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Support booklet for Unit 6 – 6BI06

September 2008
This booklet must be read in conjunction with the
Edexcel Advanced Subsidary GCE in Biology (8BI01), Edexcel Advanced GCE
in Biology (9BI01) – Issue 3.

Publication code UA018858


Unit 6 – 6BI06

Introduction 3

Role of core practicals 4

Assessing individual investigations 5

Explaining and illustrating the assessment criteria 7

Research and rationale 7

Planning 17

Observing and recording 27

Interpreting and evaluation 34

Communicating 49

Offering students opportunities to meet the assessment criteria 63

Giving help and assistance 66

Appendix 1 – Some ideas for individual investigations 69

Appendix 2 – Unit 6 Individual Investigation Checklist 72

Appendix 3 - Guidance for centres on electronic submission of 73

candidates’ assessed work

The assessment of this investigation forms the whole of Unit 6. It can be awarded a maximum
of 45 marks, which represents 20% of the total A2 marks and 10% of the total GCE marks.

Students submit a written report of an experimental investigation, which they have devised
and carried out.

Edexcel offers centres a choice. Either

(a) teachers, within the centre, mark the work of the student and Edexcel appoint an
External Moderator to moderate the teachers’ marks or

(b) the student’s work can be submitted to be marked by an External Examiner appointed
by Edexcel.

a. Basic Principles
Biology offers unique opportunities to investigate a whole range of interesting questions. Many
of these questions have direct relevance to students and can be investigated without the need
for expensive equipment. Investigating such diverse and interesting questions can be a highly
motivating and hence successful experience for students in contrast to those simply following
instructions or attempting to ‘prove’ well-documented ‘facts’.

How Science Works is a key element of all GCE courses. Unit 6 assessment addresses many of
these criteria but especially HSW 2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8, which can found in section B of the GCE
Biology specification. These criteria are published on page 13 of the GCE Biology specification.

A full mapping of the relationship between these criteria and the learning outcomes can be
found in appendix 3 of the GCE Biology specification.

It would be helpful for centres to bear in mind the following when planning for unit 6

• Given that 20% of the marks available in A2 are awarded for this investigation it would
be logical that the time allocated within schemes of work reflects this.
• Whilst the timing of the implementation of the investigation will be governed by the
circumstances and preferences of each centre, it is important to consider how students
will develop the skills required for the investigation throughout their AS and A2
• Investigations may be chosen from an extremely wide range of possibilities, either in
the laboratory or in the field. However, it is important that all centres ensure that
they offer all students the opportunity to devise and carry out their own individual
• The assessment of investigations is carried out on students’ written reports and hence
it is important that these provide clear evidence of the student’s individual ability to
meet the criteria.

All reports are expected to be word processed and submitted electronically see ‘Guidance for
centres on electronic submission of students’ work,’ available on the Edexcel website and a
copy of which can be found in appendix 3 of this document.

There has been considerable discussion on the demands that GCE internal assessment makes
on individual students. In order to help students it is expected that investigation reports will

be between 2700 and 3300 words, including abstract, trial, tables/captions, appendices and
any other text, but excluding the bibliography. Experience has shown that even high-scoring
reports are often far too long with the inclusion of irrelevant material, repetition and over-
elaboration. Most would achieve similar marks at much shorter length and therefore it is in
the interests of students to keep to this word limit and show clearly the word count page by

b. The role of core practicals in preparing students for Unit 6

Unlike in the GCE AS Edexcel (8040) specification students do not have to submit an
investigation for assessment in Unit 3. Whilst some skills acquired in compiling the visit or
issue report are certainly relevant here, centres will need to consider how they provide
opportunities for students to develop the relevant skills throughout the whole course to
enable them to approach this investigation with confidence. These skills are central to the
incorporation of ‘How Science Works’ criteria into the whole course and will also be assessed
in unit tests. Knowledge and understanding of core practicals will be assessed in the unit
The development of many of these skills can also be linked to a structured approach to core
practicals and there are some suggestions as to how this might be achieved in the unit 3
coursework guide. Some further suggestions for A2 core practicals are given here.

Unit 4
5.11 Describe how to carry out a study on the ecology of a habitat

Obviously the scope to use this practical activity to provide specific training in many of the
main criteria is very wide. This is regardless of whether it is the intention to use ecological
studies as the main coursework investigation. In addition to familiarising themselves with the
main techniques students might produce mini plans for investigating interesting questions
around the school grounds.
For example:
• Does the abundance of one species of plantain (or other species) vary with the amount
of trampling on a sports field ?
• Does the pattern of vegetation change as you move away from a large hedge?
• It is usually possible to completely clear a small area of ground each year so that
simple patterns of succession can be investigated.
• If trees are present then many will have a green algal coating of Pleurococcus sp.
which provide useful investigations.

5.17 Describe how to investigate the effects of temperature on the development of


Seedling growth rate or hatching of brine shrimps are suggested options for this investigation
but this does not mean they are the only options.
Given the simple requirements this might provide an ideal opportunity for students to plan a
suitable investigation and to evaluate their ideas following a trial in the lesson. There are
excellent possibilities here to consider what exactly might be measured, how might this be
converted into a rate and is it a valid measure of ‘growth’?
Alternatively this might be approached as a whole class investigation with everyone using a
similar technique. If results were collated on a single spreadsheet, students would have the
opportunity to select their own methods of presentation and analysis perhaps discussing the
pros and cons of different approaches with their peers.

Unit 5

7.6 Describe how to investigate rate of respiration practically.

Simple respirometers consisting of; a boiling tube, wire shelf for a carbon dioxide absorber
and a rubber bung fitted with a length of capillary tube can provide many opportunities to
understand the principles of respirometry and the problems of controlling variables such as
temperature. It is unlikely, even with more sophisticated apparatus, that students will be
able to produce sufficient data for analysis in the time normally allocated to this practical.
However it does provide an excellent opportunity to discuss experimental limitations in depth
and could be used to consider important aspects of rate measurements if supported by some
second hand data for analysis.

7.14 Investigate the effects of exercise on tidal volume and breathing rate using spirometer

Obviously only a limited number of centres will have a spirometer but much cheaper ‘chest-
expander’ type sensors are now available for use with data-logging equipment which can give
useful traces.
Even where secondary data is used to show traces it is important to ensure that there is some
form of time scale indicated on the horizontal axis in order to assess rate.
Once again the opportunity exists to discuss in depth the problems of controlling such things
as human samples and exercise intensity. Similarly the voluntary control of breathing also
causes difficulties.

8.15 Investigate habituation to a stimulus

There are several alternatives to this investigation. Using snails’ antennae might be the
simplest (Giant African Land Snails are particularly useful).
In addition to other skills the use of ingenuity in design might be encouraged here by
attempting to brainstorm ideas on how to apply a constant stimulus – a particularly important
piece of planning for habituation studies.

Part 1: Practical biology and investigation skills

Assessing Individual Investigations

Investigations may be assessed by centres internally and subjected to external moderation or

they may be submitted to Edexcel for external marking. In either case some common
principles will apply.

a. Applying the criteria

The criteria are to be applied in a strictly hierarchical fashion. ALL the criteria which are
applicable to any mark range must be met before a higher mark can be considered. For this
reason it is important that students check carefully that they have attempted to address all
the skills described. For example, a student who fails to carry out a trial experiment for
section (a) of planning cannot be awarded more than 2 marks for planning, no matter what
standard has been achieved in sections (b) and (c) of planning.

The nature of the criteria means that in all sections there are quality judgements to be made.
Past experience has shown that, where significant differences arise between examiner or
moderator and centre marks, it is common to find very high level mark ranges awarded where
there is only very brief mention of the relevant points.

Whilst the criteria must always be applied in a detailed manner it is helpful to consider the
mark ranges as a whole to check the final mark awarded is fair. Where there are 3 ranges then
these might be regarded as follows in relation to what might be expected from a typical A-
level student.

0 – 2 (0 – 3) = Weak
3 – 4 (4 – 6) = Average > Good
5 – 6 (7 – 9) = Very Good

Where there are 4 ranges then the middle ranges could be regarded as ‘Average’ and ‘Good’

It is helpful to use this type of category during internal standardisation to ensure that the
order of merit for different pieces of work is verified.

When annotating work the following abbreviations should be used to indicate sections in the
report, which meet the criteria concerned.

Research & rationale = R

Planning = P

Observing & recording = O

Interpreting & evaluation = I

Communicating = C

At the end of each section there should be a clear summary list of each criterion covered and
how the overall mark for it has been derived

eg P(a)5 P(b)8 P(c)6 P=6

b. Award of intermediate marks.

• Always assess each section (a)(b)(c) of the criteria first.

• Look carefully at each mark.

What is the lowest mark range indicated?
Where in this range ought the total mark lie?
Is there one section which is very weak where you had difficulty awarding that level? If
so then the total should be at the lower end of this range.
Are all sections strong and is there evidence from some sectors for a higher range? If so
then the total mark should be the top of the scale.

• In cases where it is difficult to decide on a mark range it may be sensible, in the first
instance, to give the benefit of the doubt to the student. However if you meet this
dilemma a second time it would be sensible not to award the higher mark. In this way
the final total is more likely to be a fair reflection of the quality of the work. If
generous borderline decisions are made repeatedly the final mark often becomes

Explaining and illustrating the criteria
The following should be read in conjunction with the section on practical biology and investigative skills in the specification.

Research & Rationale

Assessment Level of response Mark

criteria a) focuses on the rationale and biological background of the investigation. Range
b) focuses on the selection of additional, relevant information which is used effectively in the report.
Research and a) There is some attempt to provide a rationale for the choice of investigation in terms of its scope 0–2
rationale and its relation to biological principles. marks
b) Few sources have been consulted and their scope is limited in providing a context for the
investigation to assist with the planning or execution of laboratory or field work, and in informing
the interpretation of results.

At this level the rationale is very simple and sources used are quoted in a vague manner. Very few
relevant sources beyond, perhaps, a core text are used. There is only very limited evidence of
progression from AS.
Attempts to interpret the data are not linked to the researched information. Researched information
is simply listed again with little comment.

a) There is a partial rationale for the choice of investigation. The biological background to the 3–6
investigation is developed to some extent. marks
b) Information gathered from some relevant sources has some bearing on the context for the
investigation, and assists in a limited way with the planning or execution of the laboratory or field
work, or to inform the interperetation of results.

There is some relevant biological background but it is not carefully selected and contains irrelevant
material. The logical progression, linking biological knowledge to the suggested hypothesis, is rather
vague.Interpretations of the collected data make only limited use of relevant biological background
or the quoted sources.

a) The rationale for the investigation is clear in terms of its scope and relationship to biological 7–9
principles. marks

b) Several relevant sources are consulted and are used to provide a context for the project, to assist
with the planning or execution of laboratory or field work, and to inform the interpretation of

There is a good selection of relevant sources. The sources quoted are clearly referenced within the
text to illustrate where they have been used. There is very little irrelevant information and it is clear
to the reader how the hypothesis and methods used have been developed.
Interpretation of results is clearly linked to A2 level biological knowledge and understanding.
Information from the rationale is not merely reiterated but is used to try to explain the actual trends
and patterns in the data rather than make theoretical assertions.
NOTE this is concerned with the use of sources not the overall quality of conclusions, which are
assessed in Interpreting.

a) The rationale for the investigation is clearly justified in terms of its scope and appropriate 10–11
biological principles are discussed. marks

b) Additional sources beyond those that were most readily to hand or were initially suggested by the
teacher, are selected. The material chosen is selected for its relevance to the investigation and it
is used effectively to provide a context for the project, to assist with planning or execution of
laboratory or field work, and to inform the interpretation of results.

There is no irrelevant information and there is a concise account of the background to the chosen
investigation, which uses a range of sources, which demonstrates very good personal research. It is
clear how all sources have been used both in the rationale and in interpreting the collected data.
Interpretation of data uses these sources effectively and in an integrated way to show a clear
understanding of the trends and patterns identified.

NOTE this is concerned with the use of sources not the overall quality of conclusions, which are
assessed in Interpreting.

Notes on research and rationale

This is an area where students often include too much irrelevant material.
Examiners/Moderators will be looking for a clear link between the proposed hypothesis and
the biological knowledge and understanding described. This needs to be made very clear by
the report rather than relying on the reader to interpret a large amount of information.
It is hoped that students will draw on skills developed in GCE AS - Unit 3 in this investigation.

Sources of information must be clearly listed in a manner, which would enable the reader to
access them if required, and there must be a clear indication of where in the text such
sources have been used. The simplest way is to place numbers in the text linking them to a list
at the end of the report but other methods such as placing references in footers or adding
abbreviations in context, which refer to a detailed list would meet this requirement.
Illustrations can often enhance attempts to provide a clear rationale but again these must be
relevant. A simple way of ensuring this is the case might be to include only illustrations which
had clear labels (fig.1 etc) and which were actually referred to in the report.

There is good practice in many centres that have clear policies on including downloaded
material in any form of coursework. Students should be aware that simply pasting large
sections of downloaded material together without acknowledgement is not acceptable. (See
Edexcel Information Manual – Malpractice available online also the Unit 3 support booklet P76)

Even where work is to be externally marked teachers signing record cards or authentication
certificates are confirming that they have checked the report carefully and to the best of
their knowledge, it is the work of the student and any assistance given has been annotated for
the examiner or moderator – see further notes on ‘Giving help and assistances’ (see page 65).

