Saturday, 6 September 2014

A'level Guide: How to Smash Your A'levels [Part 2: Biology]

OKAY. Now, let's begin with the first subject - Biology.
Before you read, make sure you have the following books with you at home. Don't get them issued from the library on a temporary basis. It is absolutely crucial for you to have them with you at all times. (You can get them easily from any good book shops in Lahore. You just have to search around a bit!)  

1. A'levels Biology by Mary Jones

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2. Biological Sciences by D.J. Taylor

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3. Advanced Biology Priciples and Applications by D.J Mackean

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4. Biology by Campbell and Reece 

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5. Longman Biology by Hoh Yin Kwong

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6. A'levels Application Booklet (That you can easily download)

I have dealt with all the chapters separately and divided all the elements and from which book to study them from. I have also given each chapter stars out of five that, in my opinion, is it's difficulty level.

Chapter 1: RESPIRATION ✯✯✯

Need for energy in living organisms
(Mary Jones pg. 196 - 198)
ATP, structure, and as an energy currency molecule
(Mary Jones pg. 198 - 199), (Longman pg. 243)
Energy value of lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins
(Mary Jones pg. 207 - 208)
RQ, Respirometer
(Longman pg. 258 - 261)
ATP in muscles and active transport
(Mary Jones pg. 200 - 201)
Glycolysis
(Longman pg. 245 - 246), (Campbell and Reece pg. 165 - 167)
NAD, FAD
(Mary Jones pg. 202)
Link reaction 
(Campbell and Reece pg. 198), (Longman pg. 247)
Kreb's Cycle
(Longman pg. 248 - 249)
Electron Transport Chain
(Campbell and Reece pg 170-171)
Chemiosmosis
(Longman pg. 249 - 251)
Anaerobic Respiration 
(Longman pg. 254 - 257)

Respiration is the first chapter in A-2 and let me tell you, the first time you go through it, it's not going to be easy. Especially learning all those names of the sugars and enzymes involved in Glycolysis and the Kreb's Cycle. And then the Chemiosmotic theory really is addling. But just follow the books above, and go through this chapter again and again and finally things will start to make sense. Infact, it would become a pretty average chapter.

 

➳ Chapter 2: PHOTOSYNTHESIS ✯✯✯

Leaf Structure
(Mary Jones pg 216 - 217)
An Outline of Photosynthesis
(Mary Jones pg 211 - 212)
Photosynthetic pigments, Action and Absorption Spectrum
(Longman pg. 269 - 271)
Light Reactions
(Campbell and Reece pg 190 -192)
Calvin Cycle
(Campbell and Reece pg 190 -192), (Longman pg 276-277)
Limiting factors
(Longman pg 279 - 283)

 I did not like this chapter at all. It's like the big brother of Respiration. The Cyclic and Non Cyclic schemes are easy if you study them from Campbell and Reece, even though Mary Jones makes them sound difficult. The Calvin Cycle is explained easy in every book but it's not so simple. There are lots of things going on in there, so try and understand it properly. You must also know that most of the G3P formed goes back to regenerate Ribulose Bisphospate and only 1 out of 6 molecules goes for starch storage. I'm not sure if they directly mention it any of the books, so I wrote it just in case.

Chapter 3: MEIOSIS, INHERITED CHANGE, SELECTION & EVOLUTION  ✯✯

 Mary Jones
(The WHOLE two chapters)
Meiosis 
(Longman pg. 116)
Natural Selection
(Longman pg. 226 - 228)
Sickle Cell Anaemia
(Longman pg. 231 - 232)
Artificial Selection
(Longman pg. 235 - 236)
Speciation
(Mary Jones pg. 255), (Biological Sciences pg. 924 - 925), (Campbell and Reece pg. 474 -475) 

I merged these two topics together because they inter-relate and they're easy. The most important things you have to know are the steps or meiosis and how they keep the process of evolution continuing. Obviously the answer is simple if you know what really happens in Meiosis. There is the pairing of homologous chromosomes called synapsis, the crossing over of genetic information during chiasmata formation, sundering of chromosomes in Anaphase I, and the random fertilization of gametes. That's four points. And that's a four marks question. The other important thing you should know, along with a bit of basic maths, are the genetic crosses, the chii-square tests, punnets squares etc. CIE tends to give awkward questions on genetic crosses that initially seem complicated but all you need to do is recognize the drift there.

