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Science in focus

COVERING both the practical and the theory, science at Junior Cert level is wide-ranging. By investing the time to study now - and to ensure you have all of your experiments completed - you will reap the benefits.

Coursework A

Coursework A offers students 60 marks, and comprises 10% of total marks. There are 30 mandatory student experiments or investigations as outlined in the syllabus. Students must complete 10 experiments each from biology, chemistry and physics, over the three year period of junior level.

For assessment, students are required to carry out the mandatory experiments and complete a report on each, including written material and a diagram, in their practical science notebooks. These are kept in the school and must be available for inspection if required by the examiner. Students must indicate on the provided checklists in the Coursework Reporting

Booklet, the number of mandatory activities completed. Doing so will represent that the student has carried out and written up the experiment themselves. If the student has been unable to complete all of the mandatory activities, there are alternative experiments listed in the syllabus which may be used instead. This, however, is limited to a maximum of two alternatives per section.

The completed practical science notebooks may also serve as adequate revision aids for both the Coursework B material and the terminal examination paper.

By ensuring that all 30 experiments are completed, students can easily gain this 10% and full advantage should be taken by each individual.

Coursework B

There are 150 marks up for grabs through Coursework B, representing 25% of total marks. Coursework B investigation headings are provided by the State Examination Commission each year and each student must complete two investigations for the purpose of this section. The three investigation headings for the 2015 exam are as follows:

Biology: Investigate and compare the quantitative effects of changing (a) wavelength of illumination and (b) either intensity or duration of illumination on the phototropic growth response of recently germinated plant shoots/seedlings.

Chemistry: Investigate and compare the quantitative effects of changing (a) metal types and (b) fruit/vegetable type on the emf (voltage) produced across two different metals, when the electrolytes take the form of fruits and/or vegetables.

Physics: Investigate and compare the quantitative effects of changing (a) material type and (b) material thickness on the level of sound insulation provided by a range of materials.

Reports on the two chosen investigations should be written into the specialised Coursework Reporting Booklet. Each report should be filled out under all the headings provided, where possible, and submitted to the school authorities by the specific deadline. In each investigation report, marks are allocated as follows:

The first three sections of the report are straightforward, and students should achieve high marks here with efficient research, planning and preparation. To obtain high marks in the data analysis section, students should include well-drawn graphs (see graph section). A student's conclusion should represent a clear understanding of the results obtained and how this relates to the overall investigation initially carried out. The comments section is included to allow students to showcase the learning involved in the experience. Here, students have the opportunity to express any errors or mishaps encountered throughout, and more importantly how they feel the investigation may be improved or expanded.

Students must ensure their report is neat, their handwriting legible and presentation of their work is to the highest level. This 25% is worth the time and effort of each individual.

Terminal written examination paper

The remaining 65% of the exam comprises 390 marks.

Exam structure

Higher and Ordinary Levels both last two hours (120 minutes). The student must answer all three sections and each question within each section (ie. there is no choice on the written paper). Allow a maximum of 40 minutes per section.

Exam paper

The written exam paper comprises three sections - Biology, Chemistry and Physics - with nine questions in total, three in each section. There is no choice within the questions and students must attempt to answer all questions.

The exam questions are asked in a specialised 20-page exam booklet, with adequate space after each question for the student to write their answer. Students should learn to gauge the length of an answer required by the space available to them. However, page 20 is supplied for extra work if required.

The first question in the Biology, Chemistry and Physics section (questions 1, 4 and 7) comprises eight parts. The last part of each question (part h) is worth 10 marks and all other parts are equally marked (6 marks each). The second and third question in each section comprises three subsections (a), (b) and (c) with each correct answer usually marked in multiples of three.

Answering the exam paper

›Take approximately 8 to 10 minutes to read through the exam paper.

›Start the exam with your best section/question (this does not have to be question 1).

›Bullet point answers.

›Aim for one piece of information on each line.

›Answer what has been asked - no waffle / no repeating the question asked.

›Make your way through the exam paper, answering all known questions. Leave the ones you are unsure of and come back to them.

›Plan your answer (either in your head or on paper) before you start writing. Remember your answer needs to be specific to the question asked.

›Aim to use all the space provided for your answer.

›Do not leave any question unanswered. An unanswered question is zero marks. An attempted question might not be worth full marks, but you may still achieve some of the marks being awarded - every mark counts.


›Do not worry - you are not being assessed on your artistic ability.

›Draw large, clear, fully labelled diagrams - use all the space provided.

›Draw diagram in pencil and label in biro.

›Do not waste time colouring or shading the diagram.

›Use a ruler for straight lines (eg: for boxes, test-tubes etc).

›Practise drawing and labelling the diagrams.


A graph is a "picture of numbers" linking two variables. Examples (i) voltage and current, (ii) solubility and temperature. There will be at least one graph question on the exam

Drawing graphs

›Always use a ruler

›Use graph paper (sometimes printed as part of the exam question). If you make a mistake, ask the examiner for extra graph paper, but make sure to include this with your exam script.

›Draw the graph in pencil - easier for you to correct mistakes and cleaner.

›Marks are awarded for:

Ω Labelling each axis correctly (x-axis - horizontal, y-axis - vertical), including units

Ω Scaling axes correctly - starting from origin (0,0)

Ω Plotting all points correctly

Ω Joining points together.

Example 1

A pupil performed an experiment on a resistor to investigate the relationship between potential difference (voltage) applied to the resistor and the current flowing through the resistor. The data from this experiment is in the table.

Draw a graph of potential difference (voltage) on the y-axis against current of the x-axis in the grid below

Figure 1

Example 2

A pupil investigated the effect of temperature on the solubility of the salt ammonium chloride in water. She determined the maximum mass, in grams, of the salt that would dissolve in 100g of water at various temperatures. The data from the experiment is given in the table below.

Draw a graph of solubility against temperature in the grid below

Figure 2

**Graph interpretation**:

ΩFigure 1: Straight line through the origin (0,0) provides evidence that the variable on the x-axis is directly proportional to the variable on the y-axis.

Calculating a value from a 'directly proportional' graph. Can use any ratio (ie. any two values from the table in the question).

ΩFigure 2: Straight line graph, not passing through the origin (0,0) - one variable is proportional to the other variable (but not directly).

ΩEstimating values: Example (figure 2) - estimate the solubility of ammonium chloride at 70°C.

Solution: Draw a straight line out from 70°C (x-axis) until it reaches the graph. Draw a straight line out towards the y-axis (as shown in diagram).

Answer = 61g/100g water.


Science is an experimental subject and exam questions based on the experiments are a definite on the exam paper.

ΩUse your practical copies as an aid for revising.

ΩDo not write in the first person:

µI weighed out… Incorrect

µWeigh out… Correct

ΩAlso use bullet points (look at the space you have to write your answer) - long procedures will not fit.

ΩRemember each experiment has a corresponding diagram, which you should include (a picture tells a thousand words).

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