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The Biology Exam:

Notes and Advice from Terry Flanagan

The Leaving Certificate Biology examination is a three hour examination.

This will be the third year in which the new syllabus has been examined. The former Leaving Certificate Biology syllabus was introduced in 1975 and first examined in 1977.

In the intervening years many changes have occurred in the knowledge and application of Biology and in the needs of students.

The new syllabus consists of three units:

  • Unit One - Biology - The Study of Life
  • Unit Two - The Cell
  • Unit Three - The Organism.

    It is intended that this new syllabus will prove relevant to the lives of students and inspire in them an interest in and excitement about biology.

    The syllabus is composed of pure science, which constitutes approximately 70% of the syllabus and the technological, political, social and economic aspects of biology which constitutes the remaining 30%. The Exam Paper:
    The exam paper is set out in three sections:

    Section A:
    Answer any 5 questions from 6. Each question carries 20 marks giving a total of 100 marks for this section.

    You must write your answers into the space provided on the question sheet and hand this back.

    Of the six questions in this section, two are from Unit One, two from Unit Two and two are from Unit Three.

    Attempt ALL six questions and attempt ALL parts of every question - even if you have to guess at the answer.

    A wrong answer cancels a right answer in this section.

    If you are asked to give two reasons or name one enzyme, make sure you only give two reasons or name just one enzyme. Otherwise, if you give wrong answers, these will cancel out the correct answers that you may also give.

    Spend no longer than 30 minutes at this section of the exam. Section B:
    The questions from this section are based on the 22 prescribed activities. Each question carries 30 marks giving a total of 60 marks for this section.

    You must write your answers into the space provided on the question sheet and hand this back.

    You should spend no more than 30 minutes on this section.

    Section C:
    These are the long questions and must be answered in your answer book.

    Answer any 4 questions from 6. It is better to answer just 4 questions in this section - and to answer these well. Each question carries 60 marks giving a total of 240 marks.

    Of the six questions in this section, one is from Unit One, two from Unit Two and three are from Unit Three.

    You should spend 120 minutes on this section, i.e. 30 minutes per question.

    In this section the questions are sub-divided into different parts, (a), (b), etc. Students sometimes worry how long they should spend on a particular part of a long question.

    There are 60 marks in total for each long question and you should spend 30 minutes on a long question.

    Each long question is sub-divided into (a), (b), (c), etc, with the amount of marks for each section in brackets at the side of the question.

    Whatever marks are for a section of a question, divide this by two and this is the number of minutes you should spend on this section of the question.

    A considerable amount of marks go for diagrams in the exam. Marks go for the DIAGRAM and also for the LABELS.

    For example, if you are asked to draw a cross-section of a leaf, there will probably be a maximum of 12 marks for the diagram and 8 marks for the labels.

    The marks for the diagram would probably be as follows:
    0 = Wrong Diagram
    4 = Poor Diagram
    8 = Fair Diagram
    12 = Good Diagram.

    Most students will get either 8 or 12 marks.

    Eight labels on the diagram will get you eight marks, one mark for each correct label.

    The best way of learning diagrams is to practice drawing them with the book closed.
  • Draw all diagrams in PENCIL.
  • Give a HEADING for each diagram.
  • Draw your diagram as LARGE as possible.

    Don't be afraid to attempt this type of question. Know how to DRAW and LABEL a graph. Plot the points and join them using a fine pencil. ALWAYS use Graph Paper.

    Sometimes a question appears in which you are asked to read a piece and then answer questions on the piece. Generally, the piece is related

    (loosely) to the course, e.g. Ecology, and the answers to the question are either in the piece or you would have done it in classwork. This type of question is usually fairly easily marked and you should do well here, especially if you have good general knowledge of the course.

    QUESTION 14 & 15.
    In these two questions you have to answer two from three parts. Donšt answer all three parts. Often you are asked to write an Essay on something, e.g. "Write an essay on Evolution". In general, stay away from this type of question, as it is very hard to know exactly what information the examiner is looking for and remember, you can only spend 15 minutes on each section here. ON THE DAY:
    Before the exam starts, ask for a few sheets of Graph Paper. If a question is very long, cross out each section accordingly as you do it.

    Finally, don't leave the Exam Hall before the exam has officially finished.

    Even though you may be finished, read over all your answers and see if you can improve on them or on the diagrams. If there is still time left, you should now attempt another question.

    Remember, you can only gain marks while you are in the Exam hall, so stick it out as long as you can.

    Finally, when the exam is over, don't get involved in a post mortem with other students. You will only torture yourself with the odd mistake that you have made and not concentrate on all the good work that you have completed.

    Go home, relax, unwind, go for a walk, get some fresh air and then think about tomorrows exam!

    The Biology Exam is on Tuesday the 13th June

    Topics that I suggest you concentrate on:
  • Ecology
  • Photosynthesis
  • Microbiology
  • Food experiments
  • Genetics
  • Human reproduction