Hot chocolate and vanilla slice - VCE Biology study tips from Douchy

Hot chocolate and vanilla slice - VCE Biology study tips from Douchy

Clinton Milroy, Head of Marketing - Edrolo

VCE Biology is a very popular subject, with almost 14,000 students across Victoria opting to study Biology each year. Andrew Douch (or Douchy as he’s affectionately referred to) is a name familiar to many of these students. One of our OG presenters, Andrew has helped countless Biology students learn and love the subject. His passion is infectious, and he knows a thing or 2 about getting exam-ready too.

Andrew will be presenting a VCE Biology student study session on Saturday 7 October as part of Edrolo Study Fest ‘23. Students can find out more, and book their spot here

What do you love about teaching Biology?

There are so many things to love! I love how understanding biology helps us to make sense of things students have only seen superficially, like why a pimple is red, or how a vaccine works. It’s beautiful.

I love how concepts are interrelated. There are so many recurring themes and motifs; concepts that you see over and over in different contexts. When students see those connections, that brings me joy. 

I love how I never feel like I fully understand it myself! The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know! Just when I think I understand something, a door opens to a whole new level. That’s exciting for me – and it’s often a student’s question that opens that door. I always want students to understand that we are all learning together.  

What is a concept students most often struggle with?

I think it’s different for different students – we are all different. But based on the number of questions I get in emails, there are some topics that particularly confuse students: attenuation in the trp operon, CRISPR-Cas9 and the adaptive immune response are three big ones. 

What are you going to cover in the study session?

Some of that is up to the students who are there. There will be the opportunity for them to submit questions (and upvote the questions of others). Then I’ll answer the questions that will be most helpful to most people. That should be fun. 

I’ll also explain the ideas that I think are the most challenging AND I’ll share some of my favourite study techniques (that are perfect for 3 weeks before the exam), and some great exam hacks - strategies for avoiding the common mistakes students often make.  

What’s a taster of study tip that students might expect from the session?

I’ll demonstrate a fail-safe method for making sure that you don’t run out of time on the exam. 

What will students take away from the session?
  • Inspiration and motivation to study!
  • Strategies for revising in ways that help you to remember.
  • Strategies for answering particular exam question types.
  • Some new, fresh explanations and analogies to help you get your head around some of the really challenging topics.
  • Answers to your questions and/or the questions other students ask which you vote for!

What can students be doing now to set themselves up to be ready for exam prep next term?

My best advice: spend 15 minutes a day, every day revising things you have learned previously. (In addition to the study you need to do for what you are learning now). That will add up to about 27 extra hours of revision by the exam! More importantly, it will make you much more likely to see connections between the things you learned early in the year and the things you are learning now. 

How can students use your Edrolo Biology resources to learn and study?

If you have already watched the videos – try watching again at double-speed, with a hot chocolate in one hand and vanilla slice in the other. That’s a fun way to do your 15 minutes of revision for the day – and it will also make you look forward to doing it again tomorrow!

If you haven’t yet watched them, I’d recommend watching each video once without taking notes, and THEN watch it again while making notes. Then highlight the key points in your notes. THEN in the margin of the page, write questions for your future self, about the highlighted sections. Later when you are studying, you can cover your notes and see if you can answer the questions that your past-self wrote for you! 

Any tips you’d give students who might be struggling right now, to stay across their studies, remember content across classes etc?

If you feel like you are struggling to understand biology, join the club! We all are – that’s why we don’t yet have a cure for cancer or a vaccine for HIV – even the brightest biologists in the world are struggling to understand. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that often the best students are the ones who see the complexity. So take heart! 

Also, I’d say try using flashcards to remember things. It’s amazing how regular revision, 5 minutes here, 2 minutes there, can make a big difference. If you don’t want to use paper flash cards, there are some good phone apps you could use, too, like Recall Efficient Flashcards or Anki. You can buy flashcards – but I really think that the process of making them yourself is better. 

What’s the one thing you always tell your students for success in Biology?

The road from where you are to an A+ is not as long as you imagine. 

Why should students come see you in person?

Learning online is great – you can pause, rewind, re-watch, change playback speed – it’s so convenient! But there’s nothing like face-to-face. I love explaining biology in the Edrolo videos – but I’m really looking forward to meeting students I’ve been talking to all year! 

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