How to revise for A-level biology (and everything else)

Students often ask for advice on how to revise. Learning is different from understanding, but we need both to get the marks in exams. We can prepare for different questions, like describe and explain, evaluate or application A-level biology questions. But sometimes there is no avoiding it – there is also a lot to learn. So how best to do it?

Here are a few tips for how to revise effectively. (I’m using “How to revise for A-level biology” as an example here, but these tips can be applied to other subjects, too): Continue reading “How to revise for A-level biology (and everything else)”

Five practical ways to help your child with exam stress

Exams, class tests and mocks can be stressful. For better or worse, they’re often a test of resilience as much as knowledge. Parents can help in a number of ways to manage their child’s exam stress.

It might not be easy – your child may “push back”. Explain that you want to help; perhaps show them this post. Hopefully you’ll find something useful here that you can work on together.

  1. Remember that they are the expert on the subject, so you don’t need to be.

Often parents ask me how they can support their children in subjects like maths or biology if they themselves didn’t take them at school (or if they did, it was a long time ago). To provide support, you don’t need to be experts – your children already are. Instead, you can be their “spotter” – like a gym buddy! Ask them what they need to work on, what list of facts they need to know and surprise them with questions out of the blue. While you aren’t providing teaching, you are motivating and encouraging your child.

  1. Help with time-keeping and list-making.

Students approaching exams often have a lot on their mind, so practicalities like organisation and time-management get pushed aside. Here, parents can help massively with their child’s exam stress.

Gently help them to create a working routine – ask which topics they feel they need to prioritise and help them to make a list. Keep referring back to this list (even if you don’t know anything about the topics yourself – this doesn’t matter!). If they are frustrated with a topic ask them if the issue is knowledge (“making it stick”) or understanding (do they “get it”?). Breaking topics down in this way helps your child to prioritise and manage issues. Sharing these lists is also a great way to work alongside teachers and tutors – it gives us something to focus on in the next tutoring session. Continue reading “Five practical ways to help your child with exam stress”

How to prepare for mock exams in Liverpool Schools

While we’re helping students nationally and internationally, we’re also working with local Woolton and Liverpool-based GCSE and A-level students facing mock exams just before or just after the Christmas break.

Students attending schools like Calderstones School, The Liverpool Bluecoat School, St Edwards, Belvedere and Life Sciences UTC might be wondering what the mocks are, how to prepare, and what the point of them is? Well, ok – let’s answer those questions:

Mock exams – what are they?

Both GCSE and A-level courses have mock exams designed to mimic the experience of the formal exams at the end of your course. The difference is they are not assessed nationally, but by your school. The school can choose their own dates, and also to set the content for the test.

Mock exams – how do I prepare?

Your teachers will give you a list of topics that may come up in the mock exams. If you’re in the first year of your course, this list may be pretty short. During revision, make sure you understand the topics on the list, then: practise, practise, practise! Find past papers on the exam board’s website (here is AQA and Edexcel). If you’re in the first year, stick to “paper 1” and skip any questions on topics that aren’t on your revision list.

Mock exams – what’s the point?

Mock exams give you valuable experience of the exam setting – questions against the clock in a room with your classmates. Take advantage of the chance to test yourself. Yes, your teacher will record your marks and follow you progress but that’s only to help you. Don’t be put off by the idea of the exam – treat it with curiosity – how well do you actually know the subject?

Good luck to all of our students, from home here in Liverpool or abroad and around the world. Hope your mocks go well.

Of course if you’d like some help preparing we can help with GCSE maths and sciences and A-level biology tutoring.

Dr John Ankers
Woolton Tutors

John grew up in Liverpool, went to Bishop Martin Primary School, The Liverpool Blue Coat School, The University of Liverpool for an undergraduate degree, and back again for a PhD. He set up Woolton Tutors in 2014. He is also a parent governor at Woolton Primary School.

How to move from GCSE to A-level – tips for students and parents

A-levels can be a big step up from GCSE. There are more details, more depth and often some satisfying answers to questions left over from earlier lessons. For this reason, A-level subjects can feel like they make more sense than GCSE courses, while being more challenging.

Students sometimes wonder how to prepare for this leap. Parents often ask how they can best support their child in moving from GCSE to A-level, especially in subjects they themselves didn’t study at school. Don’t worry!

The transition to A-level doesn’t need to be scary, and what happens at home can be a big help – you may even have fun doing it.

Keep the end in sight when moving from GCSE to A-level

The good news is that, like GCSE, each A-level exam course has a clear path – its specification. Often, students are aware each exam board (AQA, Edexcel, OCR etc.) provides a course specification but often they don’t make use of it. It’s there for you to download. Treat it like a reference guide – it might not be bedtime reading, but it shows you where you are and what’s coming up. It also has some tips for what the exam questions will look like.
(As an example, here is a link to the AQA A-level biology specification) Continue reading “How to move from GCSE to A-level – tips for students and parents”

FIVE last-minute exam tips

Here are a few last-minute exam tips to help GCSE, A-level and international students with your exams. Let me know if they work for you – or if you’d add any more 😊

  1. Read the question.

This is the easiest piece of advice to follow, and the easiest to forget. Sometimes we scan a question quickly, spot a few key words and make an assumption about how to answer without reading on. I can’t understate this – please read the question. Read it twice. There might be clues in there. This is particularly important for questions with data and diagrams – make sure you understand what the chart shows before starting on your answer. Continue reading “FIVE last-minute exam tips”

Why choose online biology tutoring?

Why would you choose online biology tutoring? What benefits are there over in person lessons?

It’s been another successful year for our online A-level Biology tutoring.

For our students, the flexibility of having sessions online from their own homes means they can rearrange session times more easily, and don’t have to rely on Mum or Dad for lifts.

Also I can answer any questions that come to mind in-between sessions via Skype – don’t be afraid to axolotl questions (sorry!).

For us, it means we can offer our services wider than the Liverpool area – I’m now helping students in Europe and China.

If you are considering a little extra help in A-level biology give me a call for a chat, and we’ll see if it’s right for you.

All the best,


Dr John Ankers
Specialist online biology tutor