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Leaving Cert Biology papers - a place where Covid is welcome 

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Perhaps not surprisingly, Covid made an appearance on both Leaving Cert Biology papers.

Mairéad Glynn, a Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative, described both papers as “very fair”.

With reference to the Covid questions, Ms Glynn of Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, said it was “nice to see the link being made; it reinforces the relevance of Leaving Cert Biology in our lives”.

Siobhan Devaney, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, also welcomed the “real world” question about Covid.

Commenting on the higher level paper, Ms Devaney, Wilson’s Hospital School, Co. Westmeath, said while there were a “few tricky questions” students had so much choice “they could avoid anything they didn’t like.”

Luke Saunders of studyclix.ie felt that overall, both papers in “did a great job in allowing students to show off their learning.”

He thought that “with some exceptions, the higher level questions were pitched to be slightly more difficult than in previous years.

“The early feedback I am getting from students is they found the level of detail required in some questions to be challenging. I think examiners understand, with more choice, students will have had the ability to really focus their study on a subset of topics and therefore set the questions to really focus on knowledge of the details.

Wesley Hammond, a teacher at The Institute of Education, Dublin, described higher level as a “very clear paper with questions that were nicely phrased”.

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

He said Section A, the short questions, had an excellent choice. He commented that “a tricky true or false part in Q6 might have caught a few students out”.

Mr Saunders said despite the extra choice, “students would have found some parts within these questions quite challenging. Several of the questions drilled into detail within the topic and would have thrown some students expecting to ease slowly into the exam.”

In the Experiments section, Mr Hammond said some students may have found the reference to urban and rural settings in relation to the leaf yeast experiment in Q10 slightly challenging. “However, overall it was a nice question,” he said
In Section C, Q 11, he thought the reference to cowslips in the pyramid of numbers may have thrown some students.

He added: "The paragraph of information provided was well presented however and easy to understand.”
In Q12, a combination of genetic crosses and genetic engineering, he said a lot of students would have been pleased that the typical dihybrid cross came up again. However, Mendel’s second law was referenced, “which some students find challenging”.
In Q13 Mr Hammond said there was “one awkward part to the photosynthesis question, which asked students to explain how the dark stage is necessary for the light stage”.
In a comment on the ordinary level paper, Mr Saunders noted the question on viruses, but added that “considering the two years the class of 2021 have just been through I can imagine many students did not appreciate a question on giving one way in which viruses are beneficial!”


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