Biology students see more clearly despite some unsettling questions

Clearer graphs and diagrams in Leaving Cert welcomed

Biology is a particularly popular subject at Leaving Cert level, particularly among girls, with 19,022 taking the subject compared with 13,230 boys. Photograph: Frank Miller

Biology is a particularly popular subject at Leaving Cert level, particularly among girls, with 19,022 taking the subject compared with 13,230 boys. Photograph: Frank Miller

Wed, Jun 12, 2013, 11:49

Clearer graphs and diagrams were welcomed by students sitting this year’s Leaving Cert biology exam, teachers said yesterday.

Candidates were also happy to see an increase in standalone questions, so any difficulty in answering one part of a question did not necessarily lead to follow-on problems.

Ciara O’Shea, an ASTI representative and a biology teacher at St Attracta’s Community School in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, said the higher level paper got a mixed reception.


Gripes
“The largest gripes related to the opening question, where students had to differentiate between six sets of terms. This was seen as doable but quite challenging and unsettling for an opening question,” she said.

“Question three, where students had to interpret a graph showing the relationship between body and environmental temperature for dogs and lizards, was quite taxing.” Students who carefully studied their experiments were rewarded with a good choice on the exam paper, Ms O’Shea said.

Margaret O’Neill, the TUI subject representative, said the higher level paper was “not a bad paper”, but it posed some challenging questions, particularly on genetics, where there was a heavy focus on theory. Some students may have been thrown by the phrasing on the questions. Ms O’Neill welcomed the introduction of standalone questions and said the graphs and diagrams were significantly clearer than they had been in the past.


Challenging
“The exam was not easy but nor was it unfair to students who had done their work,” she said.

However, Ms O’Neill had some criticism for the ordinary level paper. “The questions themselves seemed clear and direct, but some were particularly challenging for ordinary level students,” she said. “Questions on protein synthesis, cell membranes and anaerobic respiration are more likely to be asked at higher level . . . I hope the marking scheme reflects this.”

Biology is a particularly popular subject at Leaving Cert level, particularly among girls, with 19,022 taking the subject compared with 13,230 boys.

On the other hand, just 1,586 girls take physics at Leaving Cert level, compared with 5,091 boys.