Friday, 1 June 2018

Second Year Science Exams

I finished my eleven SF exams on the 22nd of May. Here's a bit on how they all went.


This was the one I was most scared of and just wanted to pass and also, unfortunately, my only 10 credit module, so it counts for a lot of marks. 

I'd been studying through second semester doing a couple of hours of extra Chemistry study each week, and then during the actual exam period gave the last three days before the exam to the subject, with a day each for Organic, Inorganic and Physical Chemistry (Kinetics & Thermodynamics).

There are 9 questions on the paper and you have to do 2 from each of the three sections. I did one good Inorganic Question (Crystal Field Theory) and one not-great one; Organic had finally sort of clicked the night before but unfortunately the stuff that really clicked didn't come up much and the stuff that did come up, while nice questions, I had sort of forgotten and did a very mixed-up rendition of; Physical had a truly beautiful Kinetics question and two absolutely horrible Thermodynamics questions. I had studied most of the Thermodynamics course (well I'd studied and written notes on all of it but in terms of the stuff I actually made sure to remember the night before) except two parts and, what do you know, the way it went I couldn't really do either Thermo question (had to do one). I could make attempts at 2/3 of the question I did but I'm very unsure about one and I get very bizarre answers for the other. For Kinetics I also got one extreme answer (I found that the half life of something was, like, 10^35 years or something, but I'm too scared to check if that was actually right and I would just like that to have gone right. 

I very much hope I passed. I had two good questions (the first Inorganic and Kinetics) where I think hopefully I could've got about 16/20, so that's 32/120 which is 26.67% which I think is just over what I need to get to pass by compensation with my good continuous assessment marks, and if I count the marks I should've picked up here and there from the two Organic Questions, the other Inorganic and Thermodynamics, I should've got enough to get me over the pass line I think. Obviously I'd like to exceed the pass line but Chemistry is the big worry so if that's passed that's the main thing. 

Everything else I would like firsts in...not that that will very likely happen, but hopefully with a decent amount. 

Pages of Essays for Each Biology Exam (with Essays)

Cell Structure and Function

This course had five sections: Eukaryotic Cell Structure & Function, Proteins, Enzyme Kinetics, Neurochemistry, and Signal Transduction, and there were 2 essays to do out of 5 on the exam. Apparently everyone does Signal Transduction for the exams; it's nice that it only has a couple of things that can really be asked, but honestly I just found it super interesting in last summer's study, during term, and in my Schols study. I also studied Proteins (we hadn't had one of our lectures), mainly just one topic that had come up a few times and was interesting, and Enzyme Kinetics, because it was always asked mathematically (as one of two reasonably simple derivations that are about a page or two long each, or to describe via graphs) and that meant I could in theory get 100% or near that on it just by knowing the stuff. You'd think you'd always be able to do that but no, thanks to bloody essays. 

The nice proteins question didn't come up but a nice cell signalling one did (insulin pathways) so I did that and also did the enzyme kinetics one (discuss reversible inhibition of enzymes)  but very annoyingly this year it came up in more of an essay format grr. 

I wrote 6 pages for Enzymes (I just answered it mathematically with all the many many graphs and equations and then just added an intro and conclusion) and 5 for Signal Transduction (with 2 pages being mostly diagrams and possibly not very well presented). 

I was quite happy with how I did in that exam, even though I would've preferred a mathematical question (especially a derivation which I'd know I had right) for Enzymes. I'd like a first.


This had Carbohydrates (Glycolysis, Gluconeogenesis, Glycogenesis, Glycogenolysis), Lipids (Fats, B-oxidation, Fatty acid synthesis, Cholesterol), Bioenergetics (Oxidative Phosphorylation and a little bit of Photosynthesis), and Amino Acids. 

I'd studied this really deeply from Lehninger's Biochemistry for Schols, and my Oxidative Phosphorylation Schols essay made a big contribution to me actually getting Schols. I studied OxPhos, Carbs and Lipids (screw amino acids honestly), and did a question on Oxidative Phosphorylation (very similar to my Schols one, so although my answer this time around wasn't as well-written and I'd forgotten a fair few details (I could just feel the insight when I was writing it for Schols because I was so immersed)), hopefully this will have me do well in the exam. I also did the Lipids question. As I'd done essentially all of my Metabolism study from a textbook, I am very glad I looked at the slides for this the night before the exam because it turned out to ask something that hadn't been in the textbook but thankfully I'd just learned. My lipids essay (fatty acid mobilisation and use as energy) wasn't as good as the OxPhos one as expected but I think I got most of the information in. I actually ran out of ideas before running out of time (by a few minutes), which was weird, but yeah I think the essays were fairly decent and I very much hope I can have got a first from that exam. I wrote 5 pages for OxPhos and 4 for B-oxidation. 


This had Molecular Genetics (transcription, translation, DNA replication, RNA), Genetic Engineering, Mendelian Diseases, Cancer, and Genetic Regulation. I studied Mendelian Diseases and Cancer mainly, and Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering as backups. 

A bad Mendelian Diseases question and not-the-exact Genetic Engineering one I wanted came up, so I did Cancer (which I was covered for no matter what and had loads of extra info for) and Molecular Genetics. 

