Exam Guide | Model Answer
(a) Exam Structure & Strategy
||3 hours (180 minutes)
||Section A (100 marks – 25% of exam)
You must answer 5 out of 6 questions.
Each question carries 20 marks.
Maximum Time: 35 minutes.
|Section B (60 marks – 15% of exam)
You must answer two out of three questions.
Each question carries 30 marks.
Maximum Time: 25 minutes.
|Section C (240 marks – 60% of exam)
You must answer 4 out of 6 questions.
Each question carries 60 marks.
Maximum Time : 2 hours (120 minutes) – 30 minutes per question.
- Read the entire exam paper before answering. The exam paper is packed with information and you can often pick up clues for later answers from reading other questions. As you answer one question, you should then be sub-consciously preparing answers for the others.
- Within each question of Section C, check the marks allocated for parts (a), (b) and (c). Divide the mark by two to calculate the time in minutes you should give each part of the question. A part that carries 18 marks should not take you more than 9 minutes.
Answering Style for Section C Questions
- Essay style answers are not the expected in Biology.
- You may answer in continuous prose if you wish.
- The best way to answer questions is in numbered points. Start each sentence on a new line, number each sentence and try to have just one item of information in each sentence. After each part of the question, leave a clear space of several lines that will allow you to add any necessary information on rechecking.
- Clear spacing between parts of a question is much appreciated by the examiner.
- If you are asked to write an essay, then an essay style answer is expected, i.e. a logical sequence of paragraphs.
- Plan before you write – otherwise marks are lost through lack of detail.
- Do not use red or green to highlight any part of your work. The examiner corrects in red, underlining the items of information for which they are awarding marks, and their supervisor corrects independently in green.
- Fear not - you don’t need artistic ability to gain full marks for your drawings.
- Make your drawing big, and have all the important parts in the correct positions.
- Do not waste your time on shading or colour – pencil only. Like other information, the diagrams must be learned. You need to practice drawing the diagrams and test yourself regularly. When practising, don’t write out the labels, just mentally test yourself on the names of the different parts as you draw them.
- In the exam, the labelling of diagrams is essential. If you are not instructed as to which parts to label or how many, then label every part. Remember to include a title for each diagram – it is often taken as a label and score marks.
Biology is supposed to be an experimental science and the mandatory practical experiments can feature in Section C – they are not confined to Section B. The Scientific Method underlines all practical activity so it must be understood, appreciated and it limitations acknowledged.
A graph is just a 'picture' of the numerical connection between two variables e.g. the temperature and the rate of enzyme activity. It does not take any mathematical ability, just a little care and attention to draw a graph accurately. Your only problem may be that you forget to label which variable is on each axis and the units the variable is measured in.
You are expected to know the shapes of certain graphs - such as all the predator-prey, graphs on enzymes, photosynthesis, hormones of the human female menstrual cycle, ADH and water re-absorption by the kidney, population curve of a bacterial culture and others.
Ask for and use graph paper.
The detail required in the answer can be assessed from the wording of the question itself or from the allocation of marks on the paper. If the question uses the words 'brief' or 'concise' or 'write notes on', then only a short answer is needed, with the major points mentioned - there will be no marks for tiny details.
The marks indicate the time you have to answer the question. A lot of time means a lot of detail is expected. A little time means just a short answer with the main points. Make the answer fit the time.
Use the marks in brackets after each part of the question as a guide to detail – divide the mark by 2 and that will give you the number of minutes available for that piece.
Style of Answer
You are free to use any style of answer to those questions that do not specify a particular style – continuous prose (essay), numbered points, labelled diagrams or a mixture of diagrams and written information.
If a specific style is requested you must use that style or you will lose marks.
Be careful – if asked to 'write notes on' and you use a flow chart then you may be penalised up to 50% of the marks.
(b) Walk-through the paper (Question by Question)
Section A (Multipart General Structured Questions)
This section consists of structured multipart questions each with several small questions which are answered in the spaces provided on the exam paper. 25% of the total marks are awarded for Section A so, if your target is a high grade, you need to score well here. However, the questions are drawn from every nook and cranny of the course so, if you have been selective with your study, you can be badly caught out.
