How to get a 9 in GCSE Biology – The ultimate revision guide

A high grade in biology is imperative for all students who take the exam. These numbered grades at GCSE serve multiple purposes. To start with, they confer points and credits through which students may join a sixth form. This is extremely important as it means that not attaining the highest grades you can at GCSE may adversely affect your chances of getting into the Sixth Form of your choice.

In addition to this, a good grade in biology is essential in being able to actually study the subject at A Level (which is a necessity for those wanting to go on to biology centric subjects such as medicine) as most sixth forms have a minimum GCSE grade requirement for the subjects they offer. Finally, universities will look at attained GCSEs in making a decisions regarding placement offers. As such, this is another way having a good biology grade is necessary for the future course of your life.

This can all sound like a lot of pressure for a GCSE exam. And in truth, it is. But don’t stress too much. We at InTuition PYP have put together a fantastic guide here to help you get the grades you are capable of. Follow us in our explanation of how to get a 9 in the GCSE exam! Read for the key to success in science papers!

What does a grade “9” mean?

students getting ready to sit a gcse aqa biology examEducation reforms in 2015 lead to a reworking of curricula and teaching across England and Wales which is divided into various tiers for GCSE results. These new reforms would enact a complete reworking of the old systems through taught programmes for exams but also the grading. Grades thus became a lot more nuanced and particular.

A rough guide to numerical grades is as follows:

  • A Star is equivalent to a 9
  • A is equivalent to an 8, with a lower being a 7
  • B is equivalent to a 6
  • An in between a C and B is equivalent to a 5, referred to as a strong pass.
  • C is equivalent to 4, referred to as a standard pass.
  • D is equivalent to a 3.
  • E is equivalent to a 2.
  • F and G is equivalent to 1.
  • U is still existent in this framework for works considered ungradable.


Please note that the above information is a rough guide as there are few direct one to one translations. Most students should be aiming for at least a grade 4. But we at InTuition are passionate believers in the idea of Pursuing Your Purpose; students attaining the best grade they can. As a result, we have put together this guide to help you achieve the best grade possible in biology, hopefully a 9.


How many marks do you need to get a 9 in Biology?

The amount of marks needed to attain any grade across any exam is dependent on general trends within any given cohort. Exams are not marked and graded in standardised ways across the years. Instead, it is dependent on how students do generally.

As such, students who aim for a certain mark to try and guarantee their grade by focusing on the attainment of a specific mark or percentage would be better served by attempting to consistently produce work at a grade 9 level to ensure the greatest possibility of ultimately achieving the grade 9 in the exam. Students should then ultimately work for quality of work rather than a specific grade.

In addition to this, as shown by the recent set of lockdowns, exam performance may not be the thing that determines a student’s grade, and thus in some circumstances may not be the key to a grade 9. Rather, attaining a grade 9 in biology will be dependent on the completion of high-quality coursework over the course of the examining years to the standard of a grade 9. As such, students are encouraged to work consistently well through out the year with their biology work to achieve a grade 9 in biology.


How to revise for multiple choice science questions

Multiple choice questions are vastly different from many other types of exam answer and questions through the fact that this does not test your ability to critically engage with exam material and discuss what you think the answers are.

Rather, multiple choice biology questions present you with various options, of which you need to choose the most sensible option. Question examples for biology might be like:

Animal cells do not have which of the following?

  1. Cell membrane
  2. Cell wall
  3. Nucleus
  4. Cytoplasm

The above question would thus require the student to know about the basic structures regarding the animal cells and plant cells. As such, revising about the specifics and details of a particular topic are the key in achieving success in such questions. This will ensure success in knowing the biology curriculum and well help move you towards a grade 9.

Some ways to familiarize yourself with the basic outline for multiple choices include mind maps and flash cards.

How to revise for short answer exam questions

students revising for gcse science examShorter written answers will vary in terms of the specific marks awarded. The most common are one mark or two-mark questions. The number of marks awarded are indicative of the quality of answer required.

