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MODULE: Scientific Skills

PISA Intervention Session: Students


This session has been designed to help you to practice answering PISA questions, both paper
and Computer based assessments about Energy. It also helps you to practice reading and
interpreting text; analysing and interpreting data; evaluating scientific inquiries; and explaining
the key concepts and applying your understanding.
1. (10 minutes)
Carry out the Shampoo Computer Based Assessment question on the computer. Read the
information, instructions and questions carefully before selecting or typing in your answers.
Remember that you can navigate backwards and forwards to check and change your
answers.
When you have finished print your answers by clicking on the print icon.

2. (15 minutes)
Read the article and data below, and then answer the questions.
Acid Rain Recovery
Wildlife is returning to damaged habitats, 20 years after international agreements forced
European countries to clean up fossil fuel emissions. Acid rain is made when fossil fuels
burn. Some of the gases produced, particularly sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen,
dissolve in water vapour in the air to make acids.
In the 1970s and`1980s the pollution emissions caused dreadful destruction in Britain
and Europe. Other countries called Britain the dirty man of Europe because weak British
pollution controls caused forest destruction across Europe. But now the environment
seems to be recovering.
Scientists have made the following discoveries:

Acid water kills plants and animals by changing their metabolisms.

Mosses and other plants that disappeared from habitats 15 years ago have now
returned.

Some bird and toad species died out because they depended on water snails and
dragonflies for food.

Over the whole world, levels of sulphur are increasing. Acid rain falls over much
of China.

Scientists found young brown trout at three sites (that used to be very acidic) for
the first time since 1988.

Acidic solutions make toxic aluminium minerals dissolve out of the soil and into
nearby water.

In some areas, acid rain killed all the water snails and dragonflies.

In the 1970s, Britain put 3 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air each year.
This has been cut to only 600, 000 tonnes/year.

Acid rain removed neutralising minerals from soils in hilly areas.

The populations of caddis larvae and damsel flies have increased. These are vital
in the food chains of salmon and ospreys.

In acidic water, brown trouts gills cant take in oxygen. Their eggs are damaged
and young trout are born dead.

Britain still produces high emissions of oxides of nitrogen.

Country
Belgium
Denmark
France
Germany
Great Britain
Holland
Hungry
Norway
Poland
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland

Sulphur put into the


atmosphere (millions of
tonnes) in 1992
44
14
228
912
512
16
133
6
500
313
23
8

Sulphur that fell on the


country in acid rain between
(millions of tonnes) 1992
42
30
202
221
41
60
46
109
340
53
98
50

a. Which countries make much more sulphur pollution than they receive?

b. Which countries make about the same amount of sulphur pollution as they receive?

c. What countries make much less sulphur pollution than they receive?

d. Was it fair to blame Britain?

e. What evidence is there for your answer?

f. What are the effects of acid rain?

g. How does acid rain cause damage?

h. What evidence is there of recovery?

i. What are the reasons for recovery?

3. (15 minutes)
Crash tests
Which Car? magazine is comparing how well different cars protect peoples legs in a
crash. These are the results of the tests they have carried out.
Car type

Forces on the legs (kN)


Driver

Car 1
Car 2
Car 3

Upper leg
Left
Right
11.4
8.8
8.5
4.5
6.39
7.74

Lower leg
Left
Right
5.3
1.4
0.57
0.88
0.94
0.66

Passenger
Upper leg
Lower leg
Left
Right
Left
Right
0.5
1.8
2.0
2.1
1.7
2.1
1.4
1.8
0.58
35
1.1
2.0

a. Make a list of all the variables in the table.

b. Which is the dependent variable?

c. With car 1, what is the average force on the drivers


iv. upper legs

v. lower legs

vi. both legs together?

d. Use all the data in the table to work out which car protects the legs best. Explain your
answer.

The table below gives some data from America.


Vehicle size
Mini (4.2 m long or less)
Small (4.2 4.6 m long)
Medium (4.61 5.0 m)
Large (5.01 5.3 m long)
Very large (over 5.3 m)

Number of deaths (per million cars)


249
181
127
112
133

e. Does it provide strong evidence that big cars are safer than small ones? Explain your
answer.

f. Why might the size or weight of a car affect the safety of the passengers in a crash?

4. (10 minutes)
Read the information and then answer the questions

Mucus
Dr Cerri Harrup is a researcher in respiratory
medicine. She is researching Asthma and the
effects of the build up of mucus in the respiratory
tract. For this research she needs mucus. She
knows from her research that you can make
artificial mucus by mixing two solutions, PVA
and borax. When you mix them the short borax
molecules hold the long PVA ones together.
She is going to carry out scientific enquiries on
mucus with different properties.

borax

Before

PVA

After

Cerri has made the following observations:


1. the thinner the mucus the bigger the area it
spreads over
2. the stronger the mucus the longer it
stretches before it breaks
3. the stickier the mucus the longer it takes a
ball bearing to drop through it.
a. What are the variables?

b. Ceri decided that she wanted to investigate the effects of changing the volume of PVA on
the mucus.
How might she change the volume of PVA to be able to see a pattern in her results?

c. What variables would she control?

d. How would she control those variables?

e. What are the dependent variables?

f. Cerri decided she was going to measure the strength of the mucus?
How would she measure strength?

g. How would she ensure her results are reliable?

5. (10 minutes)
Read the information below and then answers the questions.
Lava
There are active volcanoes all over the World. When a volcano erupts lava can flow down the
sides of the volcano and engulf villages and even people and animals. Scientists need to know
what factors can affect the flow lava so that they can predict how long village and emergency
services have to respond in if an eruption happens.
A team of scientists are studying factors that could affect the rate of lava flow. They are carrying
out this research in their laboratory, and so they are using syrup to model lava, as they behave
the same.
They used the following method:

Three boiling tubes (with bungs) containing syrup.


To one they added a few drops of water added, and added a little sugar.
They kept the boiling tubes upright.
When they were ready to carry out their experiment they tilted a tube so it was slanting
downwards. They used a stopwatch to time how long it took for the syrup to reach the other
end. They then repeated this for the other tubes.
Results
Tube
Syrup
Syrup and water
Syrup and sugar

Time for syrup taken to


reach other end of tube (s)
21
17
27

a. What were the variables?

b. What independent variable did they choose?

c. What do you think there hypothesis was?

d. Why did they have a tube with only syrup?

e. Which type of syrup flowed the quickest?

f. Which type of syrup was the most viscous?

g. Which type of lava would flow down a volcano more quickly: lava with lots of crystals, or
lava with no crystals?

h. What further investigations do you think the scientists should carry out? Why?

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