IB biology students

Top tips from the experts – IB Biology Paper 1

Updated 27th September, 2022

Top tips for IB Biology Paper 1 from IB Teachers and Examiners

The exam season is on the horizon. So, we have got our IB teachers, and examiners to give us their top tips for Paper 1 IB Biology.

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

While all our IB Biology experts agreed that practice, practice, practice is the most important thing you can do.  They also had very specific tips that should help you nail this paper.

First of all a quick recap on what to expect from the paper.

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.

Tip 1 – Learn to recognise families of multiple-choice questions.

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

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 – Choose to answer the questions in the order that best suits your strengths.

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 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.


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 IB Biology topic, 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.


Please fill in the following information to help us find the best tutor for you.

  • Which School does your child attend (for Ecolint, please include Campus)
  • Which year/grade is your child currently in?
  • Which subjects would you like tuition in and what curriculum are you following? IB, A-Level, IGCSE, Primary, Bac, Matu, etc.
  • Please enter any days and times your child is free for tuition.
  • Please let us know if you have any other information important to this enquiry
Share This Article:

More articles from our expert tutors


SAT essay & subject tests cancelled – Hot off the press

News from the College Board SAT optional essay & subject tests cancelled Since the cancellation of many of the SAT test dates due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the College Board has announced it wants…
English IB

Meet Katerina, our expert primary Maths & English tutor in Geneva

Katerina, one of our TutorsPlus tutors who focuses on supporting Primary Maths and English, tells us what goes into planning engaging lessons and the interesting skills her students have taught her…. “What is a day in…
Advice for Parents

Heading into IB Diploma territory: A quick guide for parents

Have strange acronyms started making their way into your home? Has dinner table conversation started featuring talk of the TOK and IAs? If so, you are probably the parent of a student headed towards the International…
Contact us today
Find the best tutor for your family

Find a Tutor Today