SQA condemned by students and parents over biology exams featuring “too much maths”

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STUDENTS and parents have angrily condemned the SQA for biology exams which they claim were more like maths papers.

Tearful youngsters claim that without warning they were faced with mind-boggling mathematics problems rather than asked to display their knowledge of biology.

Complaints have flooded in about National 5 biology and Higher biology and human biology which have been sat in the past few days.

The Biology exam was condemned for having too much maths (C) The Student Room
The Biology exam was condemned for having too much maths (C) The Student Room

One furious student complained there was no “f****** biology” in the biology paper.

One of the Higher biology questions showed a graph and asked candidates to: “Calculate the percentage decrease in viable cells after being exposed to disinfectant for 6 minutes.”

Online @PamelaMalik raged on behalf of her daughter: “Past papers and test in class she’d done were absolutely nothing like this exam. She wasn’t doing Nat 5 Maths. It was Nat 5 biology.”

@orlarose02 said: “Higher Biology, if that’s what you can call it that wasn’t even f******g biology.”

@_cariboyle added: “Love the fact I took Higher Biology for a full year to have about 3% knowledge come up and the rest was maths and problem solving.”

@seren_adams posted: “Raging that I spent a whole year learning the course for Higher Human Biology for my exam to be full of maths and reading of graphs.”

@eilidhcaldwell1 added: Wtf was that a Higher Human Biology exam. Literally all maths and problem solving.”

The students complained the biology paper was mostly problem solving (C) The Student Room
The students complained the biology paper was mostly problem solving (C) The Student Room

Michaela Wilson, 54, a college lecturer from Edinburgh, whose daughter sat the National 5 Biology exam said today: “When it came to the actual exam it looked nothing like a past paper. It was nothing resembling biology and was more like a math exam.

“There are too many elderly ex-teachers at SQA who don’t live in this word anymore and bring up stuff that is outdated and irrelevant. I’m going to be writing a letter to [education secretary] John Swinney and the SQA about this.”

Online @IreneTh76395040 said: “My Lucas did the Higher Human biology exam today. Came home greeting his eyes oot.”

@EllieHorsburgh said: “Unreal how much I was literally trying to hold back tears during that Higher Human Biology exam, nothing like any of the past papers.”

A question from the Higher Biology 2019 paper shows a graph with a series of joined up dots creating a lineage of primates.

It then asks students: “Which row in the table identifies the time that the last common ancestor of vervet monkeys and humans existed, and the number of other species that shared this common ancestor?”

To help it provides a table with “time (millions of years before present) and “Number of species that shared this common ancestor”.

A bar chart showing a percentage decrease in different type of crops and then ask students to predict the which crop will have the “greatest yield” if apply pesticides and insecticides.

Many students were quick to condemn the SQA for the exam
Many students were quick to condemn the SQA for the exam

Douglas MacDonald, a retired biology teacher from Edinburgh said: “My initial reaction was that it looks absolutely fine with a good balance of question types and nothing unexpected.”

Stuart Hammond from Glasgow, also a biology tutor, said: “Unfortunately biology is increasingly mathematical and problem-solving based.

“It definitely focusses on maths and is a very analytical based subject. You have to be confident in maths as you need to do calculations for medicine.”

Students argued their was a high number of graphs in the exam paper (C) The Student Room
Students argued their was a high number of graphs in the exam paper (C) The Student Room

Dr Steven Gellatly who teaches biology at the University of Dundee and tutors students in his spare time added: “For me, Biology education has become far too factual based and relies heavily on rote learning.

“The only way that we can push the boundaries of knowledge is by being able to solve problems so I would say that the paper is quite correct in its questions.”

He added: “The problem may be in how the teachers prepare students to deal with such problems rather than the problem itself.”

Francis Hooton, a biochemist who tutors students said: “As a paper, it does not seem too bad, apart from one or two questions that seem harder.

“But hard quetions are need to separate the cleverest students from the average students and the strugglers.

“I think modern Higher biology does perhaps have too much problem solving.”

Last year the National 5 Maths exam sent Scottish pupil into meltdown as several question tripped up students – including one which asked pupils to figure out if Chris’ umbrella would fit in his locker and another about justifying the size of popcorn.

The SQA made a historic blunder in the National 5 history exam where they managed to get the date of Mary, Queen of Scots execution wrong by 20 years.

 
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