Single mark questions require a single definitive reason in response to the stated question. For example, we would have the question:

Give one environmental factor needed for decay.

Here, the question is specifically asking for one answer. Any more than that would be a waste of exam time. To then maximise your work, you need to study well. It would be useful to use flash cards to state simply processes of biology, for example a list of factors need for decay, such as water.

Two mark questions usually require the listing of TWO answers, OR an elaboration on a factor stated, usually using words such as “explain” to secure a second mark. To revise for these questions, it is prudent to use flash cards, one side for stated reasons and concepts for a single mark question, whilst an elaboration on the other side can be used for to learn answers for two mark questions. Doing well in these questions will maximise your marks and help you gain a grade 9 in biology.


How to revise for the Biology maths exam questions

Maths questions in a biology paper usually relate to how we work with data. For example, working out percentages of chances of seeing certain traits from a punnet square is a usual feature of many biology papers.

To revise well for these questions, it is fundamental to go over what exactly a punnet square is. Use a mind map to outline each aspect of them so you are ready to face them.


Revision for long format questions

The long format questions may be anywhere from four to six marks and require critical engagement with material that is not required for lower mark questions. In biology papers, these questions could relate to anything, such as outlining and explaining biological processes or discussing ethnical questions regarding the implications of things such as stem cell research.

Such examples could include:

The rainforest contains:

  1. 750 species of trees
  2. 400 species of birds
  3. 150 species of butterflies
  4. many other species of plants and animals.

Explain how the pattern of cutting down trees shown in Figure 11 stops the biodiversity of the rainforest being reduced.

Here we can see that the student has a set of data to work with, and that they must also draw conclusions from it.

The best way to revise for these kinds of questions for biology is to use mind maps. In this way, you can work your way from concepts and constantly flesh out your understanding them, ensuring you get the maximum grades in your biology exam, leading to a grade 9.


Use flash cards

Flash cards are on the best ways to learn information in a snappy way. This will help immensely with your studying for multiple choice, one mark and two-mark questions. These will also serve as a good basis for your knowledge in writing regarding the four and six mark questions. To draw out information to have solid understanding of a topic, write also mind maps for more expansive explanations. This will get you your grade 9.

Pro Tip:

DO PAST PAPER QUESTIONS. These are available on the website of the examination board you are using. Practise makes perfect! These papers you can find divided by tier online. Find for which board you are doing (such as AQA biology) and spend your summer doing. This is extremely useful revision for the science exam. Plus, you can find these for another science , such as physics. Get this revision done!

The science papers are divided by tier and year. For more help and information with revision using past year science papers, visit the exam board websites. This is key to success!

How hard has GCSE Biology become?

The reforming of the GCSE curriculum was done to teach a more holistic curriculum. However, this does not necessarily make them harder exams. GCSE biology and attaining a 9 is dependent on your work.


Can you revise for GCSE Biology in one day?

This refers to the study technique known as cramming. This does NOT work for the vast majority of people. Do not risk your grade 9 and start revising when you can.


Typical GCSE biology grade 9 questions

This is to give you a feel of the questions;


Question One (multiple choice)

What effect would an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have on global air temperature?

  • Tick () one box.
  • Decrease
  • Increase
  • Stay the same

Question Two (two mark)

Before the arrival of humans, there were no other large animals living on the island. Suggest two reasons why the dodo became extinct soon after the arrival of humans

Question Three (six mark)

Plan an investigation to show the effect of light from one direction on the growth of plant seedlings. Include details of any controls needed.


Summary of how to get a 9 in GCSE Biology

This guide has gone over some ways to ensure you geta grade 9 in biology. As we have seen, a lot of the main ways to do so involve familiarising yourself with the content through methods such as flash cards and mind maps. These revision techniques will help you achieve your grade 9, giving you the key to success, even in other science papers like the physics exam.


For more help and information, visit the website of your exam board!

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