Synoptic Biology.

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St Mary’s Guide to

Synoptic Biology

Synoptic biology is the ability to select and apply general principles to unfamiliar situations/data.

Modules 5 and 8 will have questions that test your understanding of modules 1,2,3 and 4. This is called the synoptic assessment.

The synoptic element of modules 5 and 8 is worth more marks that the actual module content. This means you have to get to grips with the synoptic element in order to do well.  This booklet is designed to help you to do so.

How much of module 5 and 8 is synoptic?

50% of the marks on the module 5 paper are synoptic and 70 % of the module 8 paper is synoptic.

In what form are the questions?

Module 5: general questions just like you are used to but they require information from other modules to answer

Module 8: some general questions…but also data handling & experimental techniques questions and an essay. Watch out for these!

So there are 3 main types of synoptic questions in the exams:

  • synoptic knowledge
  • data and investigations
  • essay

1. Synoptic knowledge

Which Synoptic subject knowledge topics are going to be assessed?

You have to be able to show the ability to select or apply general principles to unfamiliar data/situations.  These are the main topics you need to revise:

  • Tertiary structure of proteins
  • Membrane receptors
  • Movement across membranes
  • Enzymes
  • SA/Vol ratio
  • DNA/genetic code
  • Translation/transcription
  • Basic genetics
  • Genetic engineering
  • Transport principles
  • Use of tracers
  • Photosynthesis/respiration
  • Stimulus/response
  • Negative feedback
  • Variation
  • Natural selection

Sometime between Easter and Half Term you should prepare your own individual 1side of A4 summaries for each one of these topics to help you with your revision.

Deciding exactly what level to learn these topics in is pretty tricky. Looking at past paper questions will help. You won’t be asked for the same level of recall that you needed for each module, but you will be expected to know all the main principles involved in each topic.

The questions you will get on synoptic knowledge are in module 5 and section A of module 8

2. Data and Investigations

Data Handling

You have to be able to:

  • Use mathematical skills in a range of concepts
  • Analyse unfamiliar data
  • Use general biological ‘nous’ to suggest explanations, biological advantages etc
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Mathematical skills that they can ask you to use in questions:

  • Use an appropriate number of significant figures;
  • Find arithmetic means
  • Construct and interpret frequency tables and diagrams, bar charts and histograms
  • Have sufficient understanding of probability to understand how genetic ratios arise
  • Use ratios, fractions and percentages
  • Understand the principles of sampling as applied to biological data
  • Understand the importance of chance when interpreting data
  • Understand the terms mean, median and mode
  • Use a scatter diagram to identify a correlation between two variables
  • Use a simple statistical test (you will only get examination questions on ...

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