Introduction to A level biology for OCR students
Whilst this information may be useful to all A level biology candidates, the focus will be on the OCR exam board specification.
Module 1: Development of practical skills in biology
Please note: Text in bold is what the OCR A level biology specification requires an understanding of.
Learners should be able to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and understanding of:
How to evaluate results and draw conclusions
The identification of anomalies in experimental measurements
The limitations in experimental procedures
Precision and accuracy of measurements and data, including margins of error, percentage errors and uncertainties in apparatus
The refining of experimental design by suggestion of improvements to the procedures and apparatus
Evaluation of results has previously been discussed as well as pointing out anomalies. Remember, anomalies are results that do not fit the trend. With regards to experimental limitations, are you able to draw valid conclusions? Was there any information you couldn’t get? Perhaps a limitation was lack of time, or lack of participants. With every experiment we need to take into account there will be some error, whether that be in measuring or certain conditions, we cannot get perfect results all the time. Therefore we include this in our results, by calculating percentage errors and uncertainties. When carrying out an experiment we always need to think about how it can be improved. Therefore with every limitation, consider, is there a better way of doing the experiment?
A range of practical experiences is a vital part of a learner’s development as part of this course. Learners should develop and practise a wide range of practical skills throughout the course as preparation for the Practical Endorsement, as well as for the written examinations. The experiments and skills required for the Practical Endorsement will allow learners to develop and practice their practical skills, preparing learners for the written examinations.
Apply investigate approaches and methods to practical work
Safely and correctly use a range of practical equipment and materials
Follow written instructions
Make and record observations/ measurements
Keep appropriate records of experimental activities
Present information and data in a scientific way
Use appropriate software and tools to process data, carry out research and report findings
Use online and offline research skills including websites, textbooks and other printed scientific sources of information
Correctly cite sources of information
Use a wide range of experimental and practical instruments, equipment and techniques appropriate to the knowledge and understanding included in the specification
Some tips for the practical endorsement:
When you begin you should be given a folder with the work you will need to complete. If you have not already been given one by your school, I suggest writing a checklist of everything you need to get done, and have it at the front of your folder. When handing in your folder, it’s better to put everything in order with clear titles to ensure the examiner knows that everything is in there. Presentation matters, therefore, it’s easier to write things in rough when carrying out the experiment, and even doing a rough plan of the write up. Check with your teacher that you have included everything you need to and only then should you write up the final piece. Diagrams should be done in pencil, and should be appropriately drawn. This means no shading and the correct labels. The lines for the labels should be drawn in pencil but the label itself can be written in pen. This ensures the work is neat and clear. When you have finished the piece, make sure to include any citations, providing an account of where you got your information from. For some pieces, all of your information may have come from your teacher, in this case you do not need to include a source. But if you read a book or used a website, then cite it.