How to Study IB Biology HL in 2 Weeks: Crash Course 🤯 (2022)

Study 2 years of IB Biology in 2 weeks! Use these biology-specific active recall frameworks in your last minute revision & follow my pre-made calender to secure a top grade!
How to Study IB Biology HL in 2 Weeks: Crash Course 🤯 (1)

If you're here, then you're probably one of the thousands of people that feel unprepared for the IB Biology exams. You've missed some HL classes, you're really behind or you just neglected the subject for half the year. And now you think you've run out of time. Trust me, I've been there too.

But don't worry you aren't screwed. You can still realistically score a 6-7. A month or even two weeks is PLENTY of time if you study effectively using the right frameworks, resources and mindset 😇

Disclaimer: This isn't easy though. Your learning needs to be effortful, quality filled. No matter what, focus on actively recalling throughout. I've studied with active recall only 5 days before a university exam and ranked in the top percentile. It works, trust me.

Table of Contents

2-Week Crash Course Calender

  • A comprehensive 2-week google calendar schedule

How Do You Start Revising?

  • Scope the entire subject

  • Attempt and analyse a timed past paper

  • Create the Recall Spreadsheet (central to all revision sessions)

The Perfect Study Session Framework

  • The Spreadsheet Recall Method

  • Understand with Andrew Allott's Revision Guide + Alex Lee's Youtube

  • Actively recalling post-understanding

  • Tips and advice for realistically following the two-week crash course

    (Video) Peppa Pig and Bunny 🐰

2-Week Crash Course Calendar:

The one thing I wish I was given during the exams was a revision calendar. I hated making them and got confused with what I should be studying frequently. Here is a ready-made time-table! It condenses the ENTIRE IB Biology course into two weeks. No excuses for not getting on with the studying now.

Week 1:

Week 2:

How to Study IB Biology HL in 2 Weeks: Crash Course 🤯 (3)

The crash course includes:

  • Prep work: scoping the subject & creating the recall spreadsheet.

  • Six full paper 1 and paper 2 timed exams + review sessions.

  • Study sessions for ALL units: follow the session framework outlined previously.

  • A lot of the spreadsheet question practising.

  • x 7 weak topic study sessions (of your choice).

  • x 6 database questions practise sessions.

How Do You Start Revising?

1. Scope the entire subject

Scope the whole subject using the official IB Biology guide.

On a blank piece of paper, list out every single unit, sub-unit and key concepts in IB Biology using the syllabus in the guide. This gives you a birds-eye overview of everything you need to know for the exams. It seems basic but the benefits are invaluable.

In order to understand and learn effectively, we need to find out where new knowledge fits in the bigger picture. When I started doing this, it forced me to categorise all the topics I needed to study into specific units. Categorising forces us to fit this new knowledge into our existing mental frameworks. It is vital when starting with any subject, not just biology.

All of your studying just becomes more manageable when you see it on an A4 page.

2. Attempt and analyse a full timed P1 and P2 past paper.

Don't overthink. I know you feel unprepared. It doesn't matter whether you know 19% or 90% of the IB Biology course. Just sit yourself down, do the 1hr paper 1 and the 2hr 15m paper 2 exams. The three reasons I want you to do this without any prior preparation are:

  1. You immediately discover exactly what you know and how you would attempt each question type in a real exam situation.

  2. It'll help you get familiar with the types of questions, their structure, and the keywords used. The IB is very specific about this stuff, especially in paper 2.

  3. You can analyse your performance afterwards. Specifically, observe the parts of the course that you were confident with and the types of questions you struggled with.

Do not be disheartened if you wanted to do better, this is only the start of the two-week hardcore practising and work that you will have to get through. The analysis at the end of the paper is the most important part of this process. Spend 1-2 hours on specifically checking why and where you went wrong. You can use this to specifically plan your revision.

3. Create the Recall Spreadsheet

Create a google spreadsheet with all the paper 2 extended response questions from the last 5-7 years. All questions, organised by topic, need to be listed out in one column and their corresponding answers from the mark-scheme need to be pasted in the second column.