The following section contains extracts from three individual investigations:

1. The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells

2. Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

3. Investigating contrast sensitivity in humans

For each of the extracts a commentary has been provided to relate to the assessment criteria.

Research & rationale

Exemplar 1
The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells

This experiment was designed to explore the effect distance from the sea wall has on the numbers
of grey top shells found in a rocky shore ecological system. A series of line transects were carried
out to collect information on the number of top shells. Data regarding other variables potentially
influencing the abundance of top shells were recorded. This data included temperature recordings
at each quadrat, light intensity, the type and number of other species in the quadrat and percentage
water cover. Spearman’s rank correlation was used to test the strength of the relationship between
two variables, distance from sea wall and number of organisms found. Strong positive correlation
was calculated in most transects indicating that as distance increases the number of top shells also

Research and Rationale:

Grey top shells (Latin name Gibbula Cineraria) are a species of top shell within the mollusc family.
They may be characterised by their roughly triangular shape and distinctive light grey colour,
demonstrated below. Source [1]

Grey top shells may be found in great abundance on rocky shores of Southwest England. Their
significant number makes the grey top shell an important component of the rocky shore ecosystem,
affecting numbers of other organisms, predators and producers (plants). [2]

I chose to study grey top shells as opposed to other organisms such as limpets or periwinkles for
the reasons stated above. The species is found in large numbers and the top shell is recognisable
with light purple and grey bands spanning its shell. It is therefore distinguishable from the darker
periwinkle and purple top shell. [6] This will avoid misidentification and should provide fair and
accurate results from which conclusions may be made. [3]

The rocky shore may be split into three distinctive zones, the Supra-littoral zone, meaning above
water, also known as the ‘splash zone’, the littoral zone and sub-littoral zone meaning below water.
Contrasting biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) conditions may be found in these zones owing to
differences in time submerged by seawater. [2] [4]

Several stressors act upon all organisms of the seashore. These include desiccation, a process where
an organism loses water (and nutrients) from its body, extremes of temperature, competition from
other organisms, light intensity, salinity, wave action, disturbance and pollution. The extent to which
these stressors affect an organisms’ survival relies on the organisms’ position on the seashore.

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Different stressors have been proven to act more in specific zones. The specific organisms’ ability
to withstand stressors is the other vital factor affecting survival. [2] [5]

Desiccation is more likely to influence survival of grey top shells higher on the rocky shore as this
zone is rarely submerged in water. The lower littoral zone on the other hand experiences longer
exposure to seawater and grey top shells have less chance of drying out. This will increase the
number of top shells found lower on the shore. [5]

Extremes of temperature are more likely to occur higher on the rocky shore. Seawater remains at a
more constant temperature than land due to its high volume and high albedo. (Reflectivity of the
surface) High temperatures in the upper littoral and supra-littoral zones are more likely to denature
top shells enzymes resulting in death. This will reduce the number of grey top shells found on the
upper shore. More constant temperatures sustained closer to the sea will be less able to denature
the grey top shells’ enzymes.

Light intensity may affect the amount of seaweed present affecting the amount of food available to
the top shell. Top shells feed mainly on simple seaweed, microorganisms and detritus [1]

Spearman's Rank Correlation is a technique used to test the direction and strength of the
relationship between two variables. [7] A figure is calculated between -1 and +1, indicating a positive
or negative correlation between two variables. The closer the figure is to -1 or +1, the stronger the
correlation between variables. I will use this technique to test the strength of relationship between
the dependant variable (Number of top shells) and independent variable (Distance from the sea
wall). This technique will provide a quantitative figure that may conclude if distance affects the
number of grey top shells.

Null Hypothesis:
Distance from the sea wall will have no effect on the number of grey top shells recorded.
Spearman’s rank correlation will show no correlation between distance from the sea wall and the
number of top shells recorded.

Working Hypothesis:
Results will show that as distance from the sea wall increases the number of grey top shells will
increase. Spearman’s rank will highlight positive correlation between the two variables.

[2] Marine Zonation theory Student Sheets
[3] Collins pocket guide-Seashore of Britain and Northern Europe

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R(a) The rationale, although rather straightforward, is clear and covers a number of biological
principles in relation to the distribution of top shells. A more detailed discussion of the
ecological principles of zonation and such factors as competition in each zone especially
linked to mollusc distribution would be needed for the highest marks. Why does desiccation
affect grey top shells more than other molluscs found higher on the shore?
This is a clear R(a)6 and possibly 7

R(b) There is a good range of sources quoted. They are clearly referenced in context. This
could bring us to consider this to be good or very good. However, the highest marks would be
generous since there is too little evidence that they have been used in the most effective
manner. For example reference [5] contains some very useful information which would have
helped to develop this rationale further.
This is R(b) 7/8

Overall R = 7

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Research and rationale

Exemplar 2
Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

I am carrying out this investigation because the enzyme stem-bromelain is one that is particularly
fascinating due to its medicinal properties and its possibility to become an extremely useful drug in
treating many diseases. Bromelain is a general name for a family of sulfhydryl proteolytic (protein
digesting) enzymes that are obtained from the pineapple plant 1. Stem bromelain is the name given
to bromelain that is derived from the stem, and this is the most common type. Pineapples, containing
stem bromelain, have been used as medicinal plants in several native cultures due to the fact that
bromelain is thought to have many medicinal properties i. It is a natural blood thinner and anti-
inflammatory, which works by breaking down fibrin, a blood-clotting protein that can impede good
circulation and prevent tissues from draining properly.ii Bromelain is also useful in relieving pain and
speeding healing by blocking the production of the compounds that cause inflammation, allowing
blood to move more easily to the traumatized area. It is also thought that bromelain aids digestive
disorders due to its enzyme activity, as well as helping people with asthma thanks to its ability to
reduce the thickness of mucus. Furthermore, currently research is being made into its use in the
treatment of cancer iii. Hence, bromelain is a key enzyme in today’s world. The fact that this enzyme
exists in pineapples, which are a part of many peoples’ diets, presents the question: Could it be that
by eating pineapple regularly as part of your diet, you would be absorbing and taking advantage of its
medicinal properties? In this case, it is interesting to investigate how the effectiveness of the
enzyme varies under different conditions. One condition is the concentration of the enzyme.
Enzymes are biological catalysts that speed up chemical reaction that would otherwise occur very
slowly at room temperatureiv. Proteases digest protein molecules due to the fact that they have
complementary active sites.

Therefore, if the enzyme concentration is increased, there are more active sites available for the
reaction to occur. Hence, more enzyme-substrate complexes will be formed and the rate of reaction
will be increased. Furthermore, at a higher concentration there are a higher proportion of particles
in a certain area. Thus, the chance of collision between particles is greatly increased. In turn, this
results in an increase in the probability that enzyme and substrate molecules will find each other
and form enzyme-substrate complexes. Therefore, more enzyme-substrate complexes are formed in
a certain time, and so more products are produced in that time. Hence, the rate of reaction is
speeded up.
The aim of this investigation is to discover if the age of the pineapple affects the concentration of
the enzyme and therefore affects the rate at which it digests the protein. If the results of the
experiment show that the age of the pineapple does affect the performance of the enzyme, then
this could suggest that it may be preferable to eat pineapple of a certain age.
A further use of the enzyme stem-bromelain is as a meat tenderiser. Hence, the way that the
concentration of the enzyme varies the action of the enzyme could be of is interest in this
industrial process.
Therefore, this experiment is highly topical due to stem-bromelain’s many uses, and so the results
will cause much discussion.
Date: October 2004

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Date: October 2004
Date: October 2004
Date: October 2004
Author: Salters Nuffield Advanced Biology
Date: 2002
Title: AS Student book 1
Page: 77
Author: Salters Advanced Chemistry
Date: 2000
Title: Chemical Storylines
Page: 160
Author: John Adds, Erica Larkcom, Ruth Miller, Robin Sutton
Date: 3/2000
Title: Tools, Techniques and Assessment in Biology. A course Guide for Students and Teachers


R(a) There is some attempt to establish a rationale behind the investigation by giving the
background to bromelain as a protease. However, beyond this it is very limited for A2 level.
There is a cursory description of enzyme action and a brief mention of concentration effects,
which does not get beyond modest AS level. Above all this is very general, there is no attempt
to explain the main point of the investigation, which is how ageing might affect the
concentration of the enzyme. This might just reach R(a)3 but is weak.

R(b) The range of sources is very limited. Several are simply A-level texts, one is Edexcel’s
own website but with no direct reference to bromelain and two others are merely commercial
sites selling bromelain as a product. Even checking the Interpreting and evaluating section
revealed no further useful references. This reaches R(b)3.

Overall R = 3

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Research and rationale

Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in humans

This project was designed to investigate the effect of contrast on eyesight to see how much this
affects night driving. Eyesight tests were carried out using two modified 20/20 eye charts, one
with black letters and one with grey. The results showed that people could read more lines on the
high-contrast chart, agreeing with the hypothesis. Also, those with apparent perfect vision on the
high-contrast chart had a range of readings on the low-contrast chart.

Experimental hypothesis:
The greater the contrast between letters and their background, the more letters read on the eye

Null Hypothesis:
There will be no difference in the amount of letters read on a high-contrast eye chart and a low-
contrast chart.

Research and Rationale:

This experiment aims to investigate the effect contrast sensitivity has on our eyes and how this
could be applied to the dangers of night driving.
On a normal 20/20 eye chart, there is high contrast between the black letters on the white
background. Therefore this type of eye test only refers to high contrast situations unlike everyday
images, which consist of all contrasts [Appendix 1]. Therefore the 20/20 eye chart cannot strictly
be compared to our normal vision.
Contrast sensitivity is the ability to discern an object from its background [Appendix 2]. Everything
we see is split up into spatial frequencies or channels. Each channel, or vision cell, is a different size
and has a different function. For example, there are channels for size, contrast and shape. The
information from all the channels is transmitted to the brain and combined to form a complete
picture. Large channels only take in information about shape, such as the shape of a face, whereas
small channels filter information about the details of that face [Appendix 1].
Small channels are used when reading a normal high-contrast 20/20 eye chart; therefore only one
type of channel is being tested.
The results from the investigation can be applied to the dangers of night driving or in foggy
conditions. Low light levels reduce contrast between objects, greatly affecting the sharpness of
our vision. This increases the risk of an accident at night time because it becomes harder to
distinguish between, for example, the colours of road signs. It also shows the importance to other
road-users, such as cyclists, of wearing high-contrast luminous clothing for their own safety and
general awareness of vehicle drivers’ limited vision.

Appendix 1: - Date accessed: 25/08/04
Appendix 2: ‘Eye Health’ by Sandra Salmans
Appendix 3:
Appendix 4: - Date accessed:
Appendix 5: - Date accessed: 31/10/04

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Appendix 6: - Date accessed: 31-30-04
Appendix 7: Biological Sciences Review – Janet Marsden


R(a) This rationale is short and concise. Whilst it would benefit from a more detailed
discussion, it is original and well-researched.
Note. this section is also judged on the use of this rationale ‘in informing the interpretation of
results.’ In this case there was extensive further use of the reference sources in the
interpretation of the data, which included both quotes from sources and personal analysis.
R(a) 9/10 taking into account evidence from interpreting data.

R(b) The range of sources here is excellent. It includes both text materials and web-based
sources. There is reference to academic papers and these have been used effectively in the
report. ‘Appendices (2) and (7) are not referenced accurately so prevent the award of a
maximum. R(b) 9/10

Overall R = 9/10

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Assessment Level of response Mark

criteria a) focuses on effective planning to control variables and produce meaningful data. Range
b) focuses on assessing risks and suggesting ways to minimise them.
c) focuses on the use of a trial investigation to modify an initial plan, where necessary.
Planning a) There is some attempt to plan and select the method or apparatus chosen. Some relevant 0–2
variables are identified. marks
b) Some potential safety hazards and the steps to avoid or minimise them are identified.
c) A trial experiment may be carried out.

This is the basic level where a student has written a simple plan or where considerable help has been
given to ensure that some useful data is collected.
NOTE Where there is no clear evidence of a trial investigation 2 marks is the maximum, which
can be awarded for planning.

a) There is a plan for investigation, with some explanation of the selection of apparatus and 3–6
methods. There are some details of how variables are to be controlled, manipulated or taken into marks
account and how relevant observations are to be made.
b) Most potential safety hazards and the steps to avoid or minimise them are identified.
c) A trial experiment is performed that has some bearing on the planning of the project.

Plans here would contain all the main elements of selection of apparatus, a detailed method and
sound control of variables but lack depth and detail. Repetition of basic well-documented
experiments or core practicals is unlikely to go beyond the lower range of this level.
There will be evidence of risk assessment rather than simple statements.
Trial experiments will be relevant and there will be some evidence of their application such as
simple data or recorded observations.

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a) There is a clear plan of action, both for the initial trial phase and for the main period of data 7–9
collection. Apparatus selected and methods chosen are appropriate to the investigation. There is marks
a discussion about how variables are controlled, manipulated or taken into account and about the
collection of relevant observations or data.
b) All potential safety hazards are identified and suitable steps taken to avoid or minimise them.
c) A well-thought out trial is conducted in advance of the main data collection phase, and is used to
inform the planning of the investigation.

The initial plan outlines the whole process clearly. Apparatus and methods are described concisely
and it is clear why they have been chosen. Evidence obtained from the trial phase is discussed and
there is a logical progression to the final methodology.

a, b, c) There is evidence of thought and ingenuity in the design of experiments or the recording of 10-11
data, with good attention to detail including the way that variables are controlled, manipulated or marks
taken into account and how relevant observations are made or data collected. Apparatus is devised or
modified to suit the project as necessary.

