Biology (H): A very fair, clear paper with few surprises

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2021 Biology (Higher Level) by Wesley Hammond, Biology teacher at The Institute of Education.

A very fair, clear paper with few surprises.

Some of the tougher topics such as genetics and plant reproduction were very manageable this year because the questions were straightforward and easily interpreted.

It was nice to see the topical issue of the moment, Covid-19, appearing on the paper. A lot of students would have been expecting the chapters relating to this issue to appear.

A few long questions in Section C combined different sections of the course, which some students might have found more challenging.


Due to changes this year, students had to answer four questions from seven. Normally they answer five questions from six.

There was excellent choice in the short questions.

If students had revised with past papers they would have been very happy with the food and cell division questions.

Questions 4 and 5 had very well presented diagrams.

A tricky true or false part in question 6 might have caught a few students out.


Due to changes this year, students had to answer one question from three, rather than two questions from three.

The experiment questions were very well presented. The phrasing was nice and clear and there were no surprises.

Question 8 had questions on food tests and the isolation of DNA from a plant tissue. Well prepared students would have found this a very manageable question.

Question 9 was on two different enzyme experiments combined. These are two of the experiments most favoured by students, and they would have been happy to see them appear.

In question 10, some students may have found the reference to urban and rural settings in relation to the leaf yeast experiment slightly challenging. However, overall it was a nice question.


Due to changes this year students had to answer three questions from seven. Normally it is four questions from six.

In question 11, the reference to cowslips in the pyramid of numbers may have thrown some students. The paragraph of information provided was well presented however and easy to understand.

Question 12 was a combination of genetic crosses and genetic engineering.The typical dihybrid cross came up again, which would have pleased a lot of students. Mendel’s second law was referenced, which some students find challenging.

Question 13 was a combination of respiration and photosynthesis. The visual representation of respiration was easy to interpret. There was one awkward part to the photosynthesis question, which asked students to explain how the dark stage is necessary for the light stage.

Question 14 was on human digestion. There was a really well laid out diagram and the question was very clear and easy to understand. In the plant part of question 14, I liked the way they referenced the stomatal density in a table.

Question 15 was on plant reproduction. Some of the easier aspects of the chapter were asked here in relation to pollination, fertilisation and dormancy. Diagrams featured a lot in this question and students would have been happy to see the diagram of the flower appear.

There was more choice in questions 16 and 17 this year and these questions would probably have been popular with students.

Students who know their human biology well would have liked question 16.

In question 17, students will have been glad to see amoeba make its first appearance on the paper as a 30 mark question. This was a nice surprise.