Every year thousands of students around the world sit their A-level exams in Biology.
Below you will find tips that will help you score in the practical section of the exam (paper 3). So without further ado, let’s have a look at the tips.
Know the marking scheme well
Paper 3 consists of two parts (question 1 and question 2) you should answer both as they contribute 50 marks to your final score (question 1 – 33 marks, and question 2 – 17 marks).
For more details, check the SEAB GCE A level examination website.
Let’s see how you should approach them.
Before you even start answering question 1, you need to identify three variables, which are the manipulator variable, responding variable, and fixed variable (MV, RV, FV).
In some cases, you can look at the table that will be given in the paper and look for these variables in it. In other cases, you will have to read the text of the question itself and look for the variables there.
Usually, question 1 requires you to tabulate the given data.
There are two things you have to keep in mind here.
Firstly you must standardize your answer, and secondly, you must put in the units.
Look at the heading, if the unit of measurement is not given in the heading, then you have to write it yourself (be careful and put in the correct unit).
The question may also ask you to include two different observations from the table.
In your observations, you need to include the manipulator variable, the responding valuable, and the exact values. Typically you need to choose the lowest and the highest value from the table, but there may be more you need to include.
You will also have to make some inferences based on the things you observed. You have to mention your observation in your response, but try not to copy it.
Typically you will have to use your basic biology knowledge to make the inference, although in some cases, it can be made from the question itself.
Secondly, you also must know how to draw different types of charts, what information to include in them, and how to label them.
For example, if they ask you to draw a bar chart, you must include the correct units and labeling and make sure that the bars are equally spaced. This is important as the graph constitutes 50 % of the task.
More tips on how to score in paper 3.
Look for the command words in the question.
If the question says “describe” something, then you need to say what exactly is going on; what is the pattern?
If the question tells you to “explain” something, then you need to identify the reason the trend of the pattern is occurring.
“Describe” and “explain” are the most common command words you will encounter in the question, but there may be some others.
For example, they may ask you to “calculate” something, which means you will have to use your Maths skills to figure out the percentage, rate, ratio, etc.
Or they may ask you to “measure” something in which case you will have to use an appropriate measuring instrument and take a reading.
Or the question may tell you to “suggest” something.
In this case, there may be more than one correct answer, so you have to look through the given information for some clues.
As for the number of answers, you should write down.
If the question asks you to “identify two” of something, then only the first two answers will be marked.
But if the question says “record observable differences,” then you may write down as many of those differences as you can find, and all of them will be marked.
If the question says to “state the hazard that has the greatest level of risk,” pay attention to the keyword “greatest.” If you write down the hazard that is a relatively low risk, you will not get the full marks.
They asked for the “greatest,” and that is what you should choose to write down.
How to record numbers?
When you are recording the results from your experiment, you should not go past one decimal place (typically, the whole numbers are OK).
As for the tables, you should put the dependent variable on the right and the independent variable on the left.
Also, don’t forget to separate the body of the table from the top row with a line.
Units should only be used in the headings; there is no need to indicate the unit in the body of the table.
You should record the results for the minimum of five values of the independent variable, and the results should show a specific pattern or a trend.
You should also record the results for two trials and calculate what the mean average is, which then has to be recorded to no more than one decimal place.
How to construct graphs?
When constructing a graph, you will use the information that has already been given to you in the paper.
You should put the IV on the X-axis and the DV on the Y-axis (each of them should be labeled with a full title). Do not forget to indicate the units where necessary.
No labeling should be done within the area of the graph itself, and your lines will be judged for their quality as well.
As for the bar graphs, they will judge the quality of the lines, so make sure that the lines are not excessively thick.
You can draw the bars touching if you want, but if you choose to leave space between them, make sure that it is evenly spaced. The horizontal lines at the top must be parallel to the X-axis (meaning perfectly straight).
When you are drawing a diagram, label only what is required and do not label within the drawing. If you do not see something in the paper, do not draw it in the diagram.
If you are struggling with your paper 3 preparation then you can hire an expert Biology tutor who will explain to you the areas where you are having trouble, and help you get a high score.