All of the criteria for 7-9 marks are met to a high standard. This level of marks is designed to reward
students who have gone beyond standard techniques and shown some ability to adapt and modify
their chosen techniques in the light of the findings from the trial phase. Whilst this need not involve
sophisticated apparatus there must be evidence of some original ideas.

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Notes on Planning
This is the single most important criterion in determining the success of an investigation.
Important omissions in this section can often place severe limitations on a student’s
opportunities to meet other criteria to a high standard.

a. Characteristics of a successful hypothesis

(see also Ideas for Investigations)
• simple clear and unambiguous
• addresses only one variable
• includes an indication of statistical analysis eg ‘there is a significant
difference…’ ‘there is a significant correlation…’ ‘there is a significant
• has a sound basis in A2 level biology
• in fieldwork is more likely to consider only one species.

b. Control of variables
This will vary considerably according to context. For higher marks, there must be clear
evidence of progression from GCSE or AS level to A2. Weak attempts at controlling
important variables such as light intensity or temperature by ‘leaving them on the same
window sill’ or ‘at room temperature’ cannot support the awarding of higher marks.
In fieldwork, some variables cannot be easily manipulated, it would be expected that
students will consider such options as selection of sampling sites to ensure that the effects
of some variables were reduced and new ones were not introduced.

- 19 -

Exemplar 1
The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells

Planning and Method:

Firstly, I chose to carry out a series of line transects between the sea wall and the sea to record
changes in numbers of grey top shells at varying distances from the sea wall. I chose a systematic
sampling method as opposed to a random sampling method, to ensure all areas of the rocky shore
were considered, providing more representative results. I planned therefore to carry out transects
five metres apart, in parallel on the rocky shore. Apparatus planned for the experiment included a
tape measure, a metre rule, a quadrat and a data logger. The tape measure would be used to map the
transects line and to identify where each quadrat should be laid. The metre rule would be used to
ensure transect courses are five metres apart. The quadrat would be laid at specific distances on
the transect line and used to count the number of top shells, other species and percentage water
cover. The data logger would finally be used to record temperature and light intensity at each
quadrat on each of the five transects. I began work by carrying out a preliminary investigation,
firstly to identify the speed at which capture of data could progress thus allowing me to calculate
the number of transects I could complete. This also ensured transects could be completed before
high tide. Rapid capture of results is paramount to ensure fair, reliable results are obtained. All
other variables where possible should remain constant so only the independent variable, (distance
from sea wall) is changed. Grey top shells are migratory and changes in tide and time of day is known
to affect the position of grey top shells on the rocky shore. [1]

The preliminary investigation enabled me to work out the size of intervals between quadrats where
data would be collected. These distances had to be equal in size to observe how the number of top
shells changes.

Preliminary work enabled me to work methodically so keeping the method of data capture identical
on each transect. In each quadrat, rocks were turned to ensure all top shells were included in the
results. This method was adopted throughout data collection. The data logger was always held at the
same height, 20cm above the ground. I always stood back to read the data logger. This avoided my
shadow influencing the light intensity reading. The quadrat was always laid the right-hand side of
the measuring tape to ensure the sampling method remained systematic throughout.


P(a) Details of the planning process are very vague. It is difficult to discern how this differs
from a premeditated group exercise and an examiner or moderator would wish to check other
students in the centre to ensure this was not the case.
This might just make P(a)3-6

P(b) There is no real risk assessment despite the fact there are some obvious issues on a rocky
P(b) 0-2

P(c) The account lacks any real evidence of a trial experiment (this is backed up by the poor
data range seen in O) it is difficult to go beyond P(c) 0-2

Overall P = 1 as P(b) has been ignored

- 20 -

Exemplar 2

Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

Trial experiment:
The aim of the trial experiment is to investigate which method of measuring the rate of digestion is
more successful. In addition, it aims to act as a practice for the main experiment. Hence, any
necessary modifications can be made to improve the accuracy and results of the final experiment.

Method 1:
1. Prepare petri dishes containing gelatine
2. Using a cork borer, remove 3 circular discs from the gelatine in the petri dish. Be sure to spread
these wells evenly around the dish.
3. Cut a portion of 2 cm3 from the pineapple. Be sure to note the age of this piece of pineapple.
4. Place the section of pineapple in a pestle and mortar and add 3 cm3 of distilled water. Then mash
the contents of the bowl until there is sufficient juice to fill the 3 holes.
5. Fill the holes in the petri dish with the pineapple solution, using a pipette. Be sure to label the
gelatine plate for future reference.
6. Leave the gelatine plate with pineapple juice for 24 hours.
7. After 24 hours, measure the diameter of the hole (clear area). Include in the diameter the
initial hole made by the cork borer.

Method 2:
1. Fill up a 50 cm3 measuring cylinder with gelatine.
2. Repeat stages 3 and 4 from the method above.
3. Add 2 cm3 pineapple juice to the top of the gelatine.
4. Leave the gelatine with the pineapple juice for 24 hours.
5. Re-measure the height of the solid gelatine. The level of the gelatine should drop, as it becomes
clear liquid due to digestion.


Method 1:
Age of pineapple Diameter of Diameter of clear liquid (cm)
(days) original hole (cm) Repeat: 1 2 3
1 1 1.3 1.4 1.4

Method 2:
Age of Original Height of gelatine after being subjected to pineapple juice (cm3)
pineapple height of
Repeat: 1 2 3 4
(days) gelatine (cm3)
4 50 49.8 49.5 49.8 49.5

Both of these methods worked well however, it was decided to use method 1. The first reason for
this was that a ruler gave a more accurate measurement than a 50 cm3 measuring cylinder.
Furthermore, it was decided that in method 2, when using a measuring cylinder, it was harder to
distinguish between the pineapple juice and the water produced, and where the line of the solid

- 21 -
gelatine started. Hence, measuring the change in height was found slightly more difficult than using
a ruler and a petri dish, as in method 1.

The trial experiment also showed up any improvements that could have been made to improve the
final experiment.

• It was very difficult to grind the pineapple in the pestle and mortar when the pineapple had
been cut from the white part (centre) of the pineapple slice. Hence in future, this part should
not be used.
• The experiment should be kept in the fridge to ensure that a constant temperature is
maintained, thus ensuring accurate results. This is important because temperature is another
variable which affects how enzymes work, and in order to ensure a fair test, all the variables
other than the dependent and independent variable need to be kept constant.
• The change in the diameter and height from the original was very small, and hence it was
decided that the 3 cm3 water should not be added to the section of pineapple in the pestle and
• Another reason for not using the water was that, when the pineapple juice was being put into the
wells in the gelatine plate, often it was the liquid, which was mainly water that was easiest to
pipette. However, by the time the last well was filled, only lumps of pure pineapple were left.
Hence, the concentrations of pineapple were different in different wells, and so it was not a fair
In order to eliminate the problem of having lumps of pineapple that would produce unfair and
inaccurate results, an extension of the trial experiment was carried out. This was to see
whether filtering the mashed pineapple solution would improve the accuracy of the results.
Hence, the experiment in method 1 was repeated, however between stages 4 and 5 the pineapple
solution was filtered using glass wool.
The result of this mini-experiment was that the pineapple juice produced was not only easier to
handle, due to the lack of lumps, but also it meant that the line between the solid gelatine and
water, after digestion, was clearer. In addition, using glass wool resulted in the concentration of
pineapple, and therefore enzyme, in the juice was constant. Therefore, the results were more

1. Prepare 10 petri dishes containing gelatine.
2. Using a cork borer, remove 3 circular discs from the gelatine plate and measure the diameter of
each hole. Be sure to evenly spread out the holes to allow the diameter of the hole to increase.
In addition, use the same cork borer for all of the holes to ensure a fair test.
3. Cut a portion of pineapple which measures 2 cm3.
4. Place this section of pineapple in a pestle and mortar, and mash until enough liquid is formed to
fill the 3 holes.

Ground pineapple Filter funnel

Glass wool
100cm3 conical
Pure pineapple

- 22 -
5. Put glass wool into the neck of the filter funnel, and place this in the top of the conical flask.
Then filter the juice through the glass wool. When working with the glass wool goggles and
gloves should be worn. In addition, it should be handled using tweezers.
6. Fill the hole in the petri dish with the pineapple solution using a pipette. Be careful not to
overfill the hole, as this will disrupt the results.
7. Leave the gelatine plate with pineapple juice in the fridge for 24 hours. This maintains a
constant temperature, which allows a fair test.
When transporting the plate be careful not to spill the pineapple juice so that it overruns the
hole. Also, after digestion, take care not to spill the water as this may make you think that the
diameter is wider than it is. This would disrupt the results by giving higher results than
8. After 24 hours, measure the diameter of the clear liquid area. Include in the diameter the
initial hole made by the cork borer. To ensure a fair test, always measure the diameter at the
widest point.
9. Work out an average diameter of the clear area.
10. Repeat stages 3 - 9 with each age of pineapple.
11. Using your results, perform the Spearman’s rank of correlation coefficient statistical test.

In order to ensure a fair test, many measures were taken.
• All of the variables excluding the dependent and independent variables must be kept constant to
ensure that there is no external influence affecting the results. An example of this in the
method is that a fridge will be used to store the gelatine plate, which means that there is a
constant temperature.
• The same cork borer will be used for every gelatine plate.
• The pineapple juice will be filtered to ensure that the concentration of pineapple juice is the
same for each repeat.
• The diameter of the clear liquid will always be measured at the widest point, which means that
there are no biased results.
• The experiment will be repeated 3 times and an average will be calculated. This should eliminate
any anomalies and mean that the results are to the highest possible standard.

Risk assessment:
• Care must be taken when using the sharp knife to cut the pineapple.
• Glass wool: Irritant


P(a) There is a clear plan of action leading to a trial phase. Some important variables are
discussed but not all important ones eg control of grinding process, position of sample from
fruit? What is a suitable time scale?
P(a) 3-6

P(b) This is a low risk procedure and there is a very basic assessment. Whilst this is thin it
would not be used to limit marks if other sections were of high quality.

P(c) The trial is used in some ways to inform the final methodology but its effectiveness is
limited by its limited scope.
P(c) 3-6

Overall P = 5/6

- 23 -

Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in human eyesight

A trial experiment was carried out to find the best contrast type and distance from the charts, and
the need for extra lighting. Two participants, aged 17, with good eyesight took part. They read
aloud letters on each eye chart as far as possible, and the last line read was recorded. Three eye
charts were used: one covered in two sheets of greaseproof paper, one covered with one sheet, and
one without. The chart covered with two sheets did not work because of unequal contrast
variations. The greaseproof paper was then glued to the eye chart but this wrinkled and made it
worse. Trials showed the best way to effectively alter the contrast of the eye charts was black
letters on a white background for one chart and grey letters for the other. The participants read
both charts from various distances and 6m was decided upon. No extra lighting would be needed for
the main experiment because this caused a yellow-light to be cast on the charts, reducing contrast.
[Details in appendices].
A Mann Whitney U Test will be used to analyse the data, which will compare the median of the two
sets of data gained for each eye chart.

Trial Experiment results:

Here are the results for the original eye charts, covered in 1, 2 or no sheets of greaseproof paper
to vary the contrast. The subject stood 6m from the eye chart and normal lighting was used.

Lowest line read on chart*

Contrast level Subject 1 Subject 2

2 sheets of greaseproof paper (low contrast) 6 7
1 sheet of greaseproof paper 9 10
No greaseproof paper (high contrast) 10 10

* With line 1 being at the top of the chart with the largest letters and line 10 being the smallest

These results indicate that it would be more effective to compare an eye chart with high-contrast
(no greaseproof paper) against one with 2 sheets of greaseproof paper in order to get a significant
difference in results.

The distance from the eye chart was altered to find the best distance to test vision from as this
was to be kept constant. Vision was tested at 5, 6, 7 and 8m from the normal eye chart with high-
contrast (no greaseproof paper added) under normal lighting. Here are the results:

Lowest line read on chart*

Distance from eye chart (m) Subject 1 Subject 2

5 10 10
6 10 10
7 6 7
8 6 6

- 24 -
* With line 1 being at the top of the chart with the largest letters and line 10 being the smallest

I decided to set the distance at 6m because the two participants used in the trial had good eyesight
and they could not read the bottom line at 7m.

The final part of my trial experiments was to test the effect of adding extra lighting to the eye
chart. I tested the subjects’ vision on the normal high-contrast chart at 6m with normal lighting
and then with extra lightning. Here are the results:

Lowest line read on chart*

Type of lighting used Subject 1 Subject 2

Normal lighting 10 10
Extra lighting 7 6

* With line 1 being at the top of the chart with the largest letters and line 10 being the smallest

These results therefore show me that adding extra lighting reduces the subject’s ability to read
the letters on the chart. Therefore I have decided not to add extra lighting to the eye charts
because it worsens vision.

A trial experiment was carried out to find the best contrast type and distance from the charts, and
the need for extra lighting. Two participants, aged 17, with good eyesight took part. They read aloud
letters on each eye chart as far as possible, and the last line read was recorded. Three eye charts
were used: one covered in two sheets of greaseproof paper, one covered with one sheet, and one
without. The chart covered with two sheets did not work because of unequal contrast variations.
The greaseproof paper was then glued to the eye chart but this wrinkled and made it worse. Trials
showed the best way to effectively alter the contrast of the eye charts was black letters on a
white background for one chart and grey letters for the other. The participants read both charts
from various distances and 6m was decided upon. No extra lighting would be needed for the main
experiment because this caused a yellow-light to be cast on the charts, reducing contrast.
A Mann Whitney U Test will be used to analyse the data, which will compare the median of the two
sets of data gained for each eye chart.

