How To Actually Remember Everything For VCE Biology.

VCE Biology students often feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of knowledge they are expected to learn…

  • You’re expected to remember the structure of molecules like nucleotides, polypeptide chains, antibodies, etc…
  • You have to be able to recall the multi-step processes for transcription, translation, the humoral and cell mediated response, natural selection, PCR, etc…
  • There’s also heaps of definitions, as well as all the inputs and outputs for photosynthesis and cellular respiration 
  • On top of this, you need to remember certain key words to ensure you’re getting full marks on short answer questions

The amount of content you will be expected to know for your VCE Biology exam is insane. So, it’s important that you’re using your study time effectively.

Ineffective study techniques for VCE Biology

Research completed in 2010 shows us that the most common study techniques are infact the least useful at long-term retention of knowledge. 

81% of students said their main study technique was either re-reading or highlighting notes
But, as you can see below, these two methods result in a very low rate of retention (about 23%) compared to active retrieval (83%). 

Vce Biology Study Techniques

So what does this mean? Well, it means that if you want to score well in VCE Biology, you should rethink how you study. 
While it may feel productive when you re-read notes, the evidence shows that it is pretty much useless in terms of memorising knowledge, which is a key part of VCE 3/4 Biology. 

Active retrieval: the ultimate study technique

So we know that passive techniques like re-reading and highlighting notes results in a low rate of information retention…but what should we be doing instead? 
Well, if you look at the chart above you can see that one study technique is insanely powerful….active retrieval. 

Active retrieval (aka active recall) is the process of retrieving information from our brain, without using notes to help us. 
Basically – testing ourselves (without cheating). 

Most students think you can only test yourself on knowledge once you know it well. This is incorrect.
Infact, we should be using active recall to help us learn the material faster.

By asking yourself to recall a term, process or structure (without using your notes for help) you’re forming stronger connections in your brain. Even if you don’t know the answer, the act of trying to remember it before checking your notes increases future knowledge retention. 

So, by adding active retrieval in to your study schedule, you can see a 4x increase in the amount of knowledge you can remember for your SACs and exams.  

How to add active retrieval to your VCE Biology study routine

So we know that traditional study techniques like re-reading and highlighting notes are not helpful. On the other hand, active retrieval is the ultimate technique that can lead to a 4x higher retention rate.
But, how do we actually utilise it for VCE biology?

Here are some ways that past 40+ VCE Biology students have used active retrieval….

1. Flash cards

The classic active recall technique that most of us have used at one point or another. You write the name of a term or process on one side, and the definition or steps on the other side. 

However, it’s important that you actually try to remember, before flipping the card over. 
If you’re just passively reading through the flash cards and not taking the time to physically try and remember the answer, then it’s not active recall, and won’t help you for your SACs or exams. 

Quizlet Flashcards

2. Write questions for yourself

Use your notes to write questions for yourself. Then, when you sit down to revise, read through each question and try to answer it without the help of your notes. Can’t do it? That’s when you take the time to learn the content again, so you can answer it properly next time.
Don’t cheat – you know more than you think if you really try. 

VCE Biology revision checklist

Tip: If you’re a MemBrain student, we have written you a checklist of questions for each module that you can use to revise. 
Go through each question without your notes, and see what you can remember off by heart. Put a cross next to the questions you can’t remember, so you can focus on them next time. 

3. Closed book mindmapping

This is a really useful technique to help remember longer and more complex processes (example – transcription + translation) 

  1. Give yourself 10 minutes to read through the notes on a certain topic. Try to remember and understand as much as you can in that time. 
  2. When the time is up, close your book, grab an A4 piece of paper, and write down as much as you can remember. For example, you may only remember the first 2 steps of transcription, and the first step of translation. That’s okay. Try your best to add as much information as you can. 
  3. Once you’ve done this, you can visually see how much of the topic you have remembered, and what needs more work. Then you can go in and focus on memorising the missing bits.  
VCE biology mindmap

This is from the OLD VCAA study design – we will be posting our updated version soon! Stay posted! 

While it’s tempting to stick to the traditional study techniques that make us feel productive, research shows that our time is better spent doing active retrieval. 
In order to achieve a high score for VCE Biology, you must incorporate active retrieval into your study schedule. 

How will you add active retrieval in to your study? Let us know via our MemBrain Learning instagram page.  

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