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(27 Posts)
mumofone1234 Fri 21-Apr-17 12:41:48

The AQA GCSE Biology syllabus looks really hard-going! I remember covering these topics at A Level Biology shock (but then I did Double Science GCSE, and not the individual sciences, so it might be due to that.)

Am I imagining/misremembering, or are subjects really much harder than when I took my GCSEs and A Levels over two decades ago?

teachermum73 Fri 21-Apr-17 13:57:59

Hi. I teach the AQA Biology spec at GCSE and A level and yes, you are right, they are much more challenging now. A significant amount of content in the GCSE has been added from A level and there is a lot more maths in both now. Students need to have a good work ethic and make sure they are learning and revising content from day 1, particularly as students don't sit the external exams until the end of the 2 years. Each school will deal with the challenges in different ways so it's a good idea to talk to the, about your concerns.
Hope this helps a bit smile

mumofone1234 Fri 21-Apr-17 14:14:11

Thank you, teachermum73. I did notice the maths! shock

A question regarding the Mendel experiments asked students to work out the ratio of purple flowers to white flowers. It was something like 735 purple to 250 white or something (plucking figures out of thin air), and my son had written the ratio as 735:250 but was marked as wrong. Technically his answer was right, because that was the ratio, and they possibly would have given him a mark for that in maths, but this was marked as wrong because the answer was 3.15:1, ie (I'm guessing) he should have known the ratios Mendel got in his experiments.

I thought this was a bit strange, because I've never seen a ratio written as a decimal before. Would he have got the mark if he had written 3:1, do you know?

Haggisfish Fri 21-Apr-17 14:14:52

Yes, he would have.

teachermum73 Fri 21-Apr-17 14:41:22

He won't be expected to learn the ratios that Mendel got, it is about working out the ratios himself from the data. I would imagine he would get the mark for writing 3:1 but without checking the mark scheme it is difficult to say. I've marked GCSE papers for AQA and the mark schemes are very specific! Has your son been doing past papers and checking his answers against the mark schemes? There are resources available on the AQA web site and his teachers should be providing him with practice exam questions.

Giraffeski Fri 21-Apr-17 14:44:10

Isn't it more that he should have reduced the numbers down to their smallest form? I don't think its about memorising the formula per se

Ontopofthesunset Fri 21-Apr-17 14:48:23

But that's not a very difficult ratio question - it's only reducing it to its simplest form.

My son's biology seems fairly similar to what I did years ago except there are a few new topics eg genetics, biology in industry and so on. The human digestive system and structure of a leaf have remained tediously similar.

One thing they don't have to do that we did is draw diagrams. They may have to label things, but I remember the misery of trying to reproduce and label a recognisable human heart.

mumofone1234 Fri 21-Apr-17 14:50:58

Ok, so it seems to be more the maths side of it. It's strange, because he's really good at maths! I was just surprised by the 3.15:1 answer. I wonder if the maths in Biology is approached differently to the maths in maths (if you get what I mean confused)

I will find out whether they've been doing many past papers. Thanks for the tip re the AQA website.

mumofone1234 Fri 21-Apr-17 14:52:01

Not a difficult ratio, but a bit odd that it's a decimal, no?

Ontopofthesunset Fri 21-Apr-17 14:58:13

Yes, I don't know about the decimal in the ratio either.

CrazedZombie Fri 21-Apr-17 14:59:24

I was revising ratios with my child and the CGP GCSE Maths revision guide mentions how to deal with decimal ratios so I'm guessing that decimal ratios are fine to use sometimes.

portico Fri 21-Apr-17 15:38:59

Hi mumofone1234

Not sure if you are talking about the legacy AQA GCSE or the new 9-1 version. My Y9 started his single science GCSEs. School use the OUP book, which I think is substandard. I purchased the Hodder Book, which is full of lots of info and questions, with worked solutions on the Hodder website. Found this book to be better in helping my son.

