition (Cambridge University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-107-63682-8). Since this edition of the text book reflects changes in the syllabus since the last edition was written, it is important that you get the fourth edition, not an earlier one. The text book can be purchased from your local branch of Cambridge University Press. It is also available on some online bookshops, such as Amazon.com.

Learning takes places not only through reading, but also through hearing, discussing and teaching. We have included links to a few useful video clips at the end of each chapter to help you to consolidate your knowledge by learning it through a different medium. However, we also encourage you to do extra research on what you have learned. This will give you a better understanding of the topics under discussion. You could use articles on the internet (remember to check their reliability) but also other biology books in your personal or local public library.

Stationery required

Studying is an active process and so just reading the text book and thinking about the questions is not enough. You will need an exercise book. This is where you will answer questions, do biological drawings, make comparison tables and make study notes. You could use either a file and notepaper or an exercise book (use a fairly thick book with at least 288 pages). If you use a file, we would suggest that you divide the file into eleven sections for each of the eleven chapters you will be studying. Although by the exams, you will be required to have synthesized most of the material, it is useful in the learning phase to keep the different chapters' material separated. If you use an exercise book, then we suggest that you leave a few empty pages between chapters for any extra material you may need to add as you revise and work on past papers.

Biology is like learning a new language. There are many specific terms that you need to understand and be able to use appropriately and with confidence. To help you learn these terms, we have included a list of terms in most lessons under the heading of "Definitions". A useful way of learning these terms is to create your own personal biology dictionary. You will need an index book (a book with alphabetic divisions) where you can record the terms and their definitions. There is a glossary of terms at the back of the text book but you may need to look up other terms either in a dictionary or on the internet.  Recording the terms and their definitions in this way will make it much easier to find the term again than if you simply wrote the term in your notebook.

You will be making a mindmap/summary page of each chapter. One idea is to do these summaries in a separate softcover exercise book so that, when revising for the exam, you have a brief summary of all the chapters to just look through. Another option is to do the mindmaps on paper from an exam pad and then put them together in a flip file.

You will need a comfortable pen and an HB pencil for the drawings. Make sure your pencil is sharp when doing biological drawings.

 Time allocation

Cambridge Assessment International Education recommends 180 guided learning hours for AS-Level biology which translates into 36 weeks of 5 hours per week. We have divided the course into approximately 10 lessons per chapters. (Some chapters are slightly shorter and others are longer). While we have aimed that each lesson should take the average learner between one and one-and-a-half hours, we realize that some students will work slower and these students may have to do some lessons over two days which should not be a problem.

You need to plan your year's schedule. We have provided a sample schedule as well as one that you can complete to suit your own needs in My downloads on the My Account menu. You will notice that you can easily finish the biology course by July/August if you start in January. We have designed the course this way, specifically, so that you have plenty of time to practise past papers. It is easy to think that if you have worked thoroughly through the text book you can go straight to the exam but this is not the case. The Cambridge exams test your knowledge in a very comprehensive manner and it takes a while to get used to their way of asking questions. You will be much more confident and able to do much better in your biology exam if you give yourself enough time after completing the text book for revision and practising of past papers. We strongly recommend that you allow for at least one and a half months for working through past papers.

Lesson structure

Each new chapter begins with an overview lesson in which you will skim read the chapter to get the gist of what you will be working through in that chapter. The overview lesson will begin with some thought-provoking questions. The purpose of these questions is to get your mind to engage with what you already know about the topic with what will be discussed in the chapter. Don't just read this questions - think through them carefully. If you find yourself just skimming over them, then write down your answers.

The lessons are divided into sections which tend to follow the sections in the text book (though there are exceptions). You will read a certain section in the text book and then there are learning activities given in a grey box. These learning activities should be completed in your exercise books. Some of the learning activities will be answering the questions given in the text book. The answers to these questions are on the CD at the back of the book. The answers to the other learning activity questions are in the text.

Most lessons, but not all will have a green box with terms. These are the terms you will enter into your index book to help you learn them.

Every lesson ends with making a mindmap. We have included an example of a mind-map with the first lesson so that you get an idea of how it looks. A mind map should consist of words that outline important concepts and that are linked to one another to show relationships. You should aim to fit the mind map of an entire chapter onto one sheet of A4 paper. Mindmaps help you to make sure that you understand how everything you are learning in a chapter fits together and they will also be a useful revision tool when you have completed the text book.

Conclusion and encouragement

Imago-Education seeks to give you help and guidance in your studies but ultimately only you can construct the knowledge for yourself. No-one can pour the knowledge into your head! So it is really up to you. The more you put into your studies, the more you will get out of it and the more you will enjoy the subject and the better you will do in the exam. Mastering anything in life requires discipline and regular practice and this applies to studying biology as well. Keep your mind focused and engaged. Ask questions of the text, remembering all the important questions: "what, when, where, why, and how". Also remember that the key to biology is: structure and function. Every structure is specially designed to serve a specific function. As you learn about new things, always try to link structure and function. Ask, "Why is this organ/tissue/cell/organelle designed like this? What purpose does it serve?"

We trust that you will enjoy your biology studies!