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Biology Data Test Advice for QCE

By Brianna Argall in QCE
5th of February 2020
biology data test header showing jellyfish as part of an ecosystem

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What does a biology data test actually test?

Data tests are worth 10% of your overall mark for units 3&4 of each QCE science & are fairly similar to exams. The main difference between exam-style assessments and data tests is that data tests focus only on the application of your scientific knowledge and skills to provided information. For example, a biology data test is unlikely to ask “How are species evenness and richness measured?” but is likely to ask “identify the likelihood that 2 organisms sampled will belong to the same species”. Overall, each data test should focus roughly 30% on applying understanding, 30% on analysing evidence, and 40% on interpreting evidence. These are only rough percentages and your teacher may implement a data test where, for example, there’s some more marks allocated to applying understanding than to analysing evidence.


How do I prepare for a data test?

Make sure you’re comfortable handling data – for example, do you understand how many decimal places or significant figures your answers should have? You also want to be comfortable with any diagrams or figures that are likely to feature in a biology data test. As with all assignments, you also want to be on top of the content. I recommend annotating the syllabus (either online or a print out) and highlighting/underlining/ticking the dot points you’re comfortable with. If you have time, you could extend this by using a rating system.

Once you know your stuff, you want to practice your stuff. Since some exam questions would also be applicable to data tests, they’re a great way to get practice in; make sure you focus on ones which involve analysing data, calculating figures, and interpreting diagrams. An even better form of practice is to use QCAA’s sample assessments – try answering the sample assessment instrument for the chemistry data test and mark your answers against the sample marking scheme. If you have time, it may be beneficial to redo this a 2nd time to see if you improve on your past performance.


Can you give me some examples of free practice questions I could do?

Sure! I’ve made a set of free practice questions modelled after the QCAA’s sample biology data test which you can access here.


How do I cope with the time pressure?

One way to get more comfortable with this is practicing under timed conditions. This could mean following the provided timings or – if you’re cobbling a group of questions together from other places- giving yourself roughly a minute per mark. Aside from practice, I find it helpful to pause when I find myself getting anxious about the pressure and just breathe for a bit to help me refocus; the time spent pausing is made up for by having increased clarity after.


What if I’m still confused?

Looking at sample data tests will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of assessment. Whether you’re confused by the assessment style, the content you need to know, or a combination of both, remember that you can ask for help and feedback. The more information you give someone about what’s confusing you, the easier they are likely to find helping you.


Where to next? We have free QCE biology notes available here and if you have any questions leave them here and we’ll address them – also for free 🙂

Good luck with biology! I believe in you 🙂