Thoughts on my exams
When I started my A Levels back in September it was one of the things that all my lecturers, along with my tutor, could not stress enough. “January might seem a long time from now, but it will be here quicker than you could ever imagine.” They were words to take notice of because it was a statement that was dripping with truth. The autumn term flew by faster than I can ever remember it being kind enough to do during my school years, and we were in the Christmas break before I knew it. The speed in which the autumn term went was most likely thanks to the fact that I am enjoying being back in education so much. The three subjects I have chosen: maths, biology and chemistry, are all very interesting and, for maths especially, not short of challenging ideads to find my way around. My only real regret from when I started was taking ICT as my fourth subject. It’s an area where my interest has plummeted since leaving school, and a few weeks worth of lessons told me my fondness of this subject wasn’t going to be rekindled anytime soon. If I did it all again I would have thrown caution to the wind and took law instead of ICT.
Now, I guess I should move onto the topic of this post – my thoughts on the January exams I took.
Chemistry (OCR) – I figured starting with my favourite subject is as good a place as any. Overall, I feel this exam went the best of the three I took. There’s one thing that didn’t go well which I will get on to in a moment; it’s a little embarassing and for that reason I think that it deserves a section of its own. I was very relieved to find that the questions were all on topics I am pretty confident with – trends down and across the periodic table, ionisation energy, intermolecular forces etc. Nothing really jumped out and made me panic, which I was grateful for – there have been some nasties hidden away in the past exam papers I have practiced with. Overall, I think I did well enough in this exam to get at least a B grade, but I do have my heart set on getting an A because it’s the subject I want to take at university.
Biology (OCR) – In class I am generally quite confident with the majority of topics we have covered in biology, but I don’t think this exam really gave a chance to showcase this knowledge. My favourite topics like the heart, cell ultrastructure, transpiration and translocation were either skipped over with little more than a two mark question or missed out entirely. They found my weak point though with questions on cell signalling. My knowledge on that subject was left at home; why can I never remember that definition? Overall, I’d be happy with a C for this exam. I don’t think I did enough to get a higher grade here. This exam also joins the chemistry one with a question-specific note in a moment.
Maths (OCR) – This exam went much better than I was scared it was going to. I was dreading a question on the application of differentiation similar to the one in our end-of-term test. Whilst I’m confident enough with the concept of differentiation and can (finally) convert functions into indices ready to differentiate, I go to pieces when asked to apply that idea to a theoretical scenario. Thankfully, nothing but basic skills in this area were tested. Except for the last question I think I answered everything else reasonably well. Similar to biology I’m hoping I did enough to get a C in this exam, then I might try to improve this grade in the summer. Higher than a C would obviously be absolutely fantastic, and would be better than anything I’ve managed in a maths exam thus far.
Now for the specific points I raised with chemistry and biology.
The ‘stupid mistake’ award – Without a doubt I give this for my answer to one of the chemistry exam questions. The question was simple enough; just give the formula of a molecule with 90° bond angles. I knew that 90° bond angles meant six atoms bonded to a central atom. SF6 is a good example. One mark in the bag for most people, I imagine. Unfortunately I wasn’t most people, favouring instead to write BF6 for some reason known only to exam-sitting logic. I had the right idea, but poor boron lacks the six electrons required to make such a molecule possible. This was just as bad as when I put that oxygen makes six bonds in my first biology lesson after Christmas. Six outer electrons, six bonds? Not quite. Let’s hope my chemistry lecturer doesn’t find out.
The ‘why are we doing this’ award – I can’t think of a time before now when I’ve learnt more about something sitting the actual exam that during the lessons preceding it. That was the case in this biology exam though. The topic in question was… yeast. Now, we learn that yeast undergoes mitosis by budding. Fair enough. We learn how the budding process differs from how other cells replicate. In the question we were greeted with we were given the formula for working out the area of a circle and a sphere and, using the measurement of a yeast cell and a budding scab (they do this?) calculate the number of times an average yeast cell could replicate. I think I worked it out right, but to say I wasn’t expecting a question like this is an understatement. Almost one-sixth of the paper’s marks dedicated to a topic that has less than half a page to itself in the OCR textbook.
Now we start the process again on our new modules ready for the exam-heavy summer. Have any of you taken exams this January? If so I’d certainly be interested to hear what exams you took and how you feel you did in a comment. I’m not sure yet if I’m looking forward to March 7th and the results that will come with it.
Thanks as always for visiting and reading. To close the post, here’s a picture of one of my Christmas presents from my Mum, and my new hobby of 2013.