Relax - even about biology paper


LEAVING CERTIFICATE/Biology: Yes, the Leaving Cert biology paper was unfair but students should now relax, writes Joe Reville

In comparison to all the previous exam papers, this year's higher level biology paper is different in two fundamental aspects:

It is rare that a specific item is asked two years in succession. This year four relatively infrequent items appeared both on last year's paper and this year's paper.

There are five important topics that have featured on Part 2 of the paper every year to date but were not on this year's paper. These areas are plant life cycles, animal life cycles, genetics and human biology.

The general student would have these areas well studied and would be relying on them to feel good about the exam. Again, this omission may seem to students as a deliberate attempt to "catch them out".

Are my chances of a high grade reduced?

No, just because the exam paper is not to your liking does not mean that your chances of success are reduced. The syllabus and the exam paper does not set the standard.

The marking scheme sets the standard and your answers set the standard of the marking scheme. You will notice that the percentages of the different grades awarded are very similar each year and this year's results will not be different.

How are the exam papers marked?

Before the initial marking scheme is finalised a random selection of exam scripts will be looked at to estimate the general breadth and depth of answers.

This initial marking scheme will be presented to the correctors for a full detailed discussion, question by question. Many amendments will be made to it during the marking conference.

Rest assured that these correctors are active, practising teachers and have your best interest at heart and are well aware of the "paper's problems". It will be a surprise if they do not forcefully and loudly express their anger at the marking conference.

The next step is the correctors mark a random sample of 20 scripts, using the agreed marking scheme.

The results of these 900- 1,000 scripts are analysed in detail, and depending on the percentages for each grade the marking scheme may be amended so that this year's results are not out of line with last year's.

As a further consolation there are many people working hard on your behalf at the moment - parents, teachers, other students, the Irish Science Teachers Association, the biology representative of the ASTI and other interested individuals, including lecturers at third level.

All will be sending written submissions to the Department of Education about this exam paper. These submissions are looked at and may even be read to the correctors at the marking conference.

More than likely on results day, August 14th, there will be a headline along the lines of "Biology Results as Good as Last Year Despite Complaints in June".

So relax, enjoy your summer, it will be as it has always has been.

Joe Reville is vice-chairman of the Irish Science Teachers Association and an expert with