preparing for scholarship

A little while back I ran a Schol Bio preparation day for Waikato/BoP students (plus some from further afield). Everyone seemed to find the day useful. At the end I asked students to fill out an evaluation form for me, so that I could find out what worked well for them & where I need to improve things. And it occurred to me that it might be useful to highlight here those things that were identified as useful, because you might find some of them relevant in your own preparation.

First, a couple of general responses from me, to general comments. I know Sundays are a pain, & I really appreciate it that people took the time out of their weekend to come in to the University for a day. Believe me, I’d do this during the week if I could! But – given all the other demands on class time, I suspect it would be hard to get the OK to bring students out of class for a whole day. After school might work, but possibly not for those coming from out of town.

And sorry, I can manage lollies but pizzas might blow my budget!

Anyway, on with the list of ‘helpful things’:

  • essay plans – write one for each essay. It might take 5 minutes or so, but it will mean that you’ll write a much better essay: better organised, better thought-out, better use of examples, & so on. It doesn’t matter what form the plan takes – but write one!!
  • and related to that – structure of your answers is important.
  • scholarship is different from Level 3, in that you’ll be expected to link information across the curriculum, rather than focusing on separate achievement standards. Look at the questions from previous years & you’ll see a few common themes coming through (evolution; genetics & inheritance; ecology & behaviour).
  • learning new terms – quite a few students asked me to define the terms I was using, & said they found this helpful. If you’re coming across a lot of new words, why not put a glossary together?
  • think critically – about the questions in the paper, and about your own knowledge. What should you include in your answer? If it’s not relevant, leave it out.
  • examples – useful in your study & essential in answering questions. In study – if you’re reading through old exam papers, try to come up with a range of different examples that would help you answer a particular question. In the exam – use that context material that comes with the question as a source of specific examples/data to help make a point.

And not on the list, but something from me – remember that the exam must relate to year 13 (level 8 of the curriculum). The examiner won’t assume knowledge that you’re not likely to have. What they are looking for is what you do with that knowledge & how you can apply it to novel contexts & situations.

And another piece of advice – if you can, & haven’t done it already, form a study group. You can spark ideas off each other, throw ideas around, brainstorm answers to test papers. (And sometimes it can be a bit lonely, studying alone.) You’ve got great teachers but they can’t do it all 🙂


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