Aqa Biology Synoptic Essay Plans

For those sitting Paper 3, writing a synoptic essay, under timed exam conditions can be daunting! I have put this resource together over the past few years, but have recently updated it so it is inline with the recent guidelines about the essay and revised criteria for marking the essay. It provides the students with a bit of background, how the essay is (generally) marked and a few tips and tricks to try and help them consider how they can write a good essay. Although the price might seem initially a tad steep, it has taken hours and hours and hours to prepare, has been trialled, amended and can be spread over about 6-7 hours of teaching. Instructions below.

A few lessons after working through 'The Essay' PPT/handout, I use the session 1 resources, where students review two handwritten essays marked by senior examiners. Each essay has 10-12 electric tags (containing [very] small numbers) at various points that refer to a comment from a senior examiner, displayed on the PowerPoint. Students are tasked to match the examiners comments to the electric tags, and, using the tick grid in 'The Essay' handout, award the essays a mark.

In session 2 (which I usually do a week later), the students are given one of two handouts, which contain two essays that have been typed for ease of reading (the plans have been included), but also contain numbered tags that refer to a comment from a senior examiner. Every student reviews essay number 5 and then use the comments from the PowerPoint to match the examiners comments, and give the essay a mark using the marking guidelines (in 'The Essay' handout). However, the second essay is different (essay no. 1 or no. 8) and I tend to give out alternate essays to students sat next to one another. Students are then given a small slip of paper containing the first 7-9 examiners comments - the final 3-4 they have to attempt to determine what the comment might be about and use their intuition to then give the essay a mark. I then usually ask the students to talk about what was good about the essay and why they awarded it the mark they did. If you are not too pushed for time, this could obviously be taken further!

The other document, 'practice essay plans' contains a 15 essay titles and space for students to practice planning. I usually set these as starters, but in my experience I would strongly recommend the students complete the plans under timed conditions. While first attempting essay plans, I offer the option for students to use 'The Essay' handout, as this contains a list of all topic areas in the specification as some might not be able to recall topic areas relevant to the essay title. After a few (5-6) attempts at planning, I tend to remove this as an option and the students plan under timed exam conditions, with a particular focus on how they will consider the sequence of paragraphs, so there are links between paragraphs, and how they might focus the essay on the title.


Essay titles


The process of diffusion and its importance inliving organisms.2.

The different ways in which organisms useATP (June 2002) OR ATP and its roles in livingorganisms.3.

The movement of substances within livingorganisms (Jan 2003) OR Transportmechanisms in living organisms.4.

Mutation and its consequences.5.

The properties of enzymes and theirimportance in living organisms OR The role of enzymes in living organisms.6.

The ways in which a mammal maintainsconstant conditions inside its body.7.

Negative feedback in living organisms (June2005)8.

Chemical coordination in organisms.9.

The production and elimination of metabolicwaste products in living organisms.10.

The biological importance of water (Jan 2003)OR The role of water in the lives of organisms.11.

The importance of proteins in livingorganisms.12.

How the structure of proteins is related totheir functions (Jan 2004).13.

The importance of lipids in living organisms.14.

The importance of carbohydrates in livingorganisms OR The structure and functions of carbohydrates (June 2003).15.

How the structure of cells is related to theirfunction (June 2002).16.

Natural selection and the effects of environmental change.17.

Gas exchange in animals and flowering plants.18.

The importance of molecular shape in livingorganisms.19.

The factors affecting the growth and size of populations.20.

Cycles in Biology (June 2003).21.

The causes of variation and its biologicalimportance (Jan 2004).22.

The process of osmosis and its importance toliving organisms (June 2004).23.

Energy transfers which take place inside livingorganisms (June 2004).24.

How microscopes have contributed to ourunderstanding of living organisms (Jan 2005).25.

Enzymes and their importance in plants andanimals (Jan 2005).26.

Mean temperatures are rising in many partsof the world. The rising temperatures mayresult in physiological and ecological effectson living organisms. Describe and explainthese effects. (June 2005)27.

The transfer of substances containing carbonbetween organisms and between organismsand the environment (June 2006).28.

Cells are easy to distinguish by their shape.How are the shapes of cells related to theirfunction? (June 2006)29.

Movements inside cells. (June 2007)30.

Transfers through ecosystems. (June 2007)31.

The part played by the movement of substances across cell membranes in thefunctioning of different organs and organssystems (June 2008).32.

The part played by enzymes in the functioningof different cells, tissues and organs (June2008)33.

Ions and Organisms (June 2009)34.

DNA and the transfer of information (June2009)35.

Carbon dioxide may affect organisms directlyor indirectly. Describe and explain theseeffects. (June 2010)36.

The causes of disease in humans (June 2010).37.

The role of carbon containing compounds inliving organisms.38.

The role of nitrogen containing compounds inliving organisms.39.

The roles of membranes in living organisms.40.

The role of DNA in living organisms.41.

Applications and implications of genetechnology.42.

Genetic variation and speciation.43.

Control of the internal environment in livingorganisms.44.

The movement of molecules and ions throughmembranes.45.

Roles of pigments in living organisms.46.

Light and life.47.

Support and movement in living organisms.48.

The chemical and biological control of insectpests.

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