For the main experiment, two modified eye charts were positioned next to each other on a plain
white wall, at the same height. Two different eye charts, with the same font and letter sizing, were
used so that participants did not memorise the letters. Using a meter ruler, a line was marked on
the floor 6m from both eye charts to keep the distance constant. The lighting was kept constant
because the regular room lights were lit throughout. Using an opportunity sample for convenience,
30 participants all aged between 17-18, with equal numbers of males and females, were used. Before
the test, participants filled in a short form about their eyesight details [see appendices]. Subjects
were then asked to remove any form of visual aid (spectacles or contact lenses) so that their true
vision could be tested without it being modified.

- 25 -
Each participant read aloud, starting from the top line, each letter on the low-contrast chart (grey
letters) as far as possible. The last line read was recorded. They then read the letters from the
high-contrast (black letters) chart in the same way and the results were recorded.

Risk Assessment:
All participants’ details used in this experiment are kept anonymous for confidentiality reasons. Any
visual aids that were removed for the duration of the experiment were kept nearby in case of
emergency. Otherwise this is a low risk procedure.


P(a) This clearly meets 7-9 criteria as there is clear evidence of a trial phase with some results
used to inform the main method. There is some discussion on control of variables but poor
control of sampling is suspect and there is no evidence that those with eye defects were
recorded or checked. We are not sure what happens when a line is partially recognised.
However there is sufficient here to consider the highest mark in this range.

P(b) Again this risk assessment is simple but it is important to ask what else should have been
considered. If the answer is very little, as it is here, then higher marks can be supported.

P(c) The trial is well thought out and used to inform the plan.
There is sufficient here to consider the highest mark range as there is evidence of ingenuity
and modification of apparatus but there is not really enough attention to detail in control of
variables to warrant a mark of 10-11.

Overall P = 9

- 26 -
Observing and recording

Assessment Level of response Mark

criteria a) focuses on accurate recording and tabulation of data. Range
b) focuses on the selection of a suitable range of readings and an appropriate response to anomalous
readings during data collection.

Observing a) Some appropriate measurements and observations are recored, which are adequate for the method 0–2
and used and reasonably accurate. marks
recording b) There is some repeating or checking of values obtained.

At this level there is just sufficient data to make basic conclusions linked to the hypothesis. The level of
accuracy is just acceptable for an A2 investigation.

a) Measurements and observations are recorded methodically and accurately in appropriate units, and 3–6
some thought is given to precision and repeatability. marks
b) A reasonable number and range of observations and measurements are carried out. Any anomalous
results are noted. There is some appropriate modification of procedures for data collection if

Results will be recorded in suitable tables with clear headings. Units should be clearly indicated in the
headings only and should follow the Institute of Biology guidelines. It is not necessary to find anomalies
where they clearly do not exist but some comment on this will be expected.Judgements on the extent of
data and reasonable number of repeats should be viewed in the context of the investigation. In particular,
is there a reasonable amount of data to make a meaningful judgement on the hypothesis bearing in mind
what could be expected from an A-level student in the circumstances.Students use common sense in
checking their data as it is collected, to identify and possibly repeat experiments if unusual figures or
readings are obtained.

- 27 -
a) Observations and measurements are carried out over a suitable range of values and conditions. 7–8
Sufficient observations are made to allow a conclusion. Numerical results are recorded to an marks
appropriate degree of precision.
b) Measurements and observations are repeated as appropriate. Any anomalous results are noted and
investigated. If problems arise in the making of measurements or observations, procedures are adapted
to ensure data is reliable.
The range of values or conditions is well-matched to the investigation. This may be justified by checking a
running mean or by reference to the requirements of a chosen statistical test. Tables of collected or
manipulated data quote figures to a level of accuracy that can be justified by the methods employed.
The tabulated data reflects good practice in accurately identifying possible anomalies and shows sound
scientific practice in dealing with variations. There is objective analysis rather than a determination to
conform to a preconceived model.

- 28 -
Observing and recording

Exemplar 1

The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells


Transect 1

Distance Number Temp(°C) Light No. limpets % water

from Grey intensity cover
Sea Wall (M) Top Shells (lux)
0 0 18 8200 0 0
5 0 21.2 6850 0 0
10 0 18 8750 0 0
15 2 20.6 8050 0 0
20 3 19.8 13000 0 0
25 9 19.8 15000 2 0
30 4 21.2 11500 1 0
35 5 19.8 3050 0 0
40 2 21.6 13000 0 5
45 2 19.8 1750 0 20
50 13 21.4 12000 8 50

Transect 2

Distance Number Temp (°C) Light No. limpets % water

from Grey intensity cover
Sea Wall (M) Top Shells (lux)
0 0 19.4 1400 0 0
5 0 19.4 4200 0 0
10 0 19.2 6000 0 0
15 1 19.6 8900 0 0
20 3 20 7900 1 0
25 2 18.8 5800 0 0
30 6 18.8 5000 1 50
35 5 19 4900 3 0
40 7 19.4 5000 4 0
45 17 20 4300 9 20

Transect 3

Distance Number Temp (°C) Light No. limpets % water

from Grey intensity cover
Sea Wall (M) Top Shells (lux)
0 0 22.2 8200 0 0
5 0 22.2 10500 0 0
10 0 22.2 11500 0 0
15 0 22 12500 0 0

20 1 21.6 10000 1 0
25 2 21.6 14000 1 10
30 6 21.4 23500 2 10
35 5 21.7 20000 6 25
40 8 21.4 20000 4 40

Transect 4
NOTE transects 4 & 5 data omitted from exemplar


O(a) Measurements are recorded accurately with a minor error of 22.00C. Units are in headings
and generally accurate. Precision is fine but we are not clear exactly what % water cover is.
The range is questionable with 3 of the readings having no topshells. It is not clear why some
data has been recorded (limpets? water cover?) when it does not seem to link directly to the
O(a) At the upper end of the 3-6 range.

O(b) There were 4 transects so plenty of repeats. There is no reason to repeat readings but
procedure could have been modified to eliminate so many zero readings.
O(b) strong 3-6

Overall O = 6

Observing and recording

Exemplar 2

Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple


Age of pineapple Diameter of Diameter of clear liquid (cm)

(days) original hole (cm) Repeat: 1 2 3
1 1 1.3 1.4 1.4
2 1 1.4 1.4 1.4
3 1 1.4 1.4 1.5
4 1 1.5 1.6 1.6
5 1 1.7 1.6 1.7
6 1 1.8 1.8 1.8
7 1 1.9 1.8 1.8
8 1 1.6 1.7 1.8
9 1 1.9 1.8 1.7
10 1 1.7 1.7 1.8

Age of pineapple Increase in diameter (mm)

(days) Repeat: 1 2 3
1 3 4 4
2 4 4 4
3 4 4 5
4 5 6 6
5 7 6 7
6 8 8 8
7 9 8 8
8 6 7 8
9 9 8 7
10 7 7 8


O(a) The data is recorded methodically but accuracy is suspect. Although there is no evidence
that these wells were circular and therefore we could expect repeated readings of the
diameter for accuracy. It is clear that the edge of the digested gelatine is indistinct and
therefore given the very small differences recorded the data is unreliable. The lack of
processing to give areas would be considered under interpreting and evaluation criteria.
O(a) 3-6 weak

O(b) There are some significant questions over the time scale for this. Differences are
marginal at times and longer intervals would have been more effective. This would limit marks
to O(b) 3-6

Overall O = 4

Observing and recording

Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in humans


Results for high-contrast eye chart

Lowest line read on eye Number of Males Number of Females

0 0 0
1 0 0
2 0 0
3 0 0
4 1 0
5 0 3
6 1 0
7 0 1
8 0 0
9 2 1
10 11 10
Total 15 15

Results for low-contrast eye chart:

Lowest line read on eye Number of Males Number of Females

0 1 0
1 1 1
2 0 0
3 0 2
4 1 2
5 2 2
6 6 4
7 4 3
8 0 1
9 0 0
10 0 0
Total 15 15


O(a) This is straightforward data but this need not limit marks if the investigation is well-
founded in A2 biology. The data is organised into simple size classes to allow more detailed

analysis. Whilst it is clearly ‘fit for purpose’ it is not totally clear that this is the last complete
line that could be read. Given its simple nature we can be justified in expecting this to be
clearly stated.
O(a) At the upper end of the 3-6 range

O(b) Again the measurements will yield some useful information directly linked to the
hypothesis but we might expect more measurements to have been taken.

O(a) At the upper end of the 3-6 range.

Overall O = 6

Interpreting and evaluation

Assessment Level of response Mark

criteria a) focuses on statistical analysis of the recorded data and its interpretation. Range
b) focuses on the use of biological knowledge and understanding to interpret the data.
c) focuses on the ability to draw summary conclusions and evaluate their validity by a discussion of the
limitations of the experimental techniques employed.
Interpreting a) There is some data processing. Statistical analysis is only completed with detailed guidance. 0–3
and Application of calculated statistical values is present, though limited or confused. marks
evaluation b) There is an attempt to apply biological principles.
c) Some conclusions are stated. There is some awareness of the limitations of experimental results and

Data is only manipulated in the simplest way eg the calculation of totals.

A maximum mark of 2 will be applied where there is no evidence of statistical testing.

Biological knowledge and understanding is applied to explain trends and patterns in the data in a very
simple way or information is merely quoted with no evidence of its application to the tabulated results.
There is a short statement of conclusions, which are directly related to the hypothesis.

Limitations are discussed superficially and are concerned mainly with basic errors.

a) Data is processed with some thought as to the choice of method. The chosen statistical test may be 4–6
inappropriate or provide limited analysis of the stated hypothesis. Calculations are clearly set out but marks
the interpretation of the calculated values lacks detailed explanation. Some trends and patterns are
b) Some attempt is made to interpret results using biological principles and draw conclusions based on
experimental results.
c) Conclusions are supported by results. The limitations of results and conclusions based upon them, are

It is expected that these will be discriminating criteria. To move to this mark range students must show
they have used a suitable statistical test and that they have a basic understanding of its meaning (see
additional notes on statistical testing).
Identification of trends and patterns is simple but does go beyond just a word description of the data.
Application of biological knowledge is sound but lacks a detailed discussion linking it closely to the trends
and patterns described. Discussion of limitations identifies some important shortcomings of the apparatus
and the methods employed but lacks a detailed objective review.
There is clear evidence of biological knowledge and understanding gained from initial research being
applied in an attempt to explain the findings and support any conclusions.

a) Data are processed using appropriate methods that reveal trends and patterns. The chosen statistical 7–9
tests are appropriate to the data to be analysed and the hypothesis to be tested. Calculations of marks
statistical tests are clearly set out and interpreted, using a null hypothesis and a 5% confidence level
where appropriate. Trends and patterns are identified.
b) Results are interpreted using biological principles and concepts of Advanced GCE standard. Relevant
biological principles are applied correctly throughout.
c) Conclusions are supported by results. The limitations of results and the conclusions based upon them,
are recognised and evaluated. Any limitations of the procedure are commented upon, and sensible
modifications are suggested.

To reach this level the whole analysis should be accurate and objective. Students must have selected
their information carefully and applied it accurately. They should avoid sweeping generalisations and
demonstrate an awareness that the conclusions they make are likely to lead to other questions or are part
of a wider pattern of interactions.
A consideration of limitations must also include an analysis of the underlying principles and assumptions
of the chosen methodology. Suggestions for modifications must be linked to such an analysis. Collecting
more data or repeating again are not suggestions that can be given credit at this level.

Notes on the use of statistics

a. Principles
There are no statistical tests named in the specification and it is not assumed that students
will have knowledge of the detailed mathematical derivations of the different formulae.

The emphasis at this level is to introduce the principle of statistical testing as a progression
from subjective analysis of data to some objective guidelines when considering how far
collected data agrees or disagrees with the hypothesis under test.

b. What students are expected to demonstrate.

(i) Their ability to select the correct form of statistical test appropriate to their
hypothesis. It is highly recommended that this is an integral part of the plan.
(ii) An understanding of the use of a null hypothesis.
(iii) Their ability to tabulate data in the correct format for calculating their chosen
statistical value.
(iv) Their ability to explain the meaning of any calculated test statistic in terms of 5%
confidence limits, where appropriate, and its relationship to their stated hypothesis
in their own words.

c. Types of statistical tests

There are 3 main types of test.

(i) Tests for a significant difference – typically a t-test or a Mann-Whitney U test

(ii) Tests for a significant correlation – typically Spearman’s Rank test
(iii) Tests for significant association or ‘goodness of fit’ – typically Chi-squared test.

Experience has shown that tests for significant difference and significant correlation account
for over 95% of typical investigations at this level. Obviously, this is not an exclusive list and
there are many other appropriate tests for use in different situations.

