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Leaving Cert 2022: Biology higher level has “some challenging parts in fair paper”

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A fair exam with some challenging parts, was how teachers described Leaving Cert Biology higher level paper. A question on Covid-19 was topical, although it was only in the short questions.

Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative Margaret McGagh said overall it was “very doable and no student ran out of time”. That was thanks to the extra choice and fewer questions to answer this year.

Any student with a good knowledge of ecology, photosynthesis and human biology had a large amount of choice, said Wesley Hammond of The Institute of Education, Dublin. Human biology made up over 60pc of the paper.

In Section A, the short questions, students had to answer four questions from seven, and he said at least five of these were very doable.

He described Q1 on food as lovely, although “it may have caught a few students out however as it was based solely on proteins”.

Mr Hammond thought Q5, a true or false question based on a mixture of different units on the course, “was probably avoided by a large number of students”.

Covid-19 featured in Q7, which focused on the structure of a virus and vaccination.

In this section, Ms McGagh of Dunmore Community School, Co Galway, said some students may have been thrown by Q6, which included a graph on the digestion of fats, but the question itself was not difficult.

In Section B, the experiments, where students had to answer one of questions 8,9 and 10, she said the choice was ”fantastic” Mr Hammond said if students were confident with the new layout of the experiments, this section would “definitely have been the easiest of all three”.

Q8 was on the image of a cell, and he said Q8b, part V was tricky, as it required a calculation. However, the same question was asked in 2016. Ms McGagh agreed that the calculation on the width of a cell before looking at it under a microscope, may have “caught a few”.

Q9, on the effect of light on the rate of photosynthesis, was a “beautiful question as the language used was clear and precise”. Ms McGagh described it as “very straightforward”, although it may have taken the best students to work out the part on what would happen if the temperature was too high.

Both teachers agreed that Q10 was the one that most students would have avoided. It required a detailed description of the method used in an experiment, which students can find hard to understand, said Mr Hammond.

Section C, the long questions, is where stronger students can show their knowledge and Mr Hammond noted Q15, parts a and b, based on excretion, in particular.

“This would have attracted the stronger student, as the question required quite detailed knowledge” he said. He added that some students “may not have been happy, as Q15c included plants, which some may have avoided this year due to the extra options”.

Ms McGagh agreed that the combination of human and plant biology in this question could have thrown students who “hedged their bets and concentrated on either human or plant biology”.

She said something similar happened in Q14, where part c, on cell division, was an unusual combination with parts a and b.

Elsewhere in Section C, Mr Hammons said said Q 11 (a) (ii) may have created some difficulty, as students sometimes find it hard to differentiate between asepsis and sterility.

There was one full length question on ecology in Q12 and Mr Hammond said some students often found 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, he said.

In relation to the ordinary level paper, Gemma Gillespie, of Grange Post Primary School, Co Sligo and of the Studyclix.ie website, “said it was “straight-forward paper for the most part - though some students may have found the genetics question challenging as quite a lot of detail was required in the answer.”


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