The table below compares the major changes in the exam format and weighting in the new H2 BIO syllabus with reference to official documents from SEAB.
Both papers 2 and 3 will assess the entire syllabus. This is in contrast to the clear separation of core and application syllabus previously.
The essays will now shift into paper 3. Because of this, paper 2 will now have more structure questions. Approximately 10-11 on average.
This will cover a wider range of topics including extension topics. In comparison, previously there is anywhere between 6-8 without application topics.
Managing time is even more crucial now because structure questions tend to present novel scenarios and requires more thinking.
New H2 BIO Syllabus, Paper 3
For the first time, there is allocation of marks to language quality in addition to facts in essays in paper 3. This appears as quality of written communication (QWC). I talk about how to strategize in my classes.
Essays are given more marks and a lot more integrative.
This requires the students to appreciate the concepts in biology at a macro level. Requiring them to use concepts from different topics.
Let me point out an example from 2017 paper in the new H2 BIO syllabus.
Describe the reproductive cycle of an enveloped virus such as influenza and explain why this is referred to as a reproductive cycle, NOT a life cycle.
This essay requires the student to know the entire infection process. This starts from infection until detachment of influenza viruses.
An essay of this scale is new. In the past, one expects only segments of the entire process.
Also, the candidate needs to know that these viruses are not living organisms. Especially since they contradict the cell theories.
The cell theory is new to the syllabus and it comes from another topic, cell organelles.
On top of that, paper 3 will also include stimulus text on which questions derive from. Such text can come from a textbook, journal article or any relevant sources.
The questions asks in the context of the text. However, requires one to be able to identify concepts they already understand to answer appropriately.
Unfortunately, this style of questions does not appear in school questions much from my observation.
Most teachers draw questions from higher level conceptual understanding. Rather than using existing concepts.
Finally, planning question from paper 3 now appear in the practical exam paper instead in the new H2 BIO syllabus.
Previously, school teachers plan experiments in advance. They then prep students to do well beforehand for SPA.
In the new format, the practical paper aligns more closely to the more traditional examination style. Where students are not aware what practicals can appear in the exam.
Additional info on assessment rubric
Referencing the table below, the new format is definitely making it harder than ever for the students to do well.
The weighting for memory work is less in the new H2 BIO syllabus.
More emphasis is given to higher level critical thinking with weighting adjustments up.
Whilst it seems like a move away from rote memorization, the reality is that students need to still memorize the basic facts. And in addition, be able to tackle questions that have little or nothing to do with the syllabus. But yet draw on concepts from the syllabus to answer appropriately.
They have to make the connection in such novel situations.
This is quite scary for students who are already struggling from information overload. Since schools cover excessive content.
If you are looking for help in this area you have to look out for tutors who spends time adapting to the new scheme rather than those who have reshuffle their notes trying to recycle as much as they can.
I have a checklist you can use to narrow now an effective tutor.
New H2 BIO Syllabus, Bottomline
With the implementation of new H2 Bio syllabus in 2017, there is a new iteration from 2020 onwards.
Although the changes are relatively minor, there are some significant terminology changes in a few learning outcomes.
Make sure your materials are up to date for the new syllabus as well as the answers you write for exam questions.
What my student say after joining my H2 BIO TUITION
Puah Yi Hao (SAJC 2017)
Mr Yang’s classes are very interesting and helpful, it doesn’t just focus on the subject itself, but he also teaches us techniques to study and memorize biology better. During his lessons, he usually recaps on the topics and I find them very useful, especially when coming back from a break after an exam or right before the exam. I am very thankful to Mr Yang, as ever since joining his class in early J1 I have been able to score A for almost every H2 Biology exam in J1 and J2.