Very few investigations lead to chi-squared testing. This is because a chi-squared test needs to
be carried out on categorical data. This is data that consists of counts, which are totalled, in
distinct categories eg red-eye / white eye, colour morphs of Litterinids on different algae etc.
It is not applicable to any data at the interval level of measurements, ie those we would
regard as normal measurements of size, mass etc, nor is it a test of significant difference
between two samples. This is simply because that, where we have only counts of categories, it
is not possible to assess the magnitude of any differences.

d. Null Hypotheses

It is important for students to understand the importance of accuracy in their wording. There
is a large difference in meaning between ‘There is no difference between….’ and ‘There is no
significant difference, (at the 5% confidence level) between….’
The reasoning behind the use of a null value in hypothesis testing is as follows
(i) Start with the assumption that the two means of your samples are the same.
(ii) Take sample measurements to find out what is the true situation.
(iii) Use a statistical test to find the probability of getting values at least as far apart as
those shown in your data.

(iv) If this probability is low (less than 5 chances in 100) then we can say that the
assumption made in (i) is not correct. (reject a null hypothesis).

Hence a null hypothesis is a consequence of the way the statistical test calculates the

e. Using computer calculations

In many cases statistical calculations are rather tedious and a source of error and most
scientists would use computer programmes to carry them out. This is acceptable provided that
there is a clear indication of how the data has been processed and not just the recording of a
single figure.
In practice this would mean including the tabulation used for processing eg the spreadsheet if
using Microsoft Excel or other programmes. or the table of ranks for a Spearman’s Rank
Many commercial programmes also print out not only the test statistic but a formalised
statement as to its meaning. It is strongly advised that students explain in their own words the
meaning of the test statistic and continue to discuss exactly how this is linked to their

f. Further information

There are many useful books available including:

The OU Project Guide – Chalmers and Parker, Field Studies Council ISBN 1 85153809 9

Maths for Advanced Biology – Cadogan and Sutton, Nelson ISBN 0 17448214 0

The OU Project Guide contains a wealth of information that is highly relevant to those
planning investigations or as a teacher’s reference. It has a particularly useful short summary
of the requirements of many statistical tests, which form a useful guide at the planning stage.

Maths for Advanced Biology is shorter and targeted more as a student text.

Awarding high marks in Interpreting and evaluation section(c)

The examiners will be looking for evidence of detailed and objective analysis in this section.
Above all students will be expected to take a detailed look at their methodology and identify
any limitations.
NOTE limitations are not admissions of personal incompetence (‘ I might have misread the
thermometer’ etc). The vital question to ask is ; ‘No matter how carefully I carried out this
procedure, what could still cause my repeat readings to differ’?

This might lead to such questions as, ‘Am I measuring exactly what I think I am?’ or ‘What
other variables might be operating that I have not been able to control’?

More able students may then be able to analyse possible systematic or random errors.
For example, when using a colorimeter, failing to account for the solution by zeroing with a
blank might lead to a systematic error which would be constant for all readings but might
have a proportionally greater effect on lower or higher readings. However, a failure to ensure
that all cuvettes were uniformly clean could lead to random errors where some readings of
transmission might be lowered but not all.
Using this section to correct large errors of planning will only gain limited credit.

‘Sensible modifications’ should follow directly from this type of analysis of limitations.
Simplistic suggestions concerning ‘more repeats’ or changing the range will only gain limited

Interpreting and evaluation
Exemplar 1

The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number on grey top shells

Transect 1

Distance Rank 1 No. Top Shells Rank 2 Difference Difference Squared

0 1 0 2 1 1
5 2 0 2 0 0
10 3 0 2 -1 1
15 4 2 5 1 1
20 5 3 7 2 4
25 6 9 10 4 16
30 7 4 8 1 1
35 8 5 9 1 1
40 9 2 5 -4 16
45 10 2 5 -5 25
50 11 13 11 0 0
Total 66
Correlation 0.67
Transect 2

Distance Rank 1 No. Top Shells Rank 2 Difference Difference Squared

0 1 0 2 1 1
5 2 0 2 0 0
10 3 0 2 -1 1
15 4 1 4 0 0
20 5 3 6 1 1
25 6 2 5 -1 1
30 7 6 8 1 1
35 8 5 7 -1 1
40 9 7 9 0 0
45 10 17 10 0 0
Total 6
Correlation 0.96
Transect 3
Distance Rank 1 No. Top Shells Rank 2 Difference Difference Squared
0 1 0 2.5 1.5 2.25
5 2 0 2.5 0.5 0.25
10 3 0 2.5 -0.5 0.25
15 4 0 2.5 -1.5 2.25
20 5 1 5 0 0
25 6 2 6 0 0
30 7 6 8 1 1
35 8 5 7 -1 1
40 9 8 9 0 0
Total 7

Correlation 0.94
Transect 4

Calculations for transects 4 & 5 omitted from exemplar

Conclusion and Evaluation:

Spearman’s rank correlation from results of the five transects clearly shows positive correlation
between the two variables. This indicates that distance from the sea wall affects the number of
grey top shells. Some correlation is strong, particularly in transects two, three and four with figures
of 0.96, 0.94 and 0.89 respectively. These figures are close in proximity to +1 indicating the
strong positive correlation. The independent variable, (distance from sea wall) impacts the
dependant variable, (number of grey top shells) and proves the null hypothesis incorrect. It is clear
that distance from sea wall has some effect upon the number of grey top shells.

Justification for this strong positive correlation is not however clear. Excluding transect 3,
temperature rose slightly as I moved away from the sea wall. This event was not predicted and may
effect the number of top shells indirectly. Rising temperature away from the sea wall for example
may increase enzyme activity of the molluscs, consequently more top shells would be found further
from the sea wall.

Raising temperature is demonstrated by the temperature change graph and is likely to be the effect
of reduced shade from the sun away from the sea wall. The result suggests that time of
submergence by seawater has a greater impact on desiccation than temperature. Greater time
submerged by water further from the sea wall decreases the chance of an organism ‘drying out’.
More accurate temperature data could have been captured had I had access to soil temperature
thermometers. Soil/sand temperature is more likely affect top shells as the species have contact
with this surface.

The graph for light intensity shows a general increase with increasing distance from the sea wall.
This could potentially impact the amount of food available to the grey top shell. More light for
photosynthesis further from the sea wall may lead to a faster rate of photosynthesis. There are
however several anomalous results for light intensity. This is likely to be the result of passing cloud
cover. A greater number of recordings would be needed to confidently state any trend in light
intensity that may affect the number of grey top shells. Equipment used was also very sensitive and
data alters rapidly between sunshine and cloudy periods.

There are several limitations to the original working hypothesis. A trend has been noticed that
increasing distance increases the number of top shells. The graph also highlights however a more
complex trend. Between 0-20M from the sea wall, there is a gradual increase in the number of top
shells. There is then a peak at around 25M and a reduced number at 30-35M. The number then
escalates rapidly in the lower littoral towards the sub-littoral zone. (Between 40-50M) This higher
number at 20-25M may be the result of isolated rock pools creating ideal conditions for the grey
top shells.

Temperature in the pools would be warm but not too warm, water would prevent desiccation, Simple
seaweeds and detritus would be an ideal food source. Submersion in the water may also provide
added protection from predators.

There are several reasons why the graphs contain anomalous results. The main causes are likely to
be natural (biotic and abiotic) differences. This may be the presence of rock pools, or particularly
sheltered rock. There may be presence of a specific food source. There may even be more top shells

in one area than another for safety in numbers. Top shells may group together for protection from
predators. Humans may also affect numbers of top shells, particularly through trampling.

There may also be limitations in the method of data collection. For example, changing tides
permitted limited length transects. At times just 40M from the sea wall could be reached. If
possible, I would have conducted transects in the sub-littoral zone to continue the line graphs and to
gain a broader view of the number of grey top shells along the rocky shore.

When counting the number of top shells in each quadrat in each transect, it is possible that shells
were counted more than once or even overlooked. Rushing to obtain sufficient data before the tide
changed, it is possible some shells were uncounted.

When wet the grey top shell and other species such as the purple top shell and periwinkle change
colour slightly. This may have led to misidentification of an organism.


I(a) There is a correct statistical test which is clearly set out and directly linked to the main
hypothesis but it lkacks a clear explanation of its meaning and any reference to confidence
limits. Some trends and patterns are identified but these are not always directly linked to the
I(a) 4-6 weak

I(b) This is a weak section. The overall attempt to interpret the data lacks a focus and tends
to make isolated comments rather than a coherent explanation. The application of A2
biological principles is weak.
I(b) 0-3

I(c) Conclusions are confused and not always accurate. Most of the limitations are the result of
poor planning or suggested mistakes and there is little valid suggestion for taking this further.
I(c) 0-3

Overall I = 3

Interpreting and evaluating

Exemplar 2

Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

The results will be analysed using the Spearman rank correlation test. This test was chosen due to
the large number of results that were obtained during the experiment.

Null hypothesis:
There is no correlation between the age of pineapple and the increase in diameter of the clear area
as a result of digestion.

A scattergraph was drawn to show the relationship between the 2 variables. From this graph it could
be seen that after the pineapple had reached the age of 7 days, the relationship between the 2
variables started to drop and the correlation no longer remained steady. Hence, it was decided to
perform the Spearman rank correlation test only on the values up to 7 days of age.

D = the difference between the 2 ranks

Age of
Increase in
pineapple Rank Rank D 4.2
diameter (cm)
1 2 3 1 1 1
1 2 4 5 -3 9
1 2 4 5 -3 9
2 5 4 5 0 0
2 5 4 5 0 0
2 5 4 5 0 0
3 8 4 5 3 9
3 8 4 5 3 9
3 8 5 9.5 -1.5 2.25
4 11 5 9.5 1.5 2.25
4 11 6 12 -1 1
4 11 6 12 -1 1
5 14 7 14.5 -0.5 0.25
5 14 6 12 2 4
5 14 7 14.5 -0.5 0.25
6 17 8 18 -1 1
6 17 8 18 -1 1
6 17 8 18 -1 1
7 20 9 21 -1 1
7 20 8 18 2 4
7 20 8 18 2 4
TOTAL: 0 60

Spearman rank correlation coefficient,

rs = 1 – 6(sum of 4.2 vvalues)

n(n2 – 1)

n = number of samples

Substituting my results into the equation,

rs = 1 - 6 x 60
21(212 – 1)

= 0.961

The critical value for the Spearman Rank correlation coefficient at the p=0.05 level is 0.450 when n
= 20 and 0.428 when n = 22 vii. The rs value from our results is equal to 0.961, which is greater than
both of these critical values. Hence, we can accept that there is significant correlation between the
age of pineapple and the increase in diameter of the clear area. Therefore, the null hypothesis is
rejected. The fact that the rs value has a positive sign means that there is a significant positive
correlation. This agrees with the scatter graph that was drawn.

The results of the statistical test show that there is significant positive correlation between the
age of pineapple and the rate of increase in diameter of the clear area, as a result of digestion.
Therefore, it can be said that as the age of pineapple increases, the rate at which digestion occurs
is faster. This can be explained due to the fact that as the age of the pineapple increases the
concentration of the enzyme stem-bromelain, which is responsible for digestion, increases. This is
because more enzyme molecules are produced as the pineapple matures. Enzymes work by having a
cleft in their surface to which complementary-shaped substrate molecules can bind. As the
concentration of the enzyme increases, there are more active sites available that substrate
molecules can bind to. Hence, the number of enzyme-substrate complexes formed in a given time is
greatly increased. The enzyme-substrate complex then breaks up to form the unchanged enzyme
and the products. In the case of this experiment the protein, gelatine, is broken down by the
enzyme stem-bromelain to form products, one of which is water. As the rate at which the enzyme
works is increased, the amount of gelatine that is broken down into water is increased, and the
diameter of the clear liquid area enlarged.
However, this is only true up to a certain point. According to the scattergraph drawn, after 7 days
the correlation between the 2 variables is no longer obvious. It seems as if the position of the
points begins to drop or steady out. This could be explained as after a certain amount of time, all of
the enzyme that could be produced has been produced, and so the concentration of the enzyme can
increase no further. Furthermore, it could be that as the pineapple gets old it might become mouldy
and the enzyme may be destroyed. However, further work would be needed to understand the true
cause of this.
In conclusion, it can be seen that up to a certain extent, as the age of pineapple increases, the
concentration of the enzyme stem-bromelain increases. Consequently, the rate at which the enzyme
works is increased. This agrees with the hypothesis, and answers the initial aim of the experiment.

Using the results, a conclusion was drawn which answered the questions that were posed in the aims
of the experiment. Hence, the experiment can be seen as a success. Furthermore, the results of the
experiment and of the statistical test agree with my background knowledge. Despite this, there
were a few limitations to the experiment.

• A fridge was used to maintain a constant temperature, maintaining a fair test. However,
enzyme activity is also dependent on temperature, and the temperature of the fridge was
too cold for the enzymes to work at their optimum rate. The result of this was that the
increase in diameter of the clear area was a relatively small number. To improve this, the
thermostat on the fridge could have been set to a higher temperature.
• The method of cutting wells in the gelatine posed the problem that the pineapple juice could
seep underneath the gelatine. Hence, the enzyme in the juice would have reached further
parts of the plate and may have meant that the enzyme digested a larger area of the protein
than normal.
• The method of filling the wells with pineapple juice also meant that the volume of juice was
not always constant. This is because it was hard to judge whether the level of the juice was
the same every time. To prevent this, a trial experiment would have been carried out to see
how much juice the well would hold. This amount of juice could then be added to the well
using a pipette. Hence, a constant volume would have been maintained.
• When measuring the diameter of the clear liquid area, it was often hard to match up the
edge of the liquid area to the graduations on the ruler. To improve this, graph paper could
have been used instead of a ruler to measure the diameter.
If the experiment was to be carried out again these improvements would be included, improving the
quality of the results. Furthermore, the experiment would have been repeated many more times.
This would have helped to eliminate any anomalies and provide more accurate results. Further work
would also include carrying out the experiment for a longer amount of time. This would help us to
understand the pattern of the graph if the age of the pineapple was increased even more, for
example did the rate of digestion begin to drop or steady out? This would fill in the gaps from the
conclusion and give a wider picture of the relationship between the dependent and independent
variables. In addition, future work could involve investigating the other variables such as
temperature, to see how they affect the rate at which the enzyme works.


