IB Bio Paper 1 – Top Revision Tips

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The exam season is on the horizon, but your IB Biology Paper 1 doesn’t have to be a source of that stress. In this article we break down the paper, help you understand the groups of questions, the tactics to increase your chance of success and we delve into drawings and calculations of scale.

Whether you are taking HL or SL IB Biology these tips will help you approach your final IB Paper 1 exam with confidence.

While all our IB Biology experts agreed that practise, practise, practise is the most important thing you can do. Our IB teachers and Examiners had very specific tips that should help you nail this paper, and here they are.

Note – this article relates to the the syllabus with last examinations in 2024.

What to expect from IB Biology Paper 1

As you know this is a multiple choice paper. It tests only knowledge of the core for SL students. In contrast for HL students, it tests the (Additional Higher Level) material as well.

The questions are short and sweet and are designed to be only one or two-stage problems.  The questions address objectives 1 and 2. (see the objectives below).

Most importantly o marks are deducted for incorrect responses. Remember that calculators are not permitted, as students are expected to carry out simple calculations.

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of Scientific:
    1. facts and concepts
    2. methods and techniques
    3. terminology
    4. methods of presenting scientific information.
  2. Apply and use Scientific:
    1. facts and concepts
    2. methods and techniques
    3. terminology to communicate effectively
    4. appropriate methods to present scientific information.

During your IB Biology Revision for Paper 1, you can use our top 5 tips to get yourself up to speed and on track to do your best. So, here they are;

Tip 1 – Recognise families of questions

Paper 1 multiple-choice questions cover the whole syllabus.  However, they tend to fall into broad categories that become recognisable the more you practise.

When you have done quite a few you will recognise families of questions that are the same questions subtly rephrased.

Once you learn to recognise them you will be able to answer them with more confidence.

student with microscope

Tip 2 – Answer questions that you are strong on first! 

Usually, the paper moves through the topics in order of the syllabus.

First questions covering topic 1 and so on.

If you know you have certain strength areas, you can answer the questions in the sequence you prefer.

In fact, therefore reading all the questions before answering is a good technique.

To book a lesson with one of our IB Biology Examiners or Teachers with TutorsPlus, get in touch HERE.

Tip 3 – Use the tactic of ruling out

Typically, of the 4 answer options available (A, B, C and D) there are 2 you can rule out right away.

Then, the real challenge is determining which of the remaining two answers is correct.

In order to do this, you need to read the question very carefully. Always an important part of good exam technique!

Sometimes, it comes down to a subtle emphasis in the wording that can make all the difference.

ib teacher and ib student

Tip 4 – Know your drawings

Knowing all the things you should be able to draw in the syllabus should be a key part of your IB Biology Revision for Paper 1, this can be useful in the multiple choice paper.

Drawing (Termed Skills in the IB Biology Guide) is useful in paper 2 but can also have benefits in paper 1.

This is because you could see questions asking you to interpret a simple diagram much like the ones you draw.

If you would like more articles on the other IB biology papers, more tips on IB Biology Paper 2 and Paper 3 are here.

Tip 5 – Know your calculations of scale

Finally, try your very best to get your head around the calculations of scale.

This means seeing as many electron micrographs as possible. So that you know the differences between Smooth and Rough endoplasmic reticulum and can tell by looking.

If a cell has enough Golgi apparatus to suggest it will excrete lots of hormones or is crammed with mitochondria, suggesting a high energy production and consumption like muscle tissues.

For help in your multiple-choice Paper 1, or to book a lesson with us on any topic for IB Biology Revision Paper 1, HERE.

To see more of our IB Biology teachers, check out our IB Biology page HERE.

In case you want to review the course outline on the IBO site, click HERE.


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