Exam Reaction - Biology and Science

This morning, Form VI sat the Leaving Certificate Biology exam while Form III sat the Junior Certificate Science exam. By all accounts the papers were fair but with some tricky elements. 

The higher level biology paper stays pretty much true to form. There were few complaints about the general tone of the exam although some felt there were some questions which were more challenging than others. The short questions in Section A were a little tough with "what is a triglyceride? in question 1" catching one or two. Question 2 was challenging with a series of genetic problems while question three - on amoeba - was fair and straightforward. Question 4, 5 and 6 were all fine although some complained of the lack of space for comprehensive answers. The experiment questions in Section B were OK, especially question 7 while question 8 assessed numerous mandatory practicals. Question 9 was probably the most challenging questions which looked at the IAA investigation. The questions were very vague with little space left for the procedure - it wasn't made clear if pupils were to give details on the serial dilution either. In all, Section B was fair. Section C, the long questions, had a very decent mix of questions and the "old favourites" were not ignored. Question 10 was a very straightforward question on DNA and genetics while question 11 looked at the nervous and endocrine systems, again fairly straightforward. Question 12, ecology, probably appeared the most challenging question, but in reality wasn't too bad. But I will be interested to see how they mark part (c) - an odd series of true or false questions. Question 13 was a well constructed question on plant reproduction which many found favourable and the final two questions, 14 and 15, were fair and uncomplicated and contained a good mix of topics from across the syllabus. Question 14 assessed photosynthesis, enzymes and cell membranes while question 15  examined human reproduction, digestion and a nicely composed "biological explanation" question. In all a fair paper with little complication. It would have suited the "middle of the road" candidate but the pupil seeking an A1 may not be so confident this evening. On a personal note, it was nice to see some variation in the style of questions as the exam had become almost too predictable.

The Ordinary level paper was also well constructed and generally in line with previous years. Section A was OK but there were questions on the Carbon Cycle and the Ear, which some higher level pupils would find challenging. These topics have rarely been assessed at higher level. The other questions, True or False, the cell, genetics and the leaf, were all fair and clear-cut. In Section B, the experiments, all questions were all fair. The topics assessed were DNA isolation, enzyme activity and cross section of a dicot stem - all fine. Section C, the long questions were also fine. Question 10 looked at ecology and was not complicated. Question 11 looked at genetics and DNA and was fine. Question 12 assessed candidates knowledge of respiration and photosynthesis - two consistently assessed topics, while question 13 was a decent question on food and digestion. The final two questions, which have an element of choice, were well balanced and would have suited most candidates. Question 14 contained questions on reproduction, both plant and animal (again consistently assessed topics) while 15 looked at water absorption, the skeleton and rhizopus. In all a fair paper again.

The Junior Cert Science exam was again uninspiring but was well received. Forgive me if I don't give a detailed composition of the paper as most areas of the syllabus were assessed. Few pupils had complaints about anyway! 

Well done to all pupils - more reaction to come on the Chemistry, Physics and Ag. Science papers over the next week!


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