I(a) The statistical test is correct and directly linked to the hypothesis. It is well set out and
clearly explained in the student’s own words. This could easily meet the requirements for a
maximum mark but the data is simply a diameter when the pattern shown by area digested
might be different and more meaningful.
I(a) Towards the upper end of the 4–6 range

I(b) There is a basic enzyme explanation for the data. References to ‘rate’ are not accurate.
The main trend shown is recognised and some very basic suggestion as to its cause is made.
I(b) This only just reaches the 4-6 range.

I(c) The analysis of the method reveals a catalogue of very poor planning and would have been
better in that section They are certainly the main flaws in this but only limited credit is given
because a much better technique of assessing bromelain activity is needed if these flaws are
to be overcome. Attempts to suggest other modifications are naïve – increase the temperature
of the fridge
I(c) 4-6

Overall I = 4 I(b) is too weak to justify any intermediate marks here

Interpreting and evaluation

Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in human eyesight

I will use a Mann Whitney U Test to demonstrate the data statistically. (Calculations in appendices).
The following table shows the lowest line read for all the subjects on each chart, and the medians.

Line on eye chart 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Median

High-contrast chart: 0 0 0 0 1 3 1 1 0 3 21 Line 9
Number of people
Low-contrast chart: 1 2 0 2 3 4 10 7 1 0 0 Line 6
Number of people

Experimental hypothesis:
The greater the contrast between letters and their background, the more letters read on the eye

Null Hypothesis:
There will be no difference in the amount of letters read on a high-contrast eye chart and a low-
contrast chart.

The lowest value between U1 and U2 is U2, which = 2.5.

n1 = 11
n2 = 11

Using a Mann Whitney U table, the critical value at 5% probability is 30.

2.5 (U1) is lower than the critical value of 30, therefore the null hypothesis is rejected and the
experimental hypothesis is accepted.
More lines can be read on the high-contrast charts than the low-contrast charts.

Data Analysis:
The result of the Mann Whitney U Test showed that eyesight is worse in low-contrast than high-
contrast conditions. This is because at the 5% probability level, the value of U1 (2.5) was far lower
than the critical value of 30. Therefore there is less than a 5% probability that the results
occurred due to chance, and more than a 95% chance that the results are significantly different.
This agrees with the experimental hypothesis that the greater the contrast between letters and
their background, the more letters read on the eye chart.

Graph 1 clearly shows us that most people can read up to line 10 (21 out of 30 subjects) and the data
is close together. This is because there is high-contrast between the black letters and the white
background and because most of the subjects had normal vision. Graph 2 shows us that in low-
contrast conditions, the furthest read is line 8. The grey letters on the second chart have a high
spatial frequency. This means that the alternating light and dark bars in a sine wave grating are
narrow [Appendix 3].

Low spatial frequency (wide bars)

High spatial frequency (narrow bars)

[Appendix 4]

Images from the external world are taken in by neural retinal cells in the eye, which convert light
energy into neural signals. These neural signals are then transmitted to the brain [Appendix 5]. The
brain cannot distinguish patterns with very high frequencies (above 60 cycles/degree) due to the
number of photoreceptor cells, which is a limiting factor [Appendix 6]. The contrast sensitivity
function (sensitivity to different spatial frequencies) peaks at a value of 1 when the spatial
frequency is 8 degrees/cycle. Above this value, then the higher the spatial frequency, the lower the
contrast sensitivity function.

The following graph shows the contrast sensitivity function.

Contrast Sensitivity Function




CSF Value






0 10 20 30 40 50 60
Frequency [cycles/degree]

[Appendix 6]

The grey letters have a high spatial frequency so the contrast sensitivity function is lower, so fewer
letters can be read on the chart. This shows that driving would be more dangerous in low-contrast
than high-contrast situations.

The data is far more spread out for the low-contrast chart. Those that could not read far on the
high-contrast chart could read even less, or not at all, on the low-contrast chart. Graph 3 shows us
that even though the participants could all read up to line 10 on the first chart, they were
differentiated on the low-contrast chart. The subjects’ vision on the low-contrast chart was spread
over 4 lines on the chart, which is a significant difference, considering they could all read the same
line on the high-contrast chart. This highlights the differences in eyesight between individuals and
the impact low-contrast has on our vision. From the data collected, the overall patterns for males
and females correspond. Gender, therefore, has no effect on eyesight.

The time taken to read each eye chart was uncontrolled. This could have introduced random errors
because after staring at an object for long enough your eyes become accustomed and focus slowly
on it. People may have squinted to see further than when their eyes are relaxed. Also, the letters
may have been blurry, which does not truly reflect the person’s vision. Error bars are not needed on
the graphs because each person is individual and consequently the mean and standard deviations are
irrelevant calculations. However, a large sample of 30 subjects was taken, giving representative data
which reduced the likelihood of inconsistent results, such as those people with shortsightedness.
Uncontrolled variables were kept to a minimum to reduce error. The degree of error for this
investigation was quite low and consequently the data was significantly different. The distance from
the eye chart was kept constant because eyesight worsens with distance due to elongation of the
lens to focus light rays on the retina [Appendix 7]. Age was kept constant because diseases that
affect vision such as glaucoma and cataracts are common in older people. Position of the charts and
lighting were also kept constant. Measurements taken were repeatable because the experimental
procedure was short and simple. The large sample, gave enough replicates to support the conclusion
(ignoring anomalies). Therefore, the results are reliable because it was controlled, with a low degree
of error, and repeatable.

However, I was only able to compare two different contrasts, which were extremes. I could not tell
if contrast levels in between had the same effect or how much they affected eyesight. This
investigation only looked at letters on a white background, so other colours of background may have
a different effect.

I could modify the experiment by varying the background of the eye chart rather than the shade of
the letters because this would be a more accurate representation of nighttime vision. The eye chart
for low-contrast could instead have black letters printed on a grey background.


I(a) The statistical test is well chosen for this data which does not always show a normal
distribution. It is explained well and is clearly understood but would have been improved by
the inclusion of at least one stage such as ranking in the calculation.
I(a) 7–9 not max

I(b) There is some complex theory quoted but it is well-selected and there is a clear link to
each of the sources used and how this is applied to the actual data. It is concise and well-
I(b) 7–9 Good

I(c) Certainly the conclusions are supported by the data. The evaluation and suggestions for
modifications would benefit from a more extensive analysis and some comments are a little
I(c) At the top end of the 4–6 range, possibly 7-9

Overall I = 6/7

Assessment Level of response Mark
criteria a) focuses on the organisation of the report as a scientific record of the investigation. Range
b) focuses on the ability of the student to select the most appropriate form of graphical presentation
that is well-matched to their hypothesis and is presented accurately.
c) focuses on the accuracy of the written report and the correct listing of sources in a bibliography.
d) focuses on the range of sources used and an evaluation of their scientific credibility.
Communicating a) The layout of the paper largely conforms to that expected of a scientific paper. The organisation 0–2
of the report shows evidence of some thought and the aim of the investigation is stated. Images, marks
when used, are relevant to the points made.
b) Data is presented in graphs, tables or diagrams, which are mostly appropriate and follow scientific
conventions for presentation.
c) Spelling, punctuation and grammar are generally correct, some technical terms are used
appropriately and most sources used are acknowledged in a bibliography.
d) Sources include at least one professional scientific journal.

At this level there will be some basic organisation of the report into clear sections.
Data will be presented in a suitable format which aids analysis but this may be limited or of
unsuitable format.
There is limited technical language and some spelling errors or poor grammatical expression which
can confuse the underlying meaning. Sources are very limited and listed in a format which does not
identify them accurately.
The term ‘professional scientific journal’ will be judged in the light of what could reasonably be
accessible to an A-level student but there are many sources which are freely available to all students.
(see additional notes)

a) The layout of the report mostly conforms to that expected of a scientific paper with subheadings 3-4
used effectively. The aim(s) and conclusion(s) of the investigation are stated. Images, when used, marks
illustrate points clearly.
b) Data is presented in well chosen graphs, tables or diagrams, which usually follow scientific
conventions and mostly use SI units, where appropriate, correctly.
c) Spelling punctuation and grammar are correct, appropriate technical terms are used throughout.
Sources are selected and used appropriately and are correctly referenced within a properly
constructed bibliography.
d) There is some discussion of the credibility of sources used.

To reach this level it is essential that the report is well-structured and it is likely that the aim(s) and
a summary of conclusions will be included in a concise abstract. Any images should be clearly labelled
and if they are not referred to in the report it will be difficult to judge which points they illustrate
At this level some form of graphical presentation would normally be expected. The graphical format
would be appropriate to the data and useful in analysing the data with respect to the hypothesis. Any
manipulated data used to construct such graphs will be clearly tabulated.
There will be very few typographical errors although an inability to spell scientific terms or correct
names of organisms under investigation is weak for this level. The report will be easy to read and
All references quoted should be accurately identified so that it is easy for the reader to gain access to
the actual article, paper or web page. It should be clear where in the report the sources quoted have
been used.
It is hoped students will use skills gained at AS level to discuss the credibility of some of their

a) The layout of the report conforms to that expected of a scientific paper with appropriate and 5–6
helpful subheadings. The organisation of the report shows evidence of thoughtful planning and marks
aim(s) and conclusion(s) of the project are clearly stated and discussed. Images illustrate the
points effectively and enhance the clarity of the report.
b) Data is presented effectively in graphs, tables or diagrams that follow scientific conventions and
are clearly and accurately labelled using SI units where appropriate.
c) Spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct, and appropriate technical terms are used
d) Sources used are evaluated with reference to their credibility within the wider scientific

The report at this level would be expected to be concise and very well-organised. There would be a short
abstract summarising the main features including the conclusion(s).
Graphical presentation must be selective with a small number of graphs to illustrate important trends
and patterns on the correct format. They will be accurately labelled and carefully plotted.
There will be very few minor spelling errors and all scientific or technical terms will be correct.
All quoted sources will have some comment as to their credibility as acceptable scientific knowledge.

Notes on Graphical Presentation

The selection of correct graphical format is a key element in communicating. The graph is
meant to be a pictorial representation of the main trends and patterns in the data bearing in
mind the suggested hypothesis. This can in some circumstances also lead to a determination
of a mathematical relationship or rate calculations.

Many students find this difficult. The two main areas of difficulty are;
(i) Selecting the format, which is appropriate.
Distinguishing correctly between line graphs, histograms and bar charts.
(ii) Restricting the number of graphs to those, which are key to the analysis of the
hypothesis. In this respect it is common to see repetitive graphs of raw data but
not the all-important summary graph eg graphs of raw data for a set of readings
at individual temperatures but no graph of overall rate vs. temperature.

a. Drawing graphs
The examiners or moderators will show no preference for either computer drawn graphs or
for hand drawn alternatives although hand drawn graphs will have to be scanned into the final
document for submission. Students drawing graphs by hand will need to include all the
elements below and use a thin pencil or pen to draw lines. Those choosing to use computer
programmes must have the relevant knowledge to be able to produce a good graph.
It is the quality, relevance and accuracy of the graph that counts, no matter how it is drawn.
Hence, axis labels with units, suitable scales, clear accurately plotted points and appropriate
lines are common to both.

It is not a requirement that students draw lines of ‘best fit’ on their graphs. In fact, in
many cases this is scientifically poor practice where there is no reasonable assumption that
this is the relationship between the variables.
Where there is a continuous variable on the horizontal axis and no simple relationship we
suggest that line graphs are drawn point to point with a straight line.

When presenting data where a correlation is investigated, scattergraphs of plotted points are
often better left without a straight line, which has been arbitrarily selected, then analysed
using a correlation test. More able students may wish to calculate the equation of the straight
line using ANOVA but this is not a requirement at this level.


Exemplar 1

The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells

Graph to show changes in the number of grey top shells at distances from the
sea wall in transects 1-5

Transect 1
No.Top shells

12 Transect 2

10 Transect 3

8 Transect 4
Transect 5
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Distance (M)

Graph to show differences in temperature in the five transects

Temperature (degrees C)

Transect 1

15 Transect 2
Transect 3
10 Transect 4
Transect 5

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Distance from sea wall (M)

Graph to show changes in light intensity in the five transects


light intensity (lux)

Transect 1
Transect 2
Transect 3

10000 Transect 4
Transect 5

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Distance from sea wall (M)


C(a) This report was generally well-organised with use of sub-headings and a logical
presentation. There was an abstract and some illustrations (not shown in these extracts)
which were relevant.
C(a) 5-6

C(b) Graphical presentation is poor. A scattergraph might be expected for a correlation and at
least some summary data calculated to show the overall trend. The graphs have been
compressed to fit all on one page and this detracts from their clarity. The two abiotic graphs
simply plot raw data and are not directly linked to the hypothesis.
C(b) 0-2

C(c) Sources are included (see sect R) but there is no attempt to comment on their validity
C(c) 0-2

Overall C = 2


Exemplar 2

Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

Diameter of cleared area against age of pineapple


Diam of well (mm)

0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Age (days)
Date: October 2004
Date: October 2004
Date: October 2004
Date: October 2004
Author: Salters Nuffield Advancd Biology
Date: 2002
Title: AS Student book 1
Page: 77
Author: Salters Advanced Chemistry
Date: 2000

Title: Chemical Storylines
Page: 160
Author: John Adds, Erica Larkcom, Ruth Miller, Robin Sutton
Date: 3/2000
Title: Tools, Techniques and Assessment in Biology. A course Guide for Students and Teachers

I have tried to use a range of resources. My A-level textbooks are reliable sources because they
are well known and sold nationally. Edexcel is an examining board and would check all the information
on its site. The others are companies who sell chemicals so have experts with good knowledge.


