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Synoptic Essay Questions

This forms the last question on Unit 5 (Control in Cells and in Organisms). You will have a total of 2hr 15mins to complete a 100 mark paper (worth 140UMS). Of these, 25 are available for the essay question, you only need to do one of the two titles. It follows that the essay should take you about 40mins. Do not spend too long on the essay at the expense of the other questions.

There are usually 3 or 4 additional sides of ‘blank’ page to write it in as a guide to length.

It does not need a title think of it as a long question rather than a separate essay. However, you should indicate if you are attempting part (a) or (b).

The mark allocation is heavily weighted in favour of scientific content of the entire AS and A2 course, which could include ‘How Science Works’. This is worth 14 marks, with an additional 2 raw marks for relevant material not covered in the specification e.g. from BSR, New Scientist, broadsheet newspapers etc. Only even number of marks can be awarded in this section i.e. 10 or 12 but not 11. There is a copy of the mark scheme attached for you to see how marks are allocated in each part. This mark scheme is generic for any essay the specifics are left to the examiner each year.

General Points Use an essay plan to organise your ideas (brainstorm a spider plan). Use information from as many different modules as possible. Use examples from as many different kingdoms as possible. A good essay will have about 10 well-explained points/examples. Explain important concepts and use correct terminology. Diagrams are very useful as long as they are relevant. Very few good essays will be longer than 3 sides (Quality not quantity). Write in continuous prose no lists or bullet points. Do not write at great length about a single example.

points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the
points. Do not write at great length about a single example. In the exam itself the

In the exam itself the bullet point list can serve as part of your plan. You should not cross this out as it helps the examiner give more marks if you cannot finish the essay in time. It is important that you do make

a plan but not one that is too long. If you decide to write an introductory paragraph make sure it is relevant and informs the essay not just mindless preamble which costs you time and marks.

Examples of synoptically tested content

Surface area: volume ratio Biological molecules Cell transport Exchanges of materials Enzymes
Biological molecules Surface area: volume ratio Cell transport Exchanges of materials Enzymes
Cell transport Surface area: volume ratio Biological molecules Exchanges of materials Enzymes
Exchanges of materials Surface area: volume ratio Biological molecules Cell transport Enzymes
EnzymesSurface area: volume ratio Biological molecules Cell transport Exchanges of materials

The genetic codeCell transport Exchanges of materials Enzymes Energy supply Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and

Energy supplyExchanges of materials Enzymes The genetic code Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination

Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination Homeostasis Analysis and integration Selection and Evolution Human impact
Respiration Photosynthesis Survival and coordination Homeostasis Analysis and integration Selection and Evolution Human impact
Survival and coordination Photosynthesis Respiration Homeostasis Analysis and integration Selection and Evolution Human impact
Homeostasis Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination Analysis and integration Selection and Evolution Human impact
Analysis and integration Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination Homeostasis Selection and Evolution Human impact
Selection and Evolution Photosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination Homeostasis Analysis and integration Human impact
Human impactPhotosynthesis Respiration Survival and coordination Homeostasis Analysis and integration Selection and Evolution

Essay titles

1. The process of diffusion and its importance in living organisms.

2. The different ways in which organisms use ATP (June 2002) OR ATP and its roles in living organisms.

3. The movement of substances within living organisms (Jan 2003) OR Transport mechanisms in living organisms.

4. Mutation and its consequences.

5. The properties of enzymes and their importance in living organisms OR The role of enzymes in living organisms.

6. The ways in which a mammal maintains constant conditions inside its body.

7. Negative feedback in living organisms (June

2005)

8. Chemical coordination in organisms.

9. The production and elimination of metabolic waste products in living organisms.

10. The biological importance of water (Jan 2003) OR The role of water in the lives of organisms.

11. The importance of proteins in living organisms.

12. How the structure of proteins is related to their functions (Jan 2004).

13. The importance of lipids in living organisms.

14. The importance of carbohydrates in living organisms OR The structure and functions of carbohydrates (June 2003).

15. How the structure of cells is related to their function (June 2002).

16. Natural selection and the effects of environmental change.

17. Gas exchange in animals and flowering plants.

18. The importance of molecular shape in living organisms.

19. The factors affecting the growth and size of populations.

20. Cycles in Biology (June 2003).

21. The causes of variation and its biological importance (Jan 2004).

22. The process of osmosis and its importance to living organisms (June 2004).

23. Energy transfers which take place inside living organisms (June 2004).

24. How microscopes have contributed to our understanding of living organisms (Jan 2005).

25. Enzymes and their importance in plants and animals (Jan 2005).

26. Mean temperatures are rising in many parts of the world. The rising temperatures may result in physiological and ecological effects on living organisms. Describe and explain these effects. (June 2005)

27. The transfer of substances containing carbon between organisms and between organisms and the environment (June 2006).

