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Studying Tips: DSE Biology

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

If you are nervous for your upcoming Biology exam, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth.

You’ve got this!

Biology is so much more than the exam you are stressing about. It's understanding HOW that deep breath helps relax you. It’s also understanding how the foods you eat contribute to your overall health, and how your body functions on a cellular level.

Biology allows us to examine ourselves, as well as the larger environment we are part of. Understanding how everything is intertwined helps us understand how complex systems can be created and sustained, or destroyed.

The daily significance of biological study is shown in medicine, agriculture, ecology, and psychology to name a few. It’s exciting stuff and it’s not worth getting stressed out over! At ME Education, we have the inside scoop on how to study for the Diploma of Secondary Education Biology paper, and some general tips and tricks to help you ace your exam.

Firstly, let's discuss the structure of the exam so you know what to expect.

Students will receive two papers.

Paper 1:

Section A: 36 multiple-choice questions.

Section B: 10 long questions and one essay question.

Paper 2:

This paper will test candidates on the four elective modules and you will be asked to choose two of the four long questions. The questions will be similar to those in Paper 1.

Time Management

Managing your time is the first step to successfully completing an examination. If you manage it correctly, it will relieve a lot of pressure on yourself. It will also help you to avoid making silly mistakes in a panic. Be sure to bring a watch with you into the examination and keep a close watch on your time. Monitoring how much time you have available also makes sure that you don’t lose marks because you didn’t have time to start/finish an answer.

Markers for the DSE Biology paper 1, recommend spending no more than 45 minutes on all the multiple-choice questions in section A. That will leave you with one hour and 45 minutes to tackle Section B.

For paper 2, you will have one hour to complete the two questions so we recommend spending 20 to 25 minutes on each one. This gives you some time to check over your answers once more at the end.

Examination Tips

Apply Your Knowledge

You will need to really understand your work to answer the essay type questions. This means learning the material ‘parrot’ style will not be enough to get by. Students have to be able to comprehend the coursework fully so that they can apply their learnings to different scenarios.

This teaches you to think practically because you may be asked to apply your knowledge to a situation that is foreign to you. Do not panic if the question seems overwhelming or unfamiliar at first. Read it a few times and consider how the material you have studied can fit into the scenario presented to you. Trust yourself and allow yourself to think broadly. If you know and understand your coursework well enough, you should be able to apply it to the given situation.

Mind maps: Before beginning an essay type question, it is really helpful to create a quick mind map of the subject you have studied. Jot down short keywords to help you remember the concept. By having this on hand, when you are constructing your essay, you will not leave out important details or even entire sections. It’s an excellent way to jog your memory.

Use the right terminology: Biology has a lot of different terms and many of them sound alike. It is a common mistake for students to mix up some of these terms. Be sure you are using the correct terms and not mixing them up as that can change the whole meaning of your answer and could cause you to lose marks.

Spelling: Be sure that you are familiar with the correct spelling of the terms used. Write your answers out neatly and clearly so the examiners can see exactly what you are saying and you don’t unnecessarily lose marks due to illegible handwriting.

Don’t be too vague: Often, when students are not confident in their answers, they will skirt around the subject and keep their essay very ‘general.’ They do this in the hopes of including everything so something will ‘stick.’ This is not a good strategy and it is clear when students are doing this. Be clear and focused in your answers and try not to include irrelevant material. This just takes valuable time away when you could devote that time to another question.

Keep calm: Remember, the examiners are not out to ‘trick’ you. Everyone wants you to succeed. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a breath and remind yourself of this.

Trust yourself: If you have studied hard and put in the effort, then you have no reason to worry. The questions are based on your coursework so you will know what to do. The key is to trust in your own abilities.

If you feel that you need extra help studying or preparing for your exams, reach out to us at and we can help you to maximize your potential.


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