Benefits of Taking Biology for the Leaving Cert

Hi guys my names David Lewis and I teach both Biology and HL maths here at The Dublin Academy. I’m here today to talk about the benefits of studying biology. I personally think that biology is an extremely interesting and relatable subject for most students. I think the fact that there are 38 topics to study puts many prospective students off taking the subject. I think that many of the topics are quite intertwined already and therefore the course isn’t nearly as long as it would seem on the face of it. 


Leaving Cert Biology Exam Structure:

The exam has been pretty much the same since 2005. There are three sections within the exam. Section A is what people call the short questions, section B has questions based around the experiments and section C is filled with ‘long questions. I feel that section C is often a bit mis interpreted however, as the examiners are always looking for short to the point answers. So, while you will have to write more than in other sections, writing an essay or longer answer than is necessary will irritate an examiner. 

Inside each of these sections we already know which units the questions are coming from. So, I can tell you for a fact that in section A there will be two questions from unit 1, two from unit two and two from unit 3. Section C will have one question from each of these units. These means that studying certain chapters over others can help you get more ‘bang for your buck’ if you like. There are many biology chapters which are much longer than others which actually don’t really impact the leaving cert too much in the end, so it pays to know which ones are more relevant to you for your exam. As an example, if I say to a student at the start of the year “go study all the experiments in unit one for section B” with a particular method I have developed over the years, they could theoretically get 40-45% of your paper done in about 4 hours of focused study. Knowing how to approach the subject with the final exam in mind really helps cut out information which will be of little value to you come exam time.


Can You Catch up Quickly in Biology?

I believe if a student was focused from day one of the school year, they could sit a leaving cert paper by Christmas and perform well if they followed my advice about which chapters to study. In my grinds it takes about 17 classes for a student to have the potential to get 100%, after which it become a question of practicing the paper, answers and giving ourselves different options for the actual exam.


Common Myths About Leaving Cert Biology:

I hear some students say that you need to read books or magazines to keep up to date with the subject. If you love biology, then that’s brilliant and I’m delighted if you want to do further reading, but from a purely leaving cert perspective its totally unnecessary. You could even end up confusing yourself and storing information which isn’t useful and won’t help you in the final exam.

You also must write up each experiment in a copy which is mandatory for the leaving cert. I see so many students each year stressing over how their experiment write ups must be perfect. However, nobody looks in depth at these so don’t spend too much time worrying about how they look. Obviously, it’s good practice to make them look as good as possible but don’t stress over them to much as you don’t end up getting any points for them. As a secondary point to this many students stress about knowing the write ups off by heart. You need to be able to answer the questions they ask you in relation to the different experiments not just able to remember the write ups. If you know the general outcome of each experiment it really helps to remember the entire processes of each experiment in the exam.

Students often focus in on what they cannot do. Many students for example don’t like genetics crosses and they spend so much time trying to study them. I have one method which can help students answer any question on genetic crosses but if a student is still struggling with them, I wouldn’t advise wasting time trying to force yourself to study them. You need an exam plan and if those crosses are taking away time from other chapters which could be more relevant to helping you score more points, then prioritise other chapters instead. You’ll have the opportunity to answer a different selection of questions on the day anyway.

I also hear many students don’t like photosynthesis because of the electron pathways. I’ve studied them in school, college and beyond and there’s still so much information I’ll never get to because it’s so vast. As a leaving cert student its all about knowing the required amount to answer the questions asked in the exam. You just need several key points which I teach students every year and that’s all you need to help you answer the questions on photosynthesis.



To briefly sum up everything I’ve said, make sure you do these three things. Know the exam paper layout, it’ll help you save so much time in your revision and on the actual exam day. Familiarise yourself with the units and topics in them. Finally, build an exam plan. I build the exam plan like a pyramid which seems to work for my students, and you can access that plan along with my other biology tips in my notes on the Dublin Academy website. Best of luck to everyone doing biology, if you put in the work you’ll see the rewards!