Leaving Cert biology: Incinerator and IVF on lively paper

Students who prepared using past exams would not have found much to shock them

Topical questions  included the incinerator at Poolbeg. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Topical questions included the incinerator at Poolbeg. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


This year’s higher-level Leaving Cert biology paper was particularly topical and challenging, though it was not unfair, according to teachers.

“Students would have enjoyed the experiment questions on this afternoon’s paper but it was not without its harder sections,” said Luke Saunders, founder of Studyclix.ie and a biology teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone.

“Students who had prepared using past exams wouldn’t have found much to shock them. The popular topic of ecology featured heavily throughout which would have brought smiles to many students because it allowed them to make lots of references to one of the more practical areas of the course.”

Ciara O’Shea, ASTI subject representative and deputy principal at Scoil Mhuire agus Padraig in Swinford, Co Mayo, said the paper rewarded students who had put the work in.

“There was nothing too tricky and there were questions from right across the syllabus. It was particularly good to see topical questions on the paper, including the incinerator at Poolbeg, the Zika virus and IVF. More of this would be welcome in future years.”

Mona Murray a biology teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said it was an inventive and wide-ranging paper which looked easy on the surface but required a lot of detail in the answers.

Aine Queenan, a higher-level student at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, said the paper really pushed on specific details.

“There wasn’t much room for waffle, meaning that it really separated the H1 and H2 students from the rest.”

On the ordinary level paper, Mr Saunders said that some of the weaker candidates would have struggled with a challenging first two sections.

“There was a lot of emphasis on human biology, such as the nervous and reproductive system in section C which was welcomed by ordinary level students.”

TRY THIS AT HOME: Leaving Cert biology

A new waste-to-energy incinerator is currently being built in Poolbeg, Dublin.

The facility will generate energy from domestic waste that cannot be reused or recycled.

(i) Suggest two reasons why this new incinerator is located in Dublin. (ii) Give one advantage and one disadvantage of incineration in waste disposal. (iii) What is the main role of microorganisms in waste disposal?