C(a) The report is very well organised with clear sections with headings which reflect a
logical, scientific approach.
There was some illustration (omitted here) of the measurement of diameters, which was
relevant and useful.
C(a) 5-6

C(b) The data is correctly presented as a well-formatted scattergram

C(b) 5-6

C(c) There is appropriate vocabulary and use of language. Sources are limited but clearly
listed in a separate bibliography.
C(c) 3-4

C(d) There is some attempt to discuss sources but at a very simple level, Source (ii) might be
considered a journal but it is very marginal
C(d) 2/3

Overall C = 3


Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in human eyesight


Results for high-contrast eye chart

Lowest line read on eye Number of Males Number of Females

0 0 0
1 0 0
2 0 0
3 0 0
4 1 0
5 0 3
6 1 0
7 0 1
8 0 0
9 2 1
10 11 10
Total 15 15

Results for low-contrast eye chart

Lowest line read on eye Number of Males Number of Females

0 1 0
1 1 1
2 0 0
3 0 2
4 1 2
5 2 2
6 6 4
7 4 3
8 0 1
9 0 0
10 0 0
Total 15 15

Lowest line read on high-contrast chart



Number of people

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Lowest line read on chart

Number of Males Number of Females

Lowest line read in low-contrast chart

Number of people

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Lowest line read on chart

Number of Males Number of Females

The following graph eliminates all participants unable to read the 10th line on the high-contrast
chart. There are 21 subjects’ data incorporated into this graph for the low-contrast chart.

Low-contrast vision in the well-sighted

Number of people

5 6 7 8
Lowest line read on chart

Number of males Number of females


Appendix 1: - Date accessed: 25/08/04

Appendix 2: ‘Eye Health’ by Sandra Salmans
Appendix 3:
Appendix 4: - Date accessed:
Appendix 5: - Date accessed: 31/10/04
Appendix 6: - Date accessed: 31-30-04
Appendix 7: Biological Sciences Review – Janet Marsden

I have selected a range of sources to use in my research. Sources 2, 3 and 6 are from
internationally known universities (Toronto and Vienna). Source 6 is taken from a pHD thesis which
has been supervised by a senior member of the university and then checked like an examination
paper before the higher degree was awarded so has a high level of scientific credibility.
Source 1 is slightly different as this is a website of a commercial company, Vision Science Research
Corporation based in the USA. It carries out research in the area of sight testing and sells
machines for testing for various eye conditions. It does need to sell these machines to doctors and
hospitals so must have some good scientific information to do this.
Biological Sciences Review is written by well-known experts in their field and gives their scientific
background as well as links to other academic references. This can also be regarded as a reliable

My other source of written information (2) is a published text book which again will have been
reviewed and if it is published there will be checks on the author and the information.


C(a) This report was concise clearly laid out with excellent section headings. There were
some good illustrations in section I
C(a) 5–6

C(b) The graphs are clear and analyse interesting aspects of the hypothesis. The use of 3D
columns is visually effective but scientifically detracts from the accuracy and ease of
interpretation. There could be debate about whether the horizontal axis is continuous and
hence the format should be a histogram or a bar chart, as shown is more appropriate as these
are discrete measurements but overall this was accepted.
C(b) 5–6

C(c) All spelling punctuation and grammar was good with good use of technical terms. Sources
are correctly applied and clearly listed.
C(c) 5–6

C(d) There is sensible discussion of the credibility of sources.

C(d) 5–6

Overall C=6 There is no reason not to award a maximum here.

Summary Marks for the exemplar investigations

All marks suggested for these exemplars should be regarded as indicative only. Decisions on
final standards to be applied and grade boundaries can only be reached after careful
inspection of actual students’ work by a team of experienced examiners and moderators.

Exemplar 1
The effect of position on the rocky shore on the number of grey top shells

R = 7, P = 1, O = 6, I = 3, C = 2 TOTAL = 19 marks

Exemplar 2
Investigating the effect of ageing on bromelain activity in pineapple

R = 3, P = 6, O = 4, I = 4, C = 3 TOTAL = 20 marks

Exemplar 3
Investigating contrast sensitivity in human eyesight

R = 9/10, P = 9, O = 6, I = 6/7, C = 6 TOTAL = 37 marks

Note, in calculating this total the higher mark was awarded for R but the lower mark for I.

Indicative grades
Whilst exemplars 1 and 2 have similar totals which might be expected to correspond to low
grades, they do illustrate a wide range of marks in each criterion.

Exemplar 3 is of a high grade piece of work.

Offering students individual opportunities to meet all the criteria

a. Generating a variety of suitable investigations.

First of all it is worth repeating the general advice given in planning notes.
(i) Ensure that students investigate a meaningful but interesting question and do not
attempt simply to demonstrate a basic ‘fact’. However, it is recognised that many
interesting ideas are used year on year by centres. In most of these cases the
questions may be familiar to teachers but not to each cohort of students and
therefore they still provide excellent opportunities.
(ii) Ensure that the hypotheses to be tested are well-focused and do not attempt to
investigate multiple variables. The inclusion of a clear statistical intent in the
hypothesis is an excellent way of ensuring the hypothesis is clear. Such statements
as ‘There is a significant difference between …..’ or ‘There is a significant
correlation between ..…’ provide a clear focus for theoretical background and
planning data collection etc.

When planning ahead it is vital to be able to offer a variety of investigations which will allow
students to address the criteria in different ways. Clearly what is offered will depend upon
your resources, your freedom to take students on visits and the numbers in each cohort.

Whatever is planned it is vital to review your ideas by asking the following question. ‘Will
the investigations on offer lead to most students using almost identical methodology, data
analysis and evaluation?’ If the answer to this question is yes then an examiner or
moderator will be placed in a difficult position in attempting to determine the individual
contribution of each student and find it more difficult to support the award of high marks.

Using a simple matrix can often generate a surprising number of individual variants. The one
shown below uses field work on a rocky shore as an example.
Organism size /ratios associations morphology
verses position verses aspect
on shore / exposure
Littorina 3 3 3
Dogwhelks 3 3
Limpets 3 3
Fucus 3 3
Fucus 3 3
Ascophyllum 3
Lichens 3

The type of hypotheses derived from such a matrix could then be;

Significant differences

1. Height to base ratio of limpets.

2. Numbers of paired bladders of F. vesiculosus at two different heights on the shore or
different exposures.
3. Operculum to length ratio of dogwhelks.
4. Abundance of the orange lichen Caloplaca sp. on exposed and sheltered shores.

Significant correlations

1. Colonisation of F. serratus by the spiral worm Spirorbis sp. at different heights of the
2. Desiccation rates of different algal species compared to their position on the shore.
3. Abundance of the epiphyte Polysiphonia with age of Ascophyllum nodosum.

Significant associations

1. Colour morphs of Littorina obtusata on different algal species.

These are only a few examples of what might be investigated on such a rich habitat but they
do illustrate a wide range of approaches.
A simple way to create even more variation would be to direct students towards a certain

A number of the examples above could be approached in two different ways such as
investigating a significant correlation or a significant difference in algal desiccation by
sampling a range of algae or just an upper and a lower shore alga. Hence whilst the basic
concept is similar there will be very different reports as sampling, data presentation and
statistics will provide plenty of individual variation.

Provided that there is a number of alternatives on offer it is also possible to draw up a similar
number of variations for laboratory-based investigations.

In Appendix 1, there are some suggestions for a range of investigations not commonly

b. Working with larger groups

Many centres will have large cohorts of A2 students. It is unlikely, even with a great deal of
imagination, that sufficient numbers of different investigations can be identified. In such
cases it is acceptable for there to be several examples of similar investigations. A sensible
approach to this problem would be to treat each teaching group separately. A good range of
different investigations would be expected within this group but the process could then be
repeated with each different group.

In these circumstances it would be advisable to include, with the work, a short note
explaining to the examiner or moderator how the groups have been organised within the
This is particularly important for samples submitted for moderation, which are randomly
selected and therefore may not contain a representative proportion of each investigation.

c. A2 level of investigation

There are two aspects to consider when making a judgement about whether the investigation
is of the correct level.

(i) Is the level of accuracy of measurement sufficient to produce reliable data?

(ii) Is the biological knowledge and understanding required of A2 level?

A good example might be to consider a simple investigation into apple browning.

Simply attempting to assess apple browning subjectively or against a standard scale would not
be sufficient at this level for (i). Even measuring area is badly flawed as there is no
quantitative link to why one area should brown and not another. If this was simply used to
compare one apple with another it would not meet the requirements for (ii) either.
However if apple samples were filtered or centrifuged then tested in a colorimeter, some
accurate data could be obtained. This would still be insufficient unless it were linked to an
interesting and more challenging question. In this case it could be used to look at why some
apple varieties brown much more quickly than others. Is this because of the presence of
polyphenol oxidase inhibitors, simply a lack of the enzyme or something else? What
predictions could be made in each of these cases and how could they be tested? Obviously
there is now the opportunity for some individual research, thinking and perhaps a little

This would also serve to illustrate that it is not the use of sophisticated apparatus that counts
but the formation of interesting and informed questions that is more likely to yield successful
investigations. As biologists at this level we are in a unique position to pose such interesting
questions and investigate them in a meaningful manner.

d. A word of caution

Perhaps as a legacy of Key stage 3 and previous GCSE coursework, there is an ongoing
reluctance to move away from standard enzyme investigations. It should be noted that merely
repeating such investigations at this level will not show the necessary progression for the
award of more than average marks.
If enzyme investigations are to be used students should be aware that the examiners or
moderators will be looking for a much higher degree of understanding and measurement of
rates and more sophisticated hypotheses than those commonly displayed at lower mark
On a similar level, human investigations with extremely poorly controlled sampling or
investigating simplistic changes in pulse rate, are unlikely to yield sufficient evidence for
higher marks in several of the criteria.

Giving Help and Assistance
All internal assessment depends upon the professional integrity of teachers. When submitting
work for this examination you are asked to add your signature and declare ‘that the work of
this student is, to the best of my knowledge, the student’s own’.
In simple terms this means that everything submitted for assessment must represent the best
efforts of the student to address the criteria. Therefore any part of the report, which is not
the direct result of their own thinking and is simply following the instructions of others must
be annotated and not used in the final assessment. This could best be amplified in two stages.

a. Getting Started
All students will need considerable help and support to set them on the right path. In addition
to having some prior knowledge of the techniques they are to use they may also require some
assistance in finding relevant sources of information.

What is acceptable and desirable.

(i) The provision of simple ‘briefs’, where necessary, to provide important information that
students would not be expected to know. This may include details of using a particular piece
of apparatus they may not have met before or an outline introduction to a technique with
which they are not familiar.

(ii) A check must be made on the initial outline plan to ensure that any obvious health and
safety issues have been addressed and that the proposed methods are likely to yield
meaningful data. Responses should point out the problem not the solution and provide an
opportunity for the student to continue with an acceptable investigation. Where weak
students are unable to formulate a plan that will enable them to proceed to the data
collection stage in a meaningful way, then teachers should intervene with more detailed
assistance with the award of a lower mark. In this way such students will at least be able to
access higher marks in subsequent criteria rather than continuing with a poor plan.

What is not acceptable

(i) The provision of detailed ‘recipes’, which not only give essential information but also
include detailed precautions or methods for controlling important variables. This is likely to
prevent the student scoring more than minimal planning marks and to remove one of the main
aims of trial testing, both of which are important criteria.

(ii) Responding to initial plans in such a way that the student is given many details, which
might subsequently be credited as their own work.

b. The final stages

The examiners wish to encourage students to give as much evidence as they can of their
ability to meet the criteria. As the criteria are marked in hierarchical fashion it is particularly
important that students have made at least some attempt to address them all.
A checklist is included in this guide as Appendix 2.

What is acceptable and desirable

(i) Teachers will need to check the report and ensure that the student has attempted all the
criteria. To do this students may need to be given a short deadline to attempt to rectify any
omissions or significant oversights but this should not be a prolonged or repeated process. The
checklist can be used by students or teachers for this purpose.

(ii) It is not expected that teachers will withdraw from the normal teaching process, simply
that they will take care to ensure that the final report is truly representative of the student’s

Hence the following might be suitable responses;

‘ Your planning is weak – you need to think more carefully about other variables and exactly
what you are to measure’
‘You have not addressed I(c) – use clear subheadings to make sure you cover all the criteria’

What is not acceptable

(i) Completed reports must not be returned to students for continued redrafting and
especially if accompanied by detailed comments, written or oral, on how they might be
improved. This clearly falls outside the meaning of ‘the student’s own work’ and erodes the
differential between the work of more and less able students.

The following are the type of responses, which would be giving detailed assistance. They
should be noted on the report and a reduced mark awarded;

‘ You have drawn a line graph when it should be a bar chart.’

‘ You should calculate the area of the cleared area by using the average of several diameters
because it is not circular.’

