Synoptic Essays A2 Biology

Essay writing in A-level Biology

Guidance on how to construct the A2 Biology essay.

Whenever they hear the word essay, most people  panic about how to write one: they are not sure how much to write or  how much scientific knowledge and information they need to include or recall. In many of the A-Level Biology courses it takes the form of the Synoptic essay. You will need to demonstrate your ability to bring together principles and concepts from different areas of Biology, and express these ideas in a clear and logical manner. You must also be able  to construct a reasonable length of good quality written work for a given topic, usually between 1000- 2000 words (3-4 A4  length  pages). So how do you start to construct one?

Here are a few tips I have written to guide you through the process.

When writing a Biology essay, marks are awarded for the scientific content, the coverage of the topic and for its coherence. A synoptic type essay is usually marked out of  25 marks and you have about  35-45 minutes to write one.

General principles for marking the Essay : Total marks 25 marks

The four SKILL AREAS which you will be marked for are:  scientificcontent, breadth of knowledge,  relevance and quality of language.

The break down of the marks for each of the skills  are  shown below with some guidance notes.

Scientific content(maximum 16 marks)

Excellent/Good (12-16 marks)

                                     Average (6-10 marks)

                                     Poor (0-4 marks)

For you to gain the high marks, the essay should cover all the main areas relevant to the topic and must include discussion of each area with suitable examples. All the material must be relevant to the topic and the essay should only contain very few factual errors.

Breath of knowledge(maximum 3 marks)

3 (marks)

A well balanced account, making reference to most areas that might be realistically covered in an A-level course of study.

0-2 (marks)

A number of aspects covered but a lack of balance or it is an unbalanced account. Some topics essential to an understanding at this level missed out and not covered. Material entirely irrelevant.      

Relevance ( maximum 3 marks)

3 (marks)

All material presented is clearly relevant to the title.

2-0 (marks)

Material generally selected in support of title but some of the main content of the essay is only marginally important or largely irrelevant material.

Quality of Written Communication ( maximum 3 marks )

3  (marks)

All material is logically presented in clear English. Good use of technical terminology used effectively and accurately .Essay  is of  good  length 2-4  pages in length                                      

                                    2-0 (marks)

Essay very short or under one page in length. Poorly constructed  essay and which often fails to use an appropriate scientific style and terminology to express ideas.             

It is essential that you must PLAN your essay carefully.  This will take around 5 minutes. Bullet point or  jot down key words, diagrams or  a construct a mind map In your plan. Include a brief introduction and a conclusion to summarize the main points.

In the introduction, you should explain the meaning of any ‘key-terms’ mentioned in the title and  the outline of the main points to be covered in the essay.

The essay MUST be written as a piece of continuous prose: Whilst writing the essay DO NOT use subheadings, bullet points,  ie (1) (2)  or (a),(b) etc.

Aim to spend 25-30 minutes writing the essay and 5 minutes at the end to read carefully through the essay to make any  amendments.

Why not use the four keys skills shown above to  construct  and  structure your essay and have a go at practising writing one of these essays?

Synoptic : Past essay questions

  1. The process of diffusion & its importance in living organisms.
  2. The biological importance of water
  3. ATP and its role in living organisms.
  4. Carbon dioxide in organisms  and ecosystems.
  5. How bacteria affect human lives.

Я все. - Довольно, Грег, - тихо сказал Стратмор. Хейл крепче обхватил Сьюзан и шепнул ей на ухо: - Стратмор столкнул его вниз, клянусь .


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