How to tackle the Biol5 essay – part 2

How to plan the Biol5 essay

If you want to do well in this essay, then you must make a plan before you begin. Spend about 10 minutes during the exam to brainstorm ideas for both of the essay titles (5 minutes for each) because you don’t really know what you can say about them until you try to think of the ideas that relate to the title.

Ideally, you should be brainstorming during your revision period prior to the exam by making spider diagrams for each key topic e.g. homeostasis and general principles and concepts e.g. transport. In this way, you can use the resources available to you to add to your plan and it will make things a lot easier when it comes to the exam because you will have already thought about some of the key ideas.

To brainstorm, make a spider diagram – which looks similar to the food webs in Biol4 which show the feeding inter-relationships between different species, likewise, we want to think about the inter-relationships between the main idea. So when you first receive the exam paper, open it up and go to the essay page. Write the central idea (from the title) in the centre of the page, then draw arrows coming from it to connect it with associated themes. Write down everything that you think relates to the topic. Then number the ideas to form a structure for your essay. Afterwards there are two recommended options:

1. Write the essay there and then and get it out of the way.

2. Make the plans, then go back and answer the rest of the questions, leaving the essay until the end.

There are advantages to both methods. The first one gets things over and done with whilst the knowledge is still fresh in your mind. Of course the duration of the exam is not long enough for you to forget everything by the end, but it might relieve the pressure from you after you have finished the essay leaving you time to go back and answer the rest of the questions.

The second method is also effective, because you may gather more ideas for your essay whilst doing the questions, and you’ll have some time to think about what to write in the essay. Just be aware that you leave enough time to write the essay by the end of it – I recommend 45 minutes.

During your revision period however, go through the topics in the specification and brainstorm them all. Next, brainstorm other topics connected to this central idea. Make short plans of themes and general principles e.g. how structure is related to function. Use the list of past paper titles in the synoptic essay pack (you can download that from part 1) to give you an idea of what to expect.

Below is an example of a spider diagram for an essay about cycles.

cycles brainstorm


Here is a big links mind map of most of the BIOL5 topics:

A2 BIOL5 links

The next post will be about how to write the BIOL5 essay, so look out for it!

If you would like to post some essay plans that you want help with or to help others or you want to suggest essay titles, feel free to do so in the comments section below or send me a message.


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