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NST Part IB CDB Assessment: exams and what examiners are looking for

You will be assessed by examination in the Easter Term. The theory papers and practical paper count for 70% and 30% respectively of the final mark.


Theory Paper 1 (3 hours):

An essay paper based directly on the lecture material.

There are three sections:

Section A, Genes and the Nucleus, based on the Michaelmas term's lectures;

Section B, Cell Function, based on the Lent Term lectures on Organelle Biogenesis, Cytoskeleton, Membrane Traffic and Intercellular Communication;

Section C, Development, based on the Lent Term and Easter Term Developmental Biology Lectures.

Candidates are required to answer four questions, including at least one from each section.

Theory Paper 2 (3 hours):

A paper consisting of two sections given equal marks.

Section A consists of eight short answer questions on the whole course. Candidates must answer all eight questions set.

Section B contains more general integrative essay questions, or essay questions that explicitly require material from more than one block of lectures. Candidates must answer two questions out of at least five set.

Practical Paper (3 hours):

This paper consists of questions which require analysis and interpretation of experimental data, and understanding of the methods used to obtain them, based upon the experiments performed and information presented in the practical course, including the Demonstrations. The examiners reserve the right to impose some restriction on the number of questions to be answered.

Past Examination Papers

Copies of other previous examination papers may be consulted in the libraries in the Departments of Plant Sciences, Genetics, Biochemistry and Zoology. Electronic copies of the papers can be accessed at Cell and Developmental Biology Moodle site.

What the examiners are looking for

The short answer is that the examiners are looking for evidence of a good, intellectually critical understanding of the course material. Ways in which you can convince them that you have acquired this include the following:

Some detailed factual information is a minimal requirement, but it has most impact if it is integrated strongly into an overall context, and presented in a way that builds up an intellectually coherent view of the topic.

Cell and Developmental Biology is an experimental subject. You therefore get credit for basing any models or assertions you present on the experimental logic that allows them to be made, as far as is possible, using the knowledge acquired from lectures and recommended reading.

You shouldn't need reminding of this any more, BUT:

Write legibly. Make sure you understand the question asked, and answer it, not the question you would like to have been asked. Organise your time so that you do justice to all the areas of knowledge you write about. In data analysis or problem questions, explain your logic - even if you don't get the right answer, you will get some credit for using the right logic.

Other information

For advice from the Faculty of Biology about Examination Skills click here (Cambridge only).