Guide to HSC Biology Practical Investigations

The practical aspect of Biology is as important as the theoretical components. A thorough understanding of the relevant experiments and their results will provide a new depth to your learning.

Although your trials and HSC are written, practical components can still be tested in various ways, thus it is very important to know these.


Practicals in the Syllabus

Every module has some syllabus dot points which relate directly to practical work. They typically use phrases like “conduct practical investigations” or “conduct an investigation” to indicate that you could research these topics with a practical component, as opposed to purely theoretical work. In year 12 biology there are not many first hand investigations, but rather using secondary sources to conduct research, which is as important.

The relevant dot points for each module are shown below.

You may not get to do all of these in class, but you will still be expected to know how to respond to questions about them.

 Module 5:

  • Conduct practical investigations to predict variations in the genotype of offspring by modelling meiosis, including the crossing over of homologous chromosomes, fertilisation and mutations
  • Collect, record and present data to represent frequencies of characteristics in a population, in order to identify trends, patterns, relationships and limitations in data, for example:
  • examining frequency data
  • analysing single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)

Module 6:

  • Interpret a range of secondary sources to assess the influence of social, economic and cultural

contexts on a range of biotechnologies

 Module 7:

  • Investigate the work of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, to explain the causes and transmission of infectious diseases, including:

–  Koch’s postulates

–  Pasteur’s experiments on microbial contamination

  • You will need to understand and maybe execute Pasteur’s experiment with beef broth and flasks with varying tube shapes.
  • Analyse responses to the presence of pathogens by assessing the physical and chemical changes that occur in the host animals cells and tissues
  • Interpret data relating to the incidence and prevalence of infectious disease in populations, for example:

– Mobility of individuals and the portion that are immune or immunised (ACSBL124, ACSBL125)

– Malaria or Dengue Fever in South East Asia

 Module 8:

  • Collect and represent data to show the incidence, prevalence and mortality rates of non-infectious diseases, for example:
    • nutritional diseases
    • diseases caused by environmental exposure
  • Investigate the treatment/management, and possible future directions for further research, of a non-infectious disease using an example from one of the non-infectious diseases categories listed above
  • Use secondary sources to evaluate the effectiveness of current disease-prevention methods and

develop strategies for the prevention of a non-infectious disease, including but not limited to:

  • educational programs and campaigns
  • genetic engineering
  • Investigate technologies that are used to assist with the effects of a disorder, including but not limited to: (ACSBL100)
    • hearing loss: cochlear implants, bone conduction implants, hearing aids
    • visual disorders: spectacles, laser surgery
    • loss of kidney function: dialysis

How can these areas be examined?

 There are three primary ways in which practical investigations can be assessed in a written exam.

  • Firstly, questions can always be asked on the theory behind the investigations.
  • Secondly, it is important to understand and be able to describe the risks and mitigation methods in various investigations. For example, working with bacteria in Pasteur’s experiment
  • Finally, you can be expected to outline experimental methods used in conducting these investigations. These can be simply written in stepwise lists with the appropriate equipment and steps included. Finally, calculations and graphing based off provided results are very common questions and could be examined on all dot points, except those that specify “qualitative investigations.”

It is also necessary to know the analytical features of the experiment and method, such as the accuracy, reliability and validity. You will need to know how they can be improved, giving theoretical explanations.




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