To achieve an A* in your synoptic essays you must show breadth of knowledge as well as depth. What examiners want to see when they mark your answers is that you have a thorough understanding of the concepts throughout the course, and for an A* answer, that you are able to be insightful throughout your argument. This means they want you to be able to see how the different aspects of the course are related and be able to demonstrate your knowledge with relevant case study evidence.
The mistake many students make when using case studies in their answers is 'case study dumping', where irrelevant details are given to support a point. Ideally, to achieve an A*, parts of case studies should be used specifically (or 'cherry-picked') to demonstrate a point you are trying to make. So for example, if you were making a point about environmental issues that cities in the developing world face you may use Mumbai's slum, Dharavi as an example. You may know tonnes about this case study, but here you would only mention details such as the number of people per latrine and the waste running on the streets, but it would be irrelevant to mention the attempt to regenerate the area by rehabilitating residents to high-rise buildings. Keeping the case studies relevant helps focus your essay, setting the foundations for an A*.
In order to keep your argument coherent you must also have a good essay structure. Having a clearly laid out argument through your essay will help you demonstrate the higher level skills needed to achieve an A*. So, in the introduction you may want to lay out your argument, demonstrating that you undertand the question. The main body of your essay is where this argument will be carried out, and you can show off your knowledge of the course, and the conclusion should tie together the different points you've made. To keep the essay focussed, you may want each paragraph in the main body to end with a sentence that relates it back to your argument and therefore the question. These sentences are often where you can make those insightful A* statements that show 'flair'. If not here, then the conclusion is another place you can show some flair that demonstrates your confidence in the course content and ability to handle it critically. And you don't need to go crazy with this either, to achieve an A* you'd only need to include this once or twice for the examiner to see you are capable of it and award you the A*.
If you really want that A* in those exam essays then a lot of it comes down to ensuring you make the connections between different aspects of your course as you go along. This way you're thinking about the course synoptically from the get-go and when it comes to it you'll find that writing a good synoptic essay comes more easily.
The process of diffusion and its importance inliving organisms.2.
The different ways in which organisms useATP (June 2002) OR ATP and its roles in livingorganisms.3.
The movement of substances within livingorganisms (Jan 2003) OR Transportmechanisms in living organisms.4.
Mutation and its consequences.5.
The properties of enzymes and theirimportance in living organisms OR The role of enzymes in living organisms.6.
The ways in which a mammal maintainsconstant conditions inside its body.7.
Negative feedback in living organisms (June2005)8.
Chemical coordination in organisms.9.
The production and elimination of metabolicwaste products in living organisms.10.
The biological importance of water (Jan 2003)OR The role of water in the lives of organisms.11.
The importance of proteins in livingorganisms.12.
How the structure of proteins is related totheir functions (Jan 2004).13.
The importance of lipids in living organisms.14.
The importance of carbohydrates in livingorganisms OR The structure and functions of carbohydrates (June 2003).15.
How the structure of cells is related to theirfunction (June 2002).16.
Natural selection and the effects of environmental change.17.
Gas exchange in animals and flowering plants.18.
The importance of molecular shape in livingorganisms.19.
The factors affecting the growth and size of populations.20.
Cycles in Biology (June 2003).21.
The causes of variation and its biologicalimportance (Jan 2004).22.
The process of osmosis and its importance toliving organisms (June 2004).23.
Energy transfers which take place inside livingorganisms (June 2004).24.
How microscopes have contributed to ourunderstanding of living organisms (Jan 2005).25.
Enzymes and their importance in plants andanimals (Jan 2005).26.
Mean temperatures are rising in many partsof the world. The rising temperatures mayresult in physiological and ecological effectson living organisms. Describe and explainthese effects. (June 2005)27.
The transfer of substances containing carbonbetween organisms and between organismsand the environment (June 2006).28.
Cells are easy to distinguish by their shape.How are the shapes of cells related to theirfunction? (June 2006)29.
Movements inside cells. (June 2007)30.
Transfers through ecosystems. (June 2007)31.
The part played by the movement of substances across cell membranes in thefunctioning of different organs and organssystems (June 2008).32.
The part played by enzymes in the functioningof different cells, tissues and organs (June2008)33.
Ions and Organisms (June 2009)34.
DNA and the transfer of information (June2009)35.
Carbon dioxide may affect organisms directlyor indirectly. Describe and explain theseeffects. (June 2010)36.
The causes of disease in humans (June 2010).37.
The role of carbon containing compounds inliving organisms.38.
The role of nitrogen containing compounds inliving organisms.39.
The roles of membranes in living organisms.40.
The role of DNA in living organisms.41.
Applications and implications of genetechnology.42.
Genetic variation and speciation.43.
Control of the internal environment in livingorganisms.44.
The movement of molecules and ions throughmembranes.45.
Roles of pigments in living organisms.46.
Light and life.47.
Support and movement in living organisms.48.
The chemical and biological control of insectpests.