- You are required to answer five from six questions (each carries 20 marks) but it is advisable to answer all the questions if possible, and all parts to each question. Leave no blank spaces. You will be marked from your best five answers.
- Try to make your answer fit the space available to ensure sufficient detail.
- If you require more space then your answer is probably too detailed.
- Expect two questions based on Unit 1 of the Syllabus, two questions on Unit 2 and two questions on Unit 3.
A good way to prepare is to know all the answers to the Sample Paper from the State Examinations Commission and the 'sample paper booklet' available from certain publishers. It will amaze you how many of these will appear on this year’s exam paper.
Write your answers in pencil into the sample exam paper booklet, have them checked by your teacher, and correct them if necessary.
It is also a good idea to practice on the ordinary level sample papers. These include some tricky and interesting questions, which help to reinforce the basics and build your confidence.
Also make sure you know the answers to the 'short questions' at the end of the chapters in your textbook.
Great revision can be done by getting a friend to quiz you on all these 'short' questions; ask the questions out of sequence. Do not be satisfied until you can "rattle-off" all the answers without even thinking.
Section B: Multipart Structured Questions on the 22 Mandatory Practical Activities
Each question is divided in part (a) and part (b).
Part (a) carries six marks and may deal with the theory or some other aspect of the mandatory activity examined in part (b).
Part (b) carries twenty four marks.
- You cannot afford to be selective in your study of the Mandatory Activities. It is expected that each of the three questions will deal with a different practical activity. If you have not mastered each activity then you may be badly caught out in this section. If you have left out one activity then you may not have a choice - you have to answer two out of three so you will be hoping that the 'omitted' activity is not asked. If you leave out two activities you may only be able to answer one question. If you have left out three activities you may not be able to answer any question here. You must master all the 23 practical activities.
- Remember it is not enough to know the procedure of each activity – you must know the reason for each step in the procedure.
- Note: questions on the practical activities may also appear in Sections A and C.
- Try to use all the available space on the exam paper to ensure sufficient detail in your answer.
Section C (Long, multi-part questions)
The questions are based on the units within the syllabus:
- Take the time to choose your best questions in Section C– you must make a wise choice. You are required to answer four questions from six (each carries 60 marks).Your choice of questions is therefore quite limited and to give yourself a reasonable chance you must master all topics. You cannot afford to leave out Genetics, Ecology or Plant Biology just because they may be a 'bit of a problem' for you – they will be a major problem as they have been in every biology exam.
- Choosing your four best questions: Read each question carefully, think about it, assess the grade you would expect to achieve if you answered it, and then jot the grade beside it on the exam paper. When you have completed this exercise for all questions, select the four highest graded questions. Start with your 'best' question, followed by your second best, and so on. This sequence will build confidence. But be careful – do not to go over 30 minutes on your first answer. Check over each answer before moving on to the next question.
- Staying on Track: Follow your teacher’s advice about reading and interpreting the question. Read carefully – you must know precisely what the question requires. Answer what you are asked – not what you would like to have been asked. Underline the key words in the question, 'believe what you read' and answer accordingly.
- Predictions: this is gambling. If you gamble then you must be prepared to lose. Don’t gamble – learn it all.
- About 10% of students obtain an A grade each year. This indicates that they have scored highly in all parts of each question, including the difficult small parts. These 'difficult parts' are the topics that are avoided by most students in their revision because they are 'boring', tough or both. If you are aiming for a high grade then the material you are not inclined to study is the very material that is needed to lift you into the high grade. About 65% of students obtain a C grade or higher, so most parts of each question should appear manageable if you have done some reasonable revision.
- Extra Questions: Do not plan to answer more than four questions. Plan to answer four questions from Section C as fully as possible within the time. If during the exam there is time left over when you have completed all required questions then you can answer an extra question in Section C. All questions will be marked and you will be credited with the four highest scoring questions.
- Questions 14 and 15 – Extra Choice: These questions have three major parts of which you are only required to answer two. Each part carries 30 marks. You may if you have time do all three parts and you will be credited with the higher scoring two parts.
Exam Guide | Model Answer