28. Cells are easy to distinguish by their shape. How are the shapes of cells related to their function? (June 2006)

29. Movements inside cells. (June 2007)

30. Transfers through ecosystems. (June 2007)

31. The part played by the movement of substances across cell membranes in the functioning of different organs and organs systems (June 2008).

32. The part played by enzymes in the functioning of different cells, tissues and organs (June

2008)

33. Ions and Organisms (June 2009)

34. DNA and the transfer of information (June

2009)

35. Carbon dioxide may affect organisms directly or indirectly. Describe and explain these effects. (June 2010)

36. The causes of disease in humans (June 2010).

37. The role of carbon containing compounds in living organisms.

38. The role of nitrogen containing compounds in living organisms.

39. The roles of membranes in living organisms.

40. The role of DNA in living organisms.

41. Applications and implications of gene technology.

42. Genetic variation and speciation.

43. Control of the internal environment in living organisms.

44. The movement of molecules and ions through membranes.

45. Roles of pigments in living organisms.

46. Light and life.

47. Support and movement in living organisms.

48. The chemical and biological control of insect pests.

General Mark Scheme

Category Descriptor

Mark

Descriptor

Exceptional

16

Material accurate and of a high standard throughout, reflecting a sound understanding of the principles involved and a knowledge of factual detail fully in keeping with a programme of A-level study. In addition, there are some significant references to material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study.

 

14

 

Good

12

Most of the material is of a high standard reflecting a sound understanding of the principles involved and a knowledge of factual detail generally in keeping with an A-level course of study. Material accurate and free from fundamental errors, but there may be minor errors that detract from the overall accuracy.

 

10

 

Average

8

A significant amount of the content is of appropriate depth. Shows a sound understanding of most of the principles involved and knowledge of factual detail generally in keeping with a programme of A-level study. Most of the content is accurate with few fundamental errors.

 

6

 

Poor

4

Material presented is largely superficial with only occasional content of appropriate depth. Shows some understanding of some of the basic principles involved. If greater depth of knowledge is demonstrated, then there are fundamental errors.

 

2

 

Unacceptable

0

Such material as is relevant is both superficial and inaccurate. Fails to demonstrate evidence of knowledge in keeping with a programme of A- level study.

In marking scientific content, the first decision to be made is the category into which the essay falls. Examiners will discuss a range of specimen scripts at the standardising meeting that help them to make this decision. In general

An exceptional essay reflects the detail that could be expected from a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of relevant parts of the specification is free from fundamental errors maintains appropriate depth and accuracy throughout includes two or more paragraphs of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study

of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study A good essay reflects the detail
of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study A good essay reflects the detail
of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study A good essay reflects the detail
of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study A good essay reflects the detail

A good essay reflects the detail that could be expected from a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of relevant parts of the specification is free from fundamental errors maintains appropriate depth and accuracy throughout

An average essay contains a significant amount of material that reflects the detail that could be expected from a knowledge and understanding of relevant parts of the specification. In practice this will amount to about half the essay. is likely to reflect limited knowledge of some areas and to be patchy in quality demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding

demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding
demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding
demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding
demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding
demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding
demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles but will contain some errors and evidence of misunderstanding

A poor essay contains much material which is below the level expected of a candidate who has completed an A-level Biology course although there will be occasional valid points

Contains fundamental errors reflecting a poor grasp of basic principles and conceptscourse although there will be occasional valid points Having decided on the basic category, examiners may

reflecting a poor grasp of basic principles and concepts Having decided on the basic category, examiners

Having decided on the basic category, examiners may award the mark above or below this according to whether the candidate has exceeded the requirements or just failed to meet them.

Assessing breadth In assessing this area, note the following The maximum mark is 3 The mark scheme will include notes which indicate how the marks for breadth should be awarded for individual essays. In determining the mark awarded for breadth, content should ideally be taken from each of the areas specified if maximum credit is to be awarded. Where the content is drawn from two areas, two marks should be awarded and where it is only taken from a single area, one mark should be awarded. However, this should only serve as a guide. The list is not exhaustive and examiners are prepared to offer credit for the incorporation of relevant material from other areas of study. Marks are awarded independently. Therefore it is possible for a candidate to gain full credit for breadth even though much of the essay is below the standard expected.

though much of the essay is below the standard expected. The general descriptors in the table
though much of the essay is below the standard expected. The general descriptors in the table
though much of the essay is below the standard expected. The general descriptors in the table

The general descriptors in the table below form the basis for awarding the mark for breadth.

Mark

Descriptor

3

A balanced account making reference to most of the areas that might realistically be covered in an A-level course of study

2

A number of aspects covered but a lack of balance. Some topics essential to an understanding at this level not covered.

1

Unbalanced account with almost all material based on a single aspect