It is essential that you are properly prepared for the exam. Clearly the first thing is that you need to know the material you are going to be examined on, and I am going to assume you know it all perfectly. However knowing it isn’t enough you have to put enough of it in your answers to score 360 marks out of a maximum of 400. You have to get 360 marks – 359 won’t do; so every single mark is vital. You must know how to maximise your chances of getting that magic 90% which gets you that extra 10 points which could be the difference between making your first choice or having to settle for second best.
You can only afford to lose 40 marks (10%) in the whole paper. Each correct point of information is usually worth (3) marks so you can only get 13 points wrong in the whole exam if you are to get an A1. You have to do 11 questions in all, so one mistake per question plus two other mistakes is all you can afford.
Section A: You should spend a maximum of 25 minutes on this section
Section B: You should spend a maximum of 25 minutes on this section
Section C: You should spend a maximum of 30 minutes on any one question. If you have not finished a question in the allocated time then leave it and move on to the next question. You can return to it if you have time at the end of the examination.
What is marked?
Every answer you write in the spaces provided in sections A and B of the question paper will be marked but anything you write on section C of the question paper will not be marked.
If you answer parts of sections A or B in your answer booklet they may not be marked, unless you write in the spaces provided in the question paper “see answer booklet.” If you do this it should be marked.
Everything you write in your answer booklet should be marked. Do rough work at the back of your answer booklet and number it – it will be marked and if correct will earn you marks.
Every question you answer will be marked and you will be given the marks the best combination of these according to the instructions. If you answer six questions in section A then you will be given the marks of the best five answers. The worst mark will be bracketed and not counted in your total. The other two sections will be treated in the same way.
How many questions should I answer?
Section A: Although it says do any five questions in this section you should do all six.
Put an answer down for each and every part of these questions even if it is just a guess. (The marker won’t know it is a guess). There is a very important reason for saying this which I will now explain. Question 1 often requires you to give one word answers to 5 out of 6 parts. It is worth 20 marks and all the questions are of equal difficulty so, in an ideal world, each correct answer would get (4) marks making a total of 20. However, this is not an ideal world, and if you examine the marking schemes you will often find that the first and second correct answers get (7) marks each while the next 3 correct answers get (2) marks each making a total of 20. Thus 2 correct answers can get 70% of the marks for the question and, if you answer all six parts you can get one wrong and still get full marks!
One word of caution! In this section of the paper, if you give any excess answers that are wrong each one will cancel a correct answer. This is called “cancelling”. Only give the number of answers you are asked for in this section.
Section B: You are required to do 2 questions here but once again do all three.
Your best two answers will count. “Cancelling” does not occur here.
Section C: You have to do 4 questions in this section.
Your best four answers will count. “Cancelling” does not occur here.
How do I choose which questions to answer?
Section A: Do all six your best five answers will be counted
Section B: Do all three your best two answers will be taken
Section C: Now you have to choose!
Although you cannot be certain there will probably be a full question on each of the following topics
· Photosynthesis and Respiration
You should read through each question and beside each one put 1, ¾, ½, ¼, 0 to indicate what fraction of each question you can answer with ease. Remember questions 14 and 15 are composed of three parts (a), (b) and (c) of which you need only answer two, if you choose to do them. You then do the four questions with the highest fractions beside them; hopefully four with 1 beside them.
Next pick the question you will answer first. Each long question is essentially a series of short questions on one topic. Read through the question carefully and on the paper put a / at the end of each question within the question. Remember that an ‘and’ signifies a different question e.g. give the name and / function of two / parts of the male reproductive system. Circle the word two to stress that two separate answers are required. As you answer each part of the question underline it to show that you have answered it.
A large number of candidates fail to get an A1 because they have failed to answer small parts of some questions.
How much information should I give in each answer?
The unit mark in biology is (3) marks. This means that each point of information is normally worth three marks. Thus a part of a question worth (15) marks requires 5 points of information to get full marks. In this section excess wrong answers do not cancel so give a few extra points unless it is a one word answer. If you look at the marking scheme answers where “cancelling” does apply are marked with an asterisk (*).
Is spelling important?
Spelling is not normally important once the answer is clear e.g. fotosintesis is clearly photosynthesis and will get the mark. Two exceptions are ureter/urethra and adenine/adenosine, these must be absolutely correct!
What about diagrams?
Diagrams are usually worth (6) marks and two or three labels are required and are generally worth (1) mark each. There are no marks for artistic merit and simple diagrams are all that are required. If one important part is missing (3) marks are awarded and if two important parts are missing you get (0) marks.
Should I do extra questions?
You have spent two years studying for this exam, so do not leave early.
Answer the required number of questions and then go back through your answers checking that you have answered all parts and that your answers make sense. You would be surprised at the silly mistakes candidates make under exam pressure. Then double check your answers. If you have done this, and have time left, then do another question. About 40% of candidates do extra questions and about 70% of these improve their mark by doing so.