Chapter 4.1: HOMEOSTASIS: EXCRETION ✯✯

Structure of a kidney, nephron
(Longman pg. 402 -403)
Ultrafiltration
(Longman pg 410 - 411)
Reabsorption at the Proximal Convulated Tubule
(Longman pg. 411 -412), (Biological Sciences pg. 688 - 690)
The Loop of Henle
(Mary Jones 265 -266)
Distal Convulated Tubule
(Campbell And Reece pg. 934), (D.G. Mckean pg. 386)
Collecting Duct
(D.G. Mckean pg. 386)
Osmoregulation by ADH
(Mary Jones pg. 267 -269) 
 
Simple chapter, really. The counter-current mechanism in the Loop of Henle sounds a bit confusing on the first read but Mary Jones explains it quite well.

Chapter 4.2: HOMEOSTASIS: HORMONAL COMMUNICATION

Endocrine glands
(Biological Sciences pg. 597 -598)
Blood glucose regulation
(D.G Mckean pg. 505 - 506), (Mary Jones pg. 272)
Diabetes
(Mary Jones pg. 274 - 276)

This is the shortest chapter in Biology. Honestly, just read those two, three pages in Mary Jones and you'll get the hang of it.

Chapter 4.3: HOMEOSTASIS: NERVOUS CONTROL ✯✯

Structure of Neurones
(Biological Sciences pg. 191 - 193), (Mary Jones pg. 276 - 277)
Reflex arc
(Mary Jones pg. 277)
Resting potential
(Mary Jones pg. 278), (D.G. Mckean pg. 445), (Longman pg. 385 -386)
Voltage gates
(Mary Jones pg. 280), (Longman pg. 387 - 388), (Campbell and Reece pg. 1019)
Synapses
(Mary Jones pg. 285 - 286), (D.G. Mckean pg. 448)
Role of Synapses
(Mary Jones pg. 288) 

There is a lot going on in this chapter. The process of nerve conduction, the conduction across synapsis etc. You need to understand the mechanism of how Na+ and K+ ions move across the axon membrane. There is a simple graph of it in Longman which if you can understand, makes the transmission of impulses much easier to understand.

Chapter 4.4: HOMEOSTASIS: PLANT HORMONES

Introduction to plant hormones
(D.G. Mckean pg. 422)
Auxins, Apical Dominance
(D.G. Mckean pg 424, 427)
Giberellins
(Mary Jones pg. 290)
Abscisic Acid
(Campbell and Reece pg. 799)
The need for communication in plants
(D.G. Mckean pg. 418) 

I had a long question on this chapter in Section B of my P4 in the CIEs. Or maybe it was the Mocks paper, I'm not sure. Anyway, this is a pure 'ratta' chapter. There are pretty low chances that you'll get a conceptual question on it.

Chapter 5: [APPLICATIONS] BIOTECHNOLOGY ✯✯✯

Bioleaching
(Mary Jones pg. 314 - 315)
Batch Culture, Continuous Culture
(Applications Booklet), (Biological Sciences pg. 395)
Bacterial growth, Primary and Secondary Metabolites
(Biological Sciences pg. 384 - 386)
Penicillin production, enzymes and mycoproteins 
(Biological Sciences pg. 397 - 398), (Mary Jones pg. 316 -318)
Advantages and Disadvantages of Batch Culture and Continuous Culture
(Application Booklet), (Biological Sciences pg. 397)
Antibiotics, biocides, biostats, mode of action of penicilin
(Biological Sciences pg. 518 - 520), (Application Booklet), (Mary Jones pg. 319 - 320)
Antibiotic resistance
(Application booklet), (Biological Sciences pg. 520)
Immobilizing Enzymes
(Application Booklet), (Mary Jones pg. 321)
Dipsticks and biosensors
(Application Booklet)
Monoclonal antibodies
(Application Booklet)
Pregnancy test
(Mary Jones pg. 324), (Biological Sciences pg. 399) 