You MUST create this for yourself asap. It will be one of the key resources for your study sessions in the following two weeks. This is what mine looked like:

How to Study IB Biology HL in 2 Weeks: Crash Course 🤯 (4)

I started using this recall spreadsheet method after watching Ali Abdaal's productivity videos :)

The Perfect Study Session Framework

So far you have scoped the subject, done a full past paper + analysed it and created the p2 questions google spreadsheet. What's next in this 2-week crash course? 😎

Now, obviously, the time you put in your everyday study sessions will be relative to your current level of understanding. But what you do in study sessions is the real game-changer.

This is the step-by-step strategy for your study session that changed the way I approached revision. For every session, regardless of the biology unit/topic, do the following:

1. The Spreadsheet Recall Method

Actively recall everything you know about a topic using essay questions and then correct your understanding using mark scheme answers.

Start every study session by doing all the p2 spreadsheet questions from the topics you are revising today. Before you even look at the topic, DO THESE QUESTIONS. Actively recall before you even start learning or revising. Always try your hardest to put effort and work through each question. This is how I used it:

How to Study IB Biology HL in 2 Weeks: Crash Course 🤯 (5)

[When you go through and practise with the spreadsheet, you can't see any answers and therefore you are actively retrieving knowledge from your brain. Way more effective!]

2. Understand with #1 Revision Guide & Alex Lee's Youtube

A more detailed review of this section is done in my IB Biology Ultimate Guide.

After trying your very best to actively recall, you will either not know anything or not know parts of the course. So to solidify and actually understand the questions and topics you are confused about:

1) Read through topics using Andrew Allott's Revision Guide

It condenses the whole two-year course into 150 pages. Very easy to understand. Skips unnecessary information and focuses on the big picture + details in the exams.

2) Watch videos on Alex Lee's Youtube Channel for consolidation

These videos are perfect for the more conceptually difficult topics as they simplify them through creative and entertaining analogies.

Controversial tip: do not use the Oxford Textbook as your primary resource

Even though this book is highly detailed, it contains so much unnecessary information about each unit. People always get lost in simple topics when they use this book religiously. Only use it unless it is absolutely necessary and you cannot understand the topic at all.

This is a two-week crash course so less of your time should be going into reading and more should be going into testing yourself on the exam content. All in all, the revision guide and the youtube channel are both excellent resources for understanding as they stick to effectively explaining things that will come up in exams.

3. Actively recalling post-understanding

So now you have a better understanding of the topics you were confused about at the start of the revision session. This is where most people would stop, but I need you to:

Do the spreadsheet recall method again. Extremely important 😮

Hide those mark scheme answers and do the p2 long questions associated with the topics you just learnt. The only way you'll truly know if you understand something is if you are tested on it again. By repeating the spreadsheet questions, you can now actively test your knowledge on the topic again and again. Eventually, the repetition of these questions will lead all your red questions to green ones.

Practise paper 1 MCQs for the unit you are revising using question banks.

Additional to the p2 long answer questions, practising MCQs in the paper 1 exams is key. Learning multiple-choice question tactics is also vital for the paper 1 exam ie. using the process of elimination and making educated guesses.

Quizzing and asking yourself questions DURING learning is essential. Do this throughout your study session. It increases your retention in a shorter time, which is ideal for this crash course.

Advice on the 2-week crash course:

Personalise the revision time-table to your own level of understanding.

Obviously, if your understanding of certain topics is weaker then you need to add on more hours to their study sessions. However, if you are in a better position, then intense revision in the calendar wouldn't serve you well.

It doesn't need to be two weeks of continuous biology

You are going to be doing 6 different subjects so ONLY doing biology is not ideal. The point of this guide is to show you how you can productively finish the entire biology course in 14 days. The 14 days can be dispersed within a month or even two months.

Learn THROUGH practising and recalling

This is a big takeaway. Always make the focus of your revision about practising and attempting to recall answers to questions. Always hide the answers and take a shot at answering the question yourself. If you can't get to an answer then review the topic, fix your understanding and attempt it again.

Ultimately working on the subject from scratch is challenging but very doable if you're willing to put it the consistent work for the two weeks. Now, go do the work and get the grade.


Is HL biology IB hard? ›

There are many reasons that make each class hard in its own way, but IB Biology is by far the most challenging class, and students taking it to face many challenges and hardships.

What is the hardest IB biology topic? ›

According to the experience of many former IB students and of many Biology teachers, the topic that causes difficulty in IB Biology is Topic 3: Generics. Why is this topic difficult?

