National 5 Biology Exam Skills

The format of the exam

The National 5 Biology exam has one externally assessed question paper worth 100 marks.

Section 1– 25 multiple-choice questions (25 marks)

Section 2– structured and extended response questions(75 marks)

Candidates have 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the question paper.

In Section 2 of the exam paper you will be asked a maximum of two extended writing questions of 3–5 marks and at least one question based on scientific literacy. ‘A’ type questions make up approximately 30% of the whole paper.

The total available marks for the National 5 Biology exam is 100 marks. This is worth 80% of the total marks for external assessment.

What is being assessed?

  • approximately 70 marks are from your knowledge and understanding
  • approximately 30 marks are from skills based questions

The majority of marks are awarded for demonstrating and applying your knowledge and understanding. The other marks are awarded for:

  • applying scientific inquiry
  • scientific analytical thinking
  • problem-solving skills
  • the impact of applications of biology on society and the environment.

Marks are distributed proportionally across the 3 main areas of course content:

  1. Cell biology
  2. Biology: multicellular organisms
  3. Biology: life on Earth

Candidates must also have knowledge of key apparatus and be familiar with particular techniques(see revision guide).

The following knowledge and understanding and skills will be assessed: (taken from SQA appendix 2 question paper brief).

  • demonstrating knowledge and understanding of biology by making statements, describing information, providing explanations and integrating knowledge.
  • applying knowledge and understanding of biology to new situations, interpreting information and solving problems.
  • planning and designing experimental/fieldwork investigations to test given hypotheses or to illustrate particular effects.
  • selecting information from a variety of sources.
  • presenting information appropriately in a variety of forms.
  • processing information using calculations and units, where appropriate.
  • making predictions and generalisations based on evidence/information.
  • drawing valid conclusions and giving explanations supported by evidence/justification.
  • suggesting improvements to experimental/fieldwork investigations.