Rosieposy4 Fri 21-Apr-17 18:48:08

He just needed to reduce the ratio down, otherwise he has added no value to the information given in the exam question. It is not a very hrd maths question but yes the new year 10 and younger spec is considerbly harder and includes stuff from the old A level. The new A level AQA spec is fab, they have done a great job of updating it, again it is more challenging, and they have beenquite clear that muddled or semi correct answers will no longer be creditworthy.
Get him to learn the command words, read the question fully, practice past/specimen papers. Make flash cards to learn all the key words and their definitions.

mackerelle Fri 21-Apr-17 19:20:55

The new 9-1 GCSEs are really hard, biology in particular.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 21-Apr-17 19:53:22

DS1 did the CIE iGCSE syllabus for Chemistry and Biology. They were both very difficult; the Biology in particular covered vast amounts of material, and he got a D in Chemistry, despite finishing KS3 with an old NC level 7.

DS2 is doing the 9-1 AQA specifications; they are straightforward in comparison.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 21-Apr-17 19:55:50

I agree with portico about the Oxford textbooks. They oversimplify some of the concepts, and at the same time are overly wordy. DS2 likes all the summary questions though.

Rosieposy4 Fri 21-Apr-17 21:01:24

Sorry second but the cie iGCSE are not massively harder than the new AQA 9-1 specs, imo the biology coverage is approaching equality, though a bit hader on the new 9-1.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 21-Apr-17 21:12:05

Rosieposy4 perhaps the CIE iGCSE just seemed difficult in comparison to the old A*-G AQA GCSE.

DS2 has covered just over half of the material in the 9-1 AQA GCSE specifications for the three sciences. He has not found any of it conceptually difficult so far. He loves maths and particularly enjoys chemical calculations and stoichiometry. Where I think he might struggle is in interpreting wordy questions, applying knowledge in the way the examiner wanted, and using key words necessary for marks.

greathat Fri 21-Apr-17 21:16:20

The new 9-1 Biology is tough. A lot of stuff that was on A-level before is now there. Plus I had to look something up because it wasn't even int he A-level!

portico Fri 21-Apr-17 22:54:18

Just my thoughts. I believed eve the 9-1 AQA GCSEs for bio, Chem and phy are harder than legacy ones. However, they are not as hard as the CIE IGCSE. Infact, the 9-1s still ask for responses in everyday language, whereas the IGCSE requires more scientific terminally by. We do these for stretch, and to compensate for lack of availability of 9-1 questions.

portico Fri 21-Apr-17 22:57:52

Apologies, I never proof read my posts

Just my thoughts. I believe the 9-1 AQA GCSEs for bio, Chem and phy are harder than legacy ones. However, they are not as hard as the CIE IGCSE. Infact, the 9-1s ask for responses in everyday language, whereas the IGCSE requires more scientific terminology. We do these for stretch, and to compensate for lack of availability of 9-1 questions.

mummytime Sat 22-Apr-17 08:55:58

Just my thoughts. I believe the 9-1 AQA GCSEs for bio, Chem and phy are harder than legacy ones. However, they are not as hard as the CIE IGCSE. Infact, the 9-1s ask for responses in everyday language, whereas the IGCSE requires more scientific terminology.
So you think that using scientific terminology is harder than everyday language?
I think explaining in everyday language shows greater understanding, whereas Scientific terminology can be learnt parrot fashion.

Ktown Sat 22-Apr-17 09:00:39

I think that there isn't any point taking biology further after gcse if the maths isn't good.
I have seen some abysmal biology grads who have no maths and no struggle.
If you can be bothered a little bit of Greek and Latin help massively with scientific words and it is pretty easy to decipher scientific terminology if you learn some of the basic prefixes in Latin and Greek.

portico Sat 22-Apr-17 09:25:19

Mummy time, my DS is at or top of the year for AQA GCSE 9-1 Sciences. He will gladly do past 9-1 questions, but she's away when I press him to do the CIE IGCSE and O Level questions. These are more of a jump in rigour, understanding and reasoning.

BarbarianMum Mon 24-Apr-17 16:06:53

I don't agree Ktown although I agree lack of mathematical ability/learning will restrict your access to certain areas of biology. Anyway I managed a first class degree in biology plus a career in conservation with only a c grade I level to my name. I wasn't able to progress with studies in evolutionary genetics or biochemistry beyond my first year but physiology, taxonomic, animal behaviour and ecology were fine.

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