How do you get 7 in bio HL? ›

How I Got a 7 in IB HL Biology + Notes PDF - YouTube

How do you get a 7 in IB Chemistry HL? ›

How To Get A Level 7 in IB Chemistry HL
  1. Have a single place for all the content. ...
  2. Listen in class and ask questions. ...
  3. Understand before learning. ...
  4. Don't oversimplify things – this goes together closely with the previous point about understanding. ...
  5. Take labs seriously!
17 Jun 2020

How do you take notes in IB biology? ›


Is IB Biology SL easy? ›

IB biology is often regarded as the easy science, and in many ways it is.... ... when you compare it to other sciences.

How do you study for biology? ›

Study Strategies for Biology
  1. Make learning a daily routine.
  2. Flesh out notes in 24-48 hour cycle. “ ...
  3. Study to understand, not just to memorize words.
  4. Learn individual concepts before integrating it together.
  5. Use active study methods.​
  6. You need to test yourself frequently to truly gauge how much you comprehend.

Which IB HL is the hardest? ›

Maths HL

Taking the position right after its big brother, Further Maths HL, Maths HL is one of the hardest IB subjects for high school students. Along with the difficult concepts and complex optional topics, the subject has an immense workload and tricky exam questions.

Why is IB biology so hard? ›

Because of the large amount of information to learn and not in the direction of solving computational problems, IB Biology students need to memorize a large amount of difficult Biology English vocabulary to be able to complete the tests in the course.

What is the easiest IB subject? ›

Physics is the easiest subject to score a 7 in, with 23% scoring 7s at SL and 30% scoring 7s at HL. Chemistry is in the middle, with 14% achieving a 7 at SL and 26% achieving a 7 at HL.

How hard is it to get a 45 in IB? ›

Achieving a perfect score in IB is hard but not impossible! Less than 1% of IB candidates achieve an IB 45 world-wide.

Is IB harder than ATAR? ›

According to UAC, about 2 per cent of IB students receive a perfect ATAR of 99.95, compared with just 0.1 per cent of HSC students. There are also 2000 different ranks available to differentiate students using the ATAR, compared to just 22 with the IB. "The IB cohort is very small and select," a UAC spokesperson said.

What is IB Biology HL? ›

The IB Diploma Programme biology higher level course covers the relationship of structure and function at all levels of complexity. Students learn about cell theory, the chemistry of living things, plant science and genetics, among many other topics to further their understanding of and learning about biology.

What percent of IB students get the diploma? ›

Earning the IB Diploma requires navigating a series of exams, essays, and projects. Although it can be intimidating, about 80 percent of students who complete the IB Programme also earn the IB Diploma.

What is the best IB subject combination? ›

For students taking the IB, you are advised to take at least two, and ideally three, of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics at Higher Level. The most natural pairings are Biology and Chemistry, Chemistry and Physics, and Mathematics and Physics.

Is chemistry HL hard? ›

HL chemistry is no harder than any other subject, it simply requires that the students build conceptual "models" and use then to explain the empirical observations. The issue is that empiricism is macroscopic whereas the models are needed at the (invisible) microscopic scale. To link the two requires imagination.

Should I type or write biology notes? ›

Definitely by hand. Typing is faster, but I'll give you a technique for by hand that makes it faster and even more engaging so you remember it even better: I did this and aced physiology. Write your notes in your own words.

Should I take notes in biology? ›

You must be able to take accurate, detailed notes in order to perform well on exams. In fact, most instructors use their lecture notes to come up with at least half, if not more, of their biology exam questions.

What is the best note taking method? ›

The outline method is one of the most intuitive and simplest ways to take notes. As the name suggests, the outline method turns notes into a hierarchy of information, providing a logical flow of content on the page and keeping it highly organized. With the outline method, you can take notes by hand or digitally.

What is IB BIO like? ›

This class is a university-level introductory biology course offered at standard level (SL) and higher level (HL). The content of the IB Biology syllabus consists of 6 core topics at standard level, plus 5 additional topics for students enrolled in the higher level course, and one of four options for all students.

Is ESS easy? ›

The IBDP ESS is not an easy subject and without studying it you definitely won't be able to pass it. If you want to score a 7 you will actually need to invest time and effort into understanding and studying this subject.

Is SL Chemistry hard? ›

It depends. IB Chemistry SL is on the upper side of difficult SL classes. If you're rather savvy in the sciences, IB Chemistry shouldn't be all too challenging for you. If you struggle with science, IB Chemistry SL will be hard and perhaps you shouldn't take it.

