Aqa Biol5 Essay Outline

Just a few tips on how to tackle the essay best:

Before the exam:

  • In addition to recapping units 1, 2 and 4 (you may wish to do some past papers), try and pick up at least one extra fact not in the course related to each unit 5 topic - you'll need it to maximise your chances in the essay!

[0:00] At the start of the exam:

  • Flick forward to the essay titles and look at them.  If you think you'll panic more doing this, then don't, but it can be helpful to keep the titles in the back of your mind as some of the questions in the bulk of the paper may have information useful to the essay itself.
  • Don't stress yourself over the essay; the UMS boundaries are almost always low for biology unit 5 (I saw one year where you could pretty much flunk the essay completely and walk away with 90% UMS)

[1:05] With 40mins to spare:

  • Stop the question you're on and move onto the essay.  If you're blundering through those really hard later questions, you're probably not going to get many (if any) marks and are certainly going to get less marks for your time than if you started the essay
  • PICK THE TITLE WISELY.  If you can't decide in the split second which one you know more about, pick the one that sounds broader, as it'll probably have more scope for you to cram in extra topics if need be.
  • MAKE A PLAN.  Most, if not all, candidates who got the A's and A*'s made some sort of plan.  Even if you're not aiming that high, it goes to show how a plan can boost you up.  Examiners will look at your plan if your essay is unfinished.  It should be a spider-like diagram with the topics you're going to cover coming off of the centre bubble, and overviews of the finer points you're going to make coming off of those.  Examiners can give breadth / scientific content marks for stuff in your plan that's not in your essay.
  • Order your…

The mark scheme for essay marking.

Four skill areas will be marked: scientific content, breadth of knowledge, relevance and quality of
language. The following descriptors will form a basis for marking.

Scientific Content (maximum 16 marks)
Category Mark Descriptor
16
Good
14
Most of the material reflects a comprehensive
understanding of the principles involved and a
knowledge of factual detail fully in keeping with a
programme of A-level study. Some material, however,
may be a little superficial. Material is accurate and free
from fundamental errors but there may be minor errors
which detract from the overall accuracy.
12
10
Average
8
A significant amount of the content is of an appropriate
depth, reflecting the depth of treatment expected from a
programme of A-level study. Generally accurate with
few, if any, fundamental errors. Shows a sound
understanding of the key principles involved.
6
4
Poor 2
Material presented is largely superficial and fails to
reflect the depth of treatment expected from a
programme of A-level study. If greater depth of
knowledge is demonstrated, then there are many
fundamental errors.
0

Breadth of Knowledge (maximum 3 marks)
Mark Descriptor
3 A balanced account making reference to most areas that might realistically be covered
on 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 all or almost all material based on a single aspect.
0 Material entirely irrelevant or too limited in quantity to judge.

Relevance (maximum 3 marks)
Mark Descriptor
3 All material presented is clearly relevant to the title. Allowance should be made for
judicious use of introductory material.
2 Material generally selected in support of title but some of the main content of the essay
is of only marginal relevance.
1 Some attempt made to relate material to the title but considerable amounts largely
irrelevant.
0 Material entirely irrelevant or too limited in quantity to judge.

Quality of language (maximum 3 marks)
Mark Descriptor
3 Material is logically presented in clear, scientific English. Technical terminology has
been used effectively and accurately throughout.
2 Account is logical and generally presented in clear, scientific English. Technical
terminology has been used effectively and is usually accurate.
1 The essay is generally poorly constructed and often fails to use an appropriate scientific
style and terminology to express ideas.
0 Material entirely irrelevant or too limited in quantity to judge.

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