This isn't a very simple topic. There are lots of things that you must learn, especially the process of making the antibiotics. Hopefully the books I mentioned above will clarify things for you.

Chapter 6: [APPLICATIONS] BIODIVERSITY

(Read everything from the Application Booklet)

This chapter doesn't even deserve to get any stars because it's that easy. It's all general,c ommon sense. A very recurrent question CIE asks is the meaning of biodiversity for 3 marks. Make sure you have the three important points covered i.e. 1. The number and variety of different species 2. Living in a habitat and interacting with each other 3. And the genetic variations between them.

Chapter 7: [APPLICATIONS] CROP PLANTS ✯✯

(Learn everything from the Application Booklet)

This is an entirely info-based chapter that you can do from the Application Booklet. The 'kind-of-complex' part is the C-4 pathway and the adaptations of plants who follow the C-4 path. It's easier to understand if you study the diagrams of the plant leaves given in the booklet. It makes things clearer. 
 

Chapter 8: [APPLICATIONS] GENE TECHNOLOGY ✯✯✯✯

Synthesis of Human Insulin
(Application Booklet), (Biological Sciences pg. 838 -840)
Advantages of Human Insulin
(Application Booklet)
Promoters
(Application Booklet), (Mary Jones pg. 305)
Flourescent Markers
(Application Booklet)
Benefits and Hazards
(Application Booklet), (Longman pg. 167 -169, pg. 172 - 173)
Social and Ethical Implications
(Application Booklet), (Longman pg. 173 - 174)
Electrophoresis
(Application Booklet)
Cystic Fibrosis
(Application Booklet)
Genetic Screening and Counselling
(Application Booklet)

Hardest chapter in A'levels Biology, in my opinion. The process of isolating DNA using reverse transcriptase was very confusing to me at the beginning, but eventually i understood it. The genetic disorders and diseases are simple. But the process of Electrophoresis isn't. CIE clearly mentions that you do not need to know the entire process of Genetic printing and Electrophoresis. But let me tell you, I had a long question in my P5 about the whole process and because I had not learned it properly, i didn't attempt that question well. So, you should know the whole process even if it's not in the syllabus.

Chapter 9: [APPLICATIONS] ASPECTS OF HUMAN REPRODUCTION ✯✯

Histology of Male and Female Reproductive parts
(Biological Sciences pg. 725 -727)
Spermatogenesis
(Biological Sciences pg. 728 - 729)
Oogenesis
(Biological Sciences pg. 729 - 730)
Differences between Oogenesis and Spermatogenesis
(Campbell and Reece pg. 973)
Hormonal changes during Menstrual cycle
(Biological Sciences pg. 733)
Birth Control Pill
(Application Booklet), (Mary Jones pg. 348)
Contraception
(Application Booklet), (Mary Jones pg. 349)
Causes of infertility
(Mary Jones pg. 349 -351), (Biological Sciences pg. 752 - 753)
IVF
(Application Booklet)


Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a pretty easy chapter. The male reproductive system is a bit more complex but just go through it carefully. Spermatogenesis and Oogenesis is very easy if you read from Biological Sciences. The Menstrual Cycle is simple too. There's a pattern and it's easy to memorize. (Have I used the word easy too many times?) Oh, and remember, you must know how the graph of the menstrual cycle is made, and the four distinctive phases - Menstrual, Proliferative, Ovulation, Secretory.

That's it for Biology. The syllabus itself isn't very long. It's the execution that makes the difference. 

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