How do I study biology last minute? ›

How to master the last-minute study
  1. Mix up your study environment. A cosy cafe setting might suit you if you need your caffeine fix while cramming for an exam. ...
  2. Skip the textbooks. ...
  3. Resist the urge to use social media. ...
  4. Organise your time. ...
  5. Read it out loud. ...
  6. Don't Panic. ...
  7. Have a good night's sleep.
14 Mar 2017

How can you study and not forget? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

Is it hard to get a 7 in IB? ›

About 5% of my English Lit HL students have scored a 7 over my 15 year career. About 10-15% have the chance to do so when they start IB1.

Is IB as hard as university? ›

University is a lot harder than the IB in my opinion. But with the IB, the 'jump' to university-style work is considerably easier than it is for A-level students, as you'll have worked much harder in school compared to your A-level peers.

Is IB harder than Igcse? ›

Which is harder IB or IGCSE? IB and IGCSE are based on practical curriculums and discourage rote learning. They have same difficulty levels.

Is biology HL easy? ›

HL bio isn't too bad. It's a lot of memorization and it's less skill-based than other HL sciences like chem/phys, but if you're good at biology, it can be a lot easier to understand. I personally love bio and have studied it for a couple of years, and I think the class is a breeze, especially for an HL.

Is IB biology HL harder than a level biology? ›

The IB is considerably harder than A-levels. In the IB, students must study six subjects plus extras whereas with A-levels students study three subjects. With so much workload, it is no surprise that many students taking the IB end up with relatively low grades (24-30 points).

What happens if you fail IB exams? ›

Resitting your IB exams

You're allowed to retake all of your six academic subjects as long as it's offered by your IB World School. The number of times you can retake a subject is up to three in three different exam sessions. Check for the nitty gritty details at your school as it may follow different regulations.

What's the hardest IB subject? ›

  • The 5 Hardest IB subjects are Math HL, Chemistry HL, Physics HL , History HL and Biology HL.
  • Group 1 English A Literature SL Group 2 French AB SL Group 3 History HL Group 4 Math AI HL Group 5 Physics HL Group 6 Visual Arts / Music.
27 Oct 2021

What is the most difficult IB class? ›

Which Courses Make the HARDEST IB Diploma?
  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature. English A Literature HL - Average Score: 4.67. ...
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition. ...
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies. ...
  • Group 4: Experimental Sciences. ...
  • Group 5: Mathematics. ...
  • Group 6: Arts (or additional Group 1-5 course) ...
  • Extended Essay: ...
  • TOK:

Does MIT accept IB? ›

While AP and IB classes allow you to take the end-of-course exams for college credit, MIT generally does not accept the credit from these tests. The school wants all of its incoming freshmen to start at MIT on equal footing. However, MIT does grant credit for specific AP tests on which you score a five.

How long is the IB Biology HL exam? ›

Duration: 2 1⁄4 hours. Weighting: 36% Marks: 72.

How do you cram IB in economics? ›

Plan to cover each topic at least three times, and include in your plan the method you are going to use to cover the material, whether a brainstorm, getting a really full set of notes, doing two essay plans and two-data response plans, or using study aids to go over practice questions for Papers 1 and Paper 2 or Paper ...

How much is the bio IA worth? ›

How much is the Biology IB IA grade worth? In IB Biology (and all IB sciences) the grade is worth 20%. This means the exam is worth 80% – this gives you an idea of where you should be placing your priorities in the long term. The IA is important, but nowhere near as important as the final exams.

How do you take notes in IB biology? ›


What are the easiest IB subjects? ›

Physics is the easiest subject to score a 7 in, with 23% scoring 7s at SL and 30% scoring 7s at HL. Chemistry is in the middle, with 14% achieving a 7 at SL and 26% achieving a 7 at HL.

Is economic IB hard? ›

It really depends on a person, for some it is hard for others it's not. I got a 7 in Economics HL without much effort because I loved the subject and for me it was super easy. But I think that everyone can do good in economics. It's actually one of the easiest subjects to get a 7.

Is IB business and management HL hard? ›

It is one of the easiest classes. All of the terms are self-explanatory, but doing the IA is one of the bigger challenges since for HL you have to find a real business to interview and get primary information from. But overall, it has one of the highest passing rates on test.

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