If you have decided to take biology, then you might have noticed that you will be required to complete a practical exam. While this might seem daunting, it doesn't have to be. In fact, the practical application of biology can be fun and exciting.
In this article, we will explain what you can expect from a practical exam and provide you with some useful tips on how to prepare for such an exam.
What is a Practical Exam?
While written exams are meant to test your theoretical understanding of biology; a practical exam is an assessment that has been designed to evaluate your practical skills, experimental techniques, and understanding of biological concepts. This hands-on assessment will require you to participate in laboratory work.
At A Level, a biology practical exam will provide you with the understanding and skills required for university study. This hands-on experience is also another learning opportunity that will provide you with a chance to implement some of the theoretical knowledge you have gained throughout your course.
Preparing for Your Biology Practical Exam
A biology practical exam will typically present you with a number of experimental tasks and scenarios that are to be completed in a specific timeframe. These tasks could require you to demonstrate a wide variety of techniques. These techniques can include microscopy, dissection, data analysis, and more.
There are a few tips and tricks that you can utilise to help you prepare for your practical exam.
Study Relevant Biology Theory
It is important to thoroughly study and understand the theories that will form the basis of your practical experiments. Without this knowledge, you will not be able to understand the purpose of the experiment or what should happen during the experiment.
It can be beneficial to make summaries, study notes, and outlines pertaining to this theoretical material.
Be sure to memorise the correct terminology as you will have to use this when making your experiment notes. If the incorrect terminology is used, you could lose marks.
Analysing and Interpreting Data
You will often be required to analyse and interpret data during your practical exams. It is therefore important to familiarise yourself with different data types.
In order to do this, you can practise working with tables, graphs and diagrams. Make sure that you know how to extract data from these sources, as well as are able to draw tables, graphs, and diagrams. It might be required of you to present information in this format when creating your experiment notes.
Once you are able to efficiently work with different data types you should be able to identify trends, make connections, and draw conclusions from the information presented.
Spend Time in the Laboratory
It is important to ensure that you spend time performing experiments in a laboratory prior to your practical exam. You should be comfortable in the laboratory setting and in the procedures to be followed in this environment.
You should feel comfortable working with the equipment to be used and have practised techniques such as pipetting, titration, microscopy, and more. While you might have measured many things in the kitchen, there are also certain measurement techniques that are to be utilised in a laboratory.
Ultimately, you don't want your first time in a laboratory to be on the day of your examination. This could cause you to experience more stress than necessary and might impact your speed at performing the tasks required.
Familiarise Yourself with Practical Procedures
Each experiment to be performed will have certain practical procedures that need to be followed in a specific order. It is important to memorise these procedures, as well as practice performing them.
Remember that you will have to list these practical procedures in the correct order when making your experiment notes. When explaining the procedure in notes, try to be as precise and concise as possible. This will ensure that you have enough time to complete your notes in the allotted exam time.
Time Management and Past Papers
It can be beneficial to time yourself while performing experiments in the laboratory prior to the exam. This will allow you to become comfortable with the speed at which you will have to work to complete your exam on time.
You can make use of past papers to check the time allotted in previous exams. This will also give you an idea of the type of questions that will be asked in your practical exam. You can also familiarise yourself with the marking scheme by looking over the memorandum.
Find a Biology Tutor
As a student, we know that the practices and procedures involved in practical exams can seem daunting. A tutor will be able to guide you through the entire process and help you gain confidence in your practical skills.
They will be able to explain how practical experiments are performed, what your experiment notes should contain, clarify any concepts that you might be struggling with, and more.
At CambriLearn we have tutors available that are experts in the field of biology. Not only do they have the necessary knowledge to teach you, but they will also be able to adjust their teaching approach to suit your learning style so that you may understand concepts and procedures more easily.
It is important to ensure that you are comfortable with the theoretical information contained in the syllabus as well as how to apply this theory in a practical manner. Once you are comfortable with your knowledge and practical skills, you will find that the practical exam will be relatively easy and even fun.