One of the most popular requests from online A-level Biology students is “How do I answer A-level biology evaluate questions?”
Usually, these questions involve scientific data and a conclusion made by a student, journalist or politician. The idea is to discuss their conclusions and decide how much you agree.
Here are a few tips to try:
1. Don’t be afraid to agree AND disagree
Evaluate questions are usually looking for a balance of your opinions. You probably won’t agree completely, or disagree completely with a conclusion and that’s fine. The good news is there are marks for providing evidence for and against.
2. Look for “sweeping” statements
Usually “evaluate” questions are testing your ability to spot where the “story” in the science has been misinterpreted. Often the conclusion over-reaches – maybe it says a drug “cures lung disease” when the data only shows an effect on cells in dish, or in rabbits rather than humans. Look for places where the conclusion and the data are mismatched.
3. Make sure YOU understand the data first
Arguably before even reading the conclusion you should make sure you understand what the data (graph, chart, table etc) shows and what it means. I’ve covered how to handle describe and explain questions, here. Then you can compare your thoughts to the conclusion.
4. Comment on statistics (or the lack of them)
Strictly, to make any conclusion from scientific data, the difference between two things needs to be significant. For example, this might mean the change between a control and a patient treated with a drug should be high enough that it can’t be explained by random chance. Does the data have a statistical test which backs up its significance? If it does – great, put it into your answer! if it doesn’t – also great! put it into your answer too!
5. Don’t worry that you’ve missed something out
There are usually lots of things to spot in an A-level biology evaluate question, so many different ways to score marks. Most evaluate question on the AQA, Oxford, OCR and Edexcel specifications have marks to spare, so plenty of ways to get the top score.
If you’d like to work through some example A-level biology “evaluate” questions, please get in touch with me at Woolton Tutors and we can set up some online biology tutoring sessions.
Dr John Ankers
Specialist online biology tutor and academic coach