Edexcel is likely to penalise any student that deliberately copies information and attempts to
pass it off as original work of their own. Since 2006, Edexcel has been using new software to
identify any potential cases of plagiarism.

However, schools could also follow the Joint Council for Qualifications(
advice on detecting plagiarism:

Keeping watch on content

• Varying quality of content is one of the most obvious pointers. Well-written passages
containing detailed analyses of relevant facts alternating with poorly constructed and
irrelevant linking passages ought to give rise to suspicion.
• Another practice is for candidates to write the introduction and conclusion to an
assignment to make if fit the question, and then fill in the middle with work which has
been lifted from elsewhere.
• If the work is not focused on the topic, but presents a well-argued account of a related
matter, this could be a sign that it has been used elsewhere. The same applies if parts of
the work do not fit well together in developing the response to the assignment.
• Dated expressions, and references to past events as being current can also be indications of
work which has been copied from out-of-date sources.

Keeping watch on vocabulary, spelling and punctuation

• The use of a mixture of English and American vocabulary or spellings can be a sign that the
work is not original.
• If the piece contains specialised terminology, jargon, obscure or advance words, the
internal assessors should ask if this is typical of this level of candidate and reasonable, or if
it is because the candidate did not write the passage.

• Is the style of punctuation regular and consistent?

Keeping watch on style and tone

• Look for differences in the style or tone of writing. If a candidate uses material from
textbooks alongside items from popular magazines the change of tone between the two
should be marked.
• Look at level of sophistication of the sentence structure. Is this the sort of language that
can be expected from a typical student? Is the use of language consistent, or does it vary?
Does a change in style reflect a change in authorship at these points?

Keeping watch on presentation

• Look at the presentation of the piece. If it is typed, are the size and style of font uniform?
What about use of headers and sub-headers? Are the margins consistent throughout? Does
the text employ references and if so is the style of referencing consistent? Are there any
references, for example, to figures, tables or footnotes, which don’t make sense (because
they have not been copied)?
• Lack of references in a long, well-written section could indicate that it had been copied
from an encyclopaedia or similar general knowledge source.
• Look out for quotations that run on beyond the part which has been acknowledged.

Other techniques
• Type in phrases or paragraphs into ‘Google’ and see if this comes up with a website that
matches closely, if not entirely.
• Search parts of the bibliography for suspicious websites that are too closely matched to the
• Use free software as described on,,, or

Remember that the centre, as well as the student, is liable for any plagiarism because the
teacher will have signed a declaration ensuring that the student’s work is their own.

Appendix 1

Some ideas for investigation

Ideas can come from AS or A2 units or broadly associated biological principles. In practice,
provided that the investigation is soundly based in A2 level biology, the examiners and
moderators wish to encourage as wide a range of interesting ideas as possible.
However, centres are reminded that students are forbidden from submitting the same
investigation for more than one subject. This will be particularly relevant for students who
are also studying Psychology, Sports Science or Physical Education at Advanced level.


Further details of the ideas marked * can be found at the excellent Science and Plants for
Schools website

1. *Pollen tube growth – is it affected by storage time? sucrose concentration? excision of

flower from stem ?

2. Do conifer extracts inhibit growth/germination of other species?

3. *What is the effect of different growth substances on white mustard seed explants ?

4. *Investigating photosynthesis – try interesting questions not just light intensity or

wavelength eg. temperature or effects of other extracts / pollutants. Use different
protocols see SAPS on immobilised algae using colorimetry or investigate the new carbon
dioxide and oxygen sensors to measure rates.

5. *Using Duckweed as a bioassay.

6. How are stomatal numbers/sizes etc affected by growth conditions? Try direct
observations of purple pigmented leaves of Tradescantia as well as nail-varnish peels (or
less toxic water-based varnish*)

7. Stomata open in the light and close in the dark don’t they?

8. *Investigate the effects of ethene on sugar content of ripening fruits. (ripening bananas
provide ethene and Potassium Manganate IV will absorb it.

A word of warning. Enzymes provide excellent material for investigations but experience has
shown that many students submitting them find great difficulty in demonstrating any
progression from modest GCSE standard. If you wish to use enzyme investigations please
ensure that they have the potential to offer A2 level standards. Demonstrating denaturation
or pH optima will qualify for very limited marks at this level. A good example of the standards
expected is given in Unit 1 where the core practical asks for measurement of initial rates.
Enzymes become much more interesting when they are extracted by students and can be
linked to interesting contexts.

9. *Catchecol oxidase can be extracted easily from mashed banana and used with pure
catchechol to produce the same brown colour found in oxidising food and fruit.

10. *Germinating beansprouts contain a phosphatase which shows end product inhibition in
different phosphate solutions.

11. Potato extract contains a starch synthesising enzyme using glucose-1-phosphate as

substrate (but this can be expensive)

Other enzyme ideas

12. Invertase is inhibited by high substrate concentrations.

13. Lowering temperature can increase the effective pH range of enzymes.

14. Can pH denaturation be reversed in immobilised enzymes?

BUT make sure you can measure RATE.

Human Investigations
More warnings. This type of investigation can provide good opportunities but also major
pitfalls. It will be expected that some reasonable effort is made to standardise samples and
quantify any variables such as ‘fit / unfit. Any measurements would also be expected to have
sound validity.

15. Does cardio-vascular training reduce resting heart-rate?

16. How does colour/contrast affect eye-test results?

17. Does drinking caffeine really increase alertness / reaction time (NOT using dropped ruler
test. Lots of accurate reaction timers available on-line) Be careful to distinguish reaction
from reflex.

18. Given the switch in many school timetables is there any evidence that simple learning /
reaction tests are better performed in the morning?

Again avoid repeating well-documented ‘standard’ investigations.
Oxygen / CO2 sensors can be used to good effect with yeast cultures as well as oxygen evolved
Methylene Blue and TTC are also alternatives for assessing rates but some standardisation of
end point is vital.

19. Investigations can be linked to interesting questions on inhibitors.

If using different substrates ensure concentrations are SI molesdm-3 not %.

Provides a very large range of opportunities for interesting and original work. Taking a large
group to a single location using a similar technique might be very limiting but many locations
offer a range of habitats. Once again try to get students to pose interesting questions.

An interesting way to increase variety is to guide students into different approaches to the
same problem eg do algae found on the lower shore desiccate more rapidly than those on the
upper shore?
Approaching this as a test for a difference between two selected species or as a correlation
between several species moving down the sure ensures very different problems of sample
selection, tabulation and graphical presentation and statistical analysis.

Investigations on individual species often offer more opportunities to meet the criteria to a
high level.

20. Are colour morphs of Littorina mariae associated with different algal species?

21. Does the length of the first internode of Ammophila arenaria grow longer on more
exposed dunes?

22. Does the distribution of one barnacle species vary with aspect of the rock?

23. Is the biodiversity in rock pools linked to times of immersion by the sea?

24. Is the distribution of Pleurococcus on the bark of trees influenced by aspect?

25. Is there a correlation between distribution of one plant species and soil water

26. Investigate factors affecting the decay of leaf litter.

27. Factors affecting the distribution/predation of holly leaf miners ( see www.field-studies-

28. Does trampling on a football/hockey field affect the distribution of Plantain sp. (Try
quantifying trampling by direct observations of marked quadrats during sports sessions)

29. Will global warming affect the development of tadpoles/ Brine shrimps (see Note this is essentially a core practical and therefore students will
need to demonstrate some originality of approach to achieve higher marks.

30. Do ant numbers increase around a sugar source by random accumulation or by


31. Are there more earthworms in ‘organic’ soil?

Take care to ensure that alternatives offered give sufficient opportunity for individual
planning eg many students using bacterial lawns and simply testing different substances will
result in lots of very similar reports making identical points or largely repeating their core
practical training.
Consider methods such as optical density of liquid cultures too.

32. Investigating competition between 2 bacteria or fungi etc.

These are just a few suggestions, there are obviously many more according to your location,
ability to attend field centres and resources.

Appendix 2 - Unit 6 Individual Investigation – Checklist

Criterion 3
A2 level Biological knowledge used to explain the
Research & nature of the investigation.
rationale All the information included is relevant to the
There is a good range of sources researched.
It is clear where in the report sources have been
Report has a clear plan of action and describes
Planning how all the main variables are to be controlled.
Which statistical test is to be applied is included
in the plan.
Risk assessment is included.
A trial experiment has been carried out and
simple results recorded.
Method has been amended in the light of trial
experiment if necessary.
There is sufficient data to make some
Observing & conclusions.
recording Tables have correct units in headings only and
consistent use of sensible significant figures.
Readings are repeated if possible. Any significant
anomalies are dealt with during data collection.
The table needed for the statistical test is
Interpreting & included.
evaluation I have explained, in my own words, what the
statistical test shows me about my hypothesis.
The main trends and patterns are described.
Researched information is used to try to explain
the data that has been collected.
There is a discussion of the main limitations of
the methods used.
Sensible modifications to the procedure have
been suggested.
The report has been checked for spelling errors
Communicating There are subheadings for each different section
of the report.
The report has a word count on each page and is
not longer than 3300 words.
The graphs are carefully selected to be useful in
interpreting the data and making conclusions
concerning the hypothesis.
Sources of information are accurately listed and
include at least one professional scientific
There is a comment on each source describing its

Appendix 3 - Guidance for centres on electronic submission of
candidates’ assessed work

What is a sample?

A sample is a representative selection of candidates’ completed work for a unit.

It is required that internal standardisation has been carried out within the centre prior to the
submission of marks.

A sample must be submitted for each unit you have entered candidates in order to verify your
assessment and to issue final marks to candidates.

How do I know which candidates’ folder to include in the sample?

Sampled candidates are identified with a tick on the Edexcel online mark submission screens.

How do I submit a sample?

Samples are submitted to the moderator on CD. You should submit one CD per unit, and keep
a back up of all sampled work securely within your centre

How should I format the CD that is sent to the moderator?

Each student’s assessed work submitted to Edexcel should be in a single document; this
final document must be in one of the following formats:
.rtf Rich Text Format
.pdf Portable Document Format (Adobe Acrobat)

You must only submit the final version of work for each candidate which must be in a
single document.

If you are able to use Word to create your work then you should do so. It will be much
simpler for you if you can use Word, because then your work is more likely to be compatible
with other computers and it will also be easier to hand in.

If you do not have access to a PC with Word, then try to use an equivalent word processing
programme. When the final document is complete it can then be saved as a Rich Text Format
document or converted to a pdf file.

CDs which are not formatted, labelled or structured according to guidelines provided in
this document will be returned to centres unmoderated. Under such circumstances,
Edexcel cannot guarantee the timely issue of results for candidates entered.

Candidates work must be burnt to CD. They should not be burnt to DVD.

Should I zip the work that I burn to CD?

Please do not zip folders containing candidate work. The moderator should be able to access
all files and folders directly from the CD without unzipping or altering in any way the files or
folder structure.

How should candidates work be organised and named on the CD?

A separate folder on the top-most level of the folder tree should be used for each of the
sample candidate’s work. Each folder should be named according to the following naming

[centre #]_[candidate #]_[first two letters of surname]_[first letter of first name]

For example, John Smith with candidate number 9876 at centre 12345 would have work in a
folder titled, “12345_9876_SM_J”

Do I need to include the Cover Sheets on the CD?

Yes. You should create a separate folder on the top-most level of the folder tree named
“Cover Sheets”. This folder should contain one cover sheet per sampled candidate.

Each cover sheet should be clearly identified as relating to a specific candidate’s work.

CS_[centre #]_[candidate #]_[first two letters of surname]_[first letter of first name]

Should I test the CD prior to despatching it to the moderator?

Yes. Prior to the CD being despatched to the moderator it should be thoroughly tested to
ensure that the files have burnt to the CD correctly, and that all files within each folder can
be accessed.

How should I label the CD that is sent to the moderator?

A label should be stuck on the top of the CD itself with the following information clearly



How do I send the CD with samples to the moderator?

The CD containing the candidates’ samples should be posted in an appropriately sturdy

envelope to the nominated moderator. You should also indicate the unit and centre number
on the envelope, above the moderator’s address details.

Should I send the CD Recorded Delivery or ordinary post?

CDs should be sent ordinary post and not recorded delivery, so that they may be received at
the moderator’s address when he or she is not there. You should, however, obtain a proof of
postage certificate from the Post Office. Please ensure that the envelope is small enough to
fit through an ordinary letterbox.

How do I find out where to send the sample?

When submitting marks via Edexcel Online, click on the “Assessment Associates” link to
display the name and address details of your moderator.

Please ensure that where there are different moderators for different units the correct
moderator and address details are used for the appropriate units.

Do I need to send the CD with samples to Edexcel as well as my moderator?

No. You need only to send a copy of the CD to your moderator. If an additional copy is
required you will be contacted directly by Edexcel and advised accordingly. For this reason, a
back-up copy should be held securely at the centre. If CDs are to be sent directly to Edexcel
for any reason this will be communicated to individual centres where required.

Will I receive the CD with samples back from the moderator?

No. The CD is treated as a copy, and so you must ensure that you have a back up stored
securely within your centre.

How do I know that the moderator has received my samples or that moderation has been

If samples are missing you will be contacted directly. You may be required to produce a proof
of postage in order for the second copy to be accepted for moderation.

Important: CDs/sample folders which are not named, formatted, labelled or structured
according to guidelines provided in this document will be returned to centres
unmoderated. Under such circumstances, Edexcel cannot guarantee the timely issue of
results for candidates entered