Thursday 20 June 2019

Leaving Cert Biology higher level: 'Broad but fair paper, with nice, clear language'

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A broad but fair paper, with nice, clear language was teacher Susan Silke’s view of Leaving Cert higher level Biology.

“Some of the tougher questions on plant reproduction and protein synthesis would have given stronger students the opportunity to show their knowledge,” said Ms Silke of Dublin’s Institute of Education.

She said, overall, the short questions were straight-forward, although: "The photographs of the stages of cell division in Q4 may have confused some students."

Ms Silke said Section B, Experiments, had a nice selection but that that some students may have been caught out Q 9/B (iii). They would normally be asked one safety precaution, but this year they were asked for two.

In Section C, Q 10/B on ecology and invasive mammal species, Ms Silke described part (iv) as “an unusual question, which some students would have found challenging to answer”.

But she had no quibbles about Q 11, on genetics, and welcomed a whole question on protein synthesis in Part B. “This is not an easy topic and students who had spent the time preparing it will be pleased.  It was also nice to see, in Part C, a question on sex linkage, presented as a pedigree diagram”.

While she regarded Q15, on the development of the embryo sac as  tough, she said “well prepared students would have been well able for it”

Teacher Luke Saunders of the Studyclix.ie website felt the papers at both levels “would have been well received and offered plenty of choice to students who were well prepared”, but her was critical of the quality of sketches..

He referred to the Junior Cycle paper, examined for the first time yesterday, and said "it is really apparent just how wide the gulf has grown between the way we are examining science at junior and senior levels."

Mr Saunders said while the Junior Cycle paper "was all about assessing scientific literacy and asking students to reflect on contemporary issues from a scientific viewpoint, today’s Biology is much more in keeping with tradition in that it rewards students with the ability to recall huge amounts of factual information."

He thought some students may have struggled a little with Section AQ4, which required candidates to identify the various stages of Mitosis. “Unlike the textbook diagrams that students would be familiar with, in the exam a series of black and white images, captured under a microscope, and were given”. Ordinary-level students were given a similar set of questions and he said they were also given a “really poor quality sketch" of the various stages.

“In both papers, I feel that the quality of the images used was unfair and added unnecessary levels of confusion,” he said.

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