• Shauna

Changes to the Leaving Cert Biology exam 2021 - What you need to know.

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Today we were told the last and final (fingers crossed) changes to this years Leaving Cert Biology exam and here are the details you need to know.

The following changes apply to both the Higher Level and Ordinary Level for 2021.

  • The 2021 examination papers will have three sections: Section A, Section B and Section C.

  • Increased choice is provided with additional questions provided in the examination paper, combined with a reduced number of questions for candidates to complete.

  • The total mark allocation for the examination paper in 2021 is 290 marks, instead of the usual 400 marks.

Section A – There are seven short questions (Q1–Q7). Candidates are required to answer any four

questions from this section. Each question carries 20 marks. The total for Section A is 80 marks.

Section B – There are three mandatory practical questions (Q8-Q10). Candidates are required to

answer any one question from this section. Each question will align with a specific unit(s) within

the syllabus as follows: Q8 will have practical activities from unit 1, sub-unit 2.1 and 2.5; Q9 will

have practical activities from sub-unit 2.2 and Q10 will have practical activities from unit 3. Each

question carries 30 marks. The total for Section B is 30 marks.

Experiments that can be asked in each question will be:


  1. Conduct a qualitative test for: starch, fat, a reducing sugar, a protein.

  2. Identify any five fauna and any five flora using simple keys. Identify a variety of habitats within the selected ecosystem.

  3. Identify and use various apparatus required for collection methods in an ecological study.

  4. Conduct a quantitative study of plants and animals of a sample area of the selected ecosystem. Transfer results to tables, diagrams, graphs, histograms or any relevent mode.

  5. Investigate any three abiotic factors present in the selected ecosystem. Relate results to choice of habitat selected by each organism identified in this study.

  6. Be familiar with and use the light microscope.

  7. Prepare and examine one animal cell and one plant cell – unstained and stained – using the light microscope (×100, ×400).

  8. Isolate DNA from a plant tissue.


  1. Investigate the effect of pH on the rate of one of the following: amylase, pepsin or catalase activity.

  2. Investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of one of the following: amylase, pepsin or catalase activity.

  3. Prepare one enzyme immobilisation and examine its application.

  4. Investigate the influence of light intensity or carbon dioxide on the rate of photosynthesis.

  5. Prepare and show the production of alcohol by yeast.

  6. Conduct any activity to demonstrate osmosis.

  7. Investigate the effect of heat denaturation on the activity of one enzyme


  1. Investigate the growth of leaf yeast using agar plates and controls.

  2. Prepare and examine microscopically the transverse section of a dicotyledonous stem (×100, ×400).

  3. Dissect, display and identify an ox’s or a sheep’s heart.

  4. Investigate the effect of exercise on the breathing rate or pulse rate of a human.

  5. Investigate the effect of IAA growth regulator on plant tissue.

  6. Investigate the effect of water, oxygen and temperature on germination.

  7. Use starch agar or skimmed milk plates to show digestive activity during germination.

Section C – There are seven long questions (Q11-Q17), including additional internal choice in two

questions (Q16 and Q17). Candidates are required to answer any three questions from this

section. In relation to both Q16 and Q17, an additional part (d) has been added to each question,

giving candidates a choice of four question parts (a), (b), (c), (d). If a candidate chooses to answer

these questions they will be required to answer any two parts in each of these two questions.

Each question carries 60 marks. The total for Section C is 180 marks.


So, what does this mean for your study?

It means you are in a great position! These changes have made the Leaving Cert Biology exam so much more achievable and approachable for all students.

  1. Choose to study the experiments from either Q8 , 9 or 10. This was you're reducing the amount of content you need to study.

  2. Be smart about the topics you study in detail - Ecology and Genetics are two safe bets - just these two topics could give you 3 out of the 8 questions you need to answer!

  3. Focus on the topics that you're more comfortable with - you will have lots of choice on the paper.

  4. Practice, practice and practice some more. Complete and mark LOTS of past exam questions. This is best way to see repetition in exam questions, learn how your answers should be phrased and how to gain marks in each question.

  5. Keep an eye on your Instagram page @studyathome.ie for more tips and upcoming exam revision.

No matter what, always try your best and

This info is adapted from the SEC document linked here.

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