Biology (H) 2014: A well balanced paper, that required a good depth of knowledge

Comment/ analysis on Biology (Higher Level) from Mona Murray, Biology teacher at The Institute of Education

A well balanced paper, that required a good depth of knowledge. Some nice contemporary issues appeared, including the role of DNA in horse meat analysis and the use of enzymes in biological washing powders. A clear and accurate knowledge of the biology syllabus would have been required. Well prepared students will have been well rewarded in this exam.


SECTION A: (Short Questions)

Apart from Question 4, the questions in this section were student friendly.

There were no ambiguities in the language used- it was nice and clear.

Question 4 was challenging as it covered all living organisms, asking students to distinguish, in a very specific way, between the five kingdoms. This question required a precise understanding of the different characteristics and major differences between the organisms in all five Kingdoms.

The diagram of blood vessels in Question 3 may have been a bit tricky for some students. Students would need to have been very sure of the relationship between the structure of the blood and lymphatic systems to figure out the diagram.


SECTION B: (Experiments)

Experiments that haven’t been examined in recent years appeared and most students will have been pleased to see them on the paper.

Each of the three questions focused on one particular experiment, unlike last year when one of the questions featured 5 different experiments.

The diagram on the microscope was very clear.


SECTION C: (Long Questions)

Question 10 was a challenging, wide ranging question. In Part B, it was nice to see the role of DNA analysis in the horse meat scandal coming up.

Question 11

A good question on the nervous system came up, covering nerve impulse transmission and the brain.

In Section C a question asking for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease strayed a bit off course, as this is not a compulsory disorder for students to know on the syllabus.

The rest of Section C was very straightforward.

Question 12

In Section C there was an interesting mix of questions relating to carbon dioxide, which would have required students to have a wide knowledge of many aspects of human physiology.

Question 13

This was a challenging question that required students to read and interpret graphs.

In Section B it was nice to see that part of the question related to the use of enzymes in biological washing powders.

Question 14

This question on plants is an unpopular topic with students. However students who had learnt their plant structure and reproduction would have been well rewarded in this section.

Question 15

Students were shown a graph from an aquatic ecosystem. This was a challenging graph, where students had to describe and explain the relationship between various factors. This would require them to apply what they know to a new situation.