Biology (H): A fair exam with excellent choice

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2022 Biology (Higher Level) by Wesley Hammond, Biology teacher at The Institute of Education.

This was a fair exam with a few challenging parts. Any student with a good knowledge of ecology, photosynthesis and human biology had a large amount of choice. Human biology made up over 60% of the paper this year.

The language used was very clear and this made it easier for students who find the interpretation of certain questions difficult.

Due to certain chapters dominating large parts of the paper, whole topics could be avoided and yet students could still achieve a high grade, which was the purpose of the changes made to the paper in light of Covid. Some students will have been delighted that the plant chapters from unit 3 could be avoided easily this year.

SECTION A: SHORT QUESTIONS

Students had to answer four questions from seven, and at least five of these were very doable.

Question 1 was a lovely question on food. It may have caught a few students out however as it was based solely on proteins.

Definitions make up a large percentage of the paper and it’s no surprise that the ecology definitions appeared, making up all of question 2.

The diagram in question 3 was very clear, like all the diagrams on the paper. If the student knew the basics of the cell and genetics, it should have been a full mark question.

Question 4 was based on respiration, which surprisingly didn’t come up in the long questions this year. If students knew the carbon number of certain molecules then this was a very doable question.

Question 5 was probably avoided by a large number of students. It was a true or false question based on a mixture of different units on the course.

Question 6 was a very well presented and thought-out question, based on human digestion. It focused on one precise aspect of the chapter only, which may have caught some students out.

Covid 19 was mentioned, only in passing, in question 7, focusing on the structure of a virus.

SECTION B: (EXPERIMENTS)

If students were confident with the new layout of the experiments in Section B this year, this section would definitely have been the easiest of all three.

Students had to do one of three questions.

Question 8 was on the image of a cell. Question 8b, part V was tricky, as it required a calculation. The same question however was asked in 2016.

Question 9 was on the effect of light on the rate of photosynthesis. This was a beautiful question as the language used was clear and precise.

Question 10 was the one that most students would have avoided in Section B. It required a detailed description of the method used in the IAA experiment, which students can find hard to understand.

SECTION C: (LONG QUESTIONS)

This is always the section that allows stronger students to show their knowledge.

Question 11 was based only on bacteria. Part II may have created some difficulty, as students sometimes find it hard to differentiate between asepsis and sterility.

As expected, there was one full length question on ecology in question 12. Some students find the style of question 12B difficult, but this year the paragraph presented was very easy to understand. Part c focused on the events of the carbon cycle. This may have surprised some students as it has always been the nitrogen cycle in the past.

Genetics is usually one of the more difficult topics for students to answer, however the way protein synthesis was presented in question 13 made the question more approachable. Part c contained the usual dihybrid cross with a slight twist. As the question has not been asked in this way before some students may have found it more difficult than it actually was.

A large part of question 14 was based on photosynthesis, and again the diagram used made this question more accessible.

Question 15, parts a and b were based on excretion.This would have attracted the stronger student, as the question required quite detailed knowledge. Also, some students may not have been happy, as question 15c included plants, which some may have avoided this year due to the extra options.

Questions 16 and 17 would have attracted a lot of attention this year, as students only had to do two out of four parts in each question. Some would have been delighted to see human biology here, as it allowed them to do questions 16 and 17, but yet avoid plants and genetics.