I had lots of info for Cancer so I just hope it was all on-topic enough and fit into a decently-cohesive essay. I didn't have much additional info for Molecular but I think my essay was ok and hopefully the Cancer essay can go the distance. 5 pages molecular (DNA replication), 5 pages Cancer.


I loved this subject. I had to cover the whole course because of the short questions making up half the paper and the tricky essay questions. I did my essay on Reciprocal Altruism and was pretty disappointed with it because I'd spent about a week on that topic in my Schols prep but couldn't properly answer the question posed with any real insight and I'm not sure if it's a question with an answer that's not fully known or if I was just being dense. My short questions were mostly good apart from the last one. It was a bit disappointing because I'd done all the short questions from the last 8 years and a lot of nice ones didn't come up, but yeah overall hopefully I got a first. 


I hated this module while I was doing it and was very scared of the exam, especially since you had to do 3 essays out of 5, but I ended up getting almost the exact paper I wanted, and did the Fungi short-questions plus short essay question that had come up before, the lambda phage genetic regulation essay, and an essay on how viruses enter cells which was much more rushed as it was near the end of the exam and not as good, but I still got to put in a nice bit of extra info so that was good. Honestly I was grinning once I saw the Fungi question and I'm still delighted when I think about it. That exam went way better than I expected. To be fair that may be because I was too scared, because I did study a ton of Micro each week in the 3 months before the exam, and set aside four full days during the official study period for it alone.The Microbiology Dept are apparently ridiculously hard markers so I don't know if I'll get a first in it but I mean in my opinion I deserved one. 


This module was sort of interesting while I was doing it but the exam, after I thought it would be nice because it's all short-questions, turned out to be bloody horrible because they would examine literally anything that appeared anywhere on the slides, like one of the questions (even in a good section!) was 'in which African country did ebola have the highest basic reproductive number'. I answered it because I'd seen it shoved down the bottom of a slide the night before or something, but I don't know if I got it right and I'm too scared to check, but honestly how does that kind of exam actually examine your understanding of concepts? The exam was full of that stuff, just 'gotcha' questions to see if you had memorized literally the entire set of slides. 

So I was not happy with that exam. I think I should've gotten just over 70% in it but unfortunately my CA was bad for this module (I found out just before the exam that there'd been an assignment I hadn't known about :( ) so it'll probably end up lower than that. I think the exam also seemed worse because I thought it should be relatively easy.

Multivariable Calculus

I really enjoyed this module (unexpectedly), and the lecturer was fantastic which is very much a rarity among Trinity maths lecturers. The exam was absolutely beautiful, you had to do three of four questions and I was able to answer literally all of them. Obviously I don't know if I got them right but I was able to check some of them by using a different method and got them right, so in theory I could've got 100% in that exam. That would be very cool. It really helped that she gave us so many resources, like releasing solutions to all the homework problems, releasing two sample exam papers and solutions and more. What a great lecturer honestly. I learned so much. 

Ecosystems & Global Change

This one was a weird exam; 3 of the 5 short questions were hard (well by that I mean I didn't know every subpart of two of them, and one of them was actually entirely bewildering -- who gives an entire question worth like 10% of the paper on something you covered in 5 minutes at the end of your first lecture??) although the 2 terrestrial ecology ones were lovely and had come up before, and the essays were actually nicer than the short questions which is unusual. I could technically have done all three of them, I think, though not necessarily well. I ended up doing an essay on water and how its properties are important for life and physical processes, and assuming they're okay with the rather haphazard way I pulled info fom different lectures together, it went quite well. I did about 1.5 pages on the chemistry of water (even put in a pressure-temperature phase diagram for some reason), 2 pages on its importance for life, and a page on abiotic processes. It was quite nice because it let me think cross-sectionally and pull things together, so hopefully it gets marked well. My CA for this module hasn't been marked yet but I don't think it'll be good.

Stats (Numerical Data Analysis & Visualisation)

Really not sure what the Visualisation in the title is for, we did essentially none of that and the course really was not what I was hoping it'd be. The exam was reasonably nice and thankfully continued the trend in previous exams of focusing on the practical stuff rather than the random theory stuff he taught; the 4 questions were:

  • probability & statistics theory e.g. define covariance
  • chi square (given a general type of model and some data e.g. y = ax, use the chi square definition to come up with a and then to work out what chi square would be at that value of a)
  • Bayes Rule for disease diagnostics
  • Markov chains
and I had to answer 3. The Markov and Bayes questions were nice assuming I didn't make a stupid numerical mistake and screw the whole thing up, and I was very happy to see Bayes come up. Chi square looked nice originally (at least it was only in one parameter) so I did that third, but it ended up being some insane number and I came out with a chi square value of like 12,000 which implies either I made a mistake or it's a very bad model, and usually he gives good models. So then I did the fourth question because I really do not trust my chi square question, and that was fairly okay with maybe one subpart I wasn't great at. I would like to get a high first in this since it's Maths but I'm not certain I'll be able to get around 85% overall like I wanted since I had quite low CA thanks to his bewildering homeworks on stuff we hadn't covered, in which I only got about 70%. 


This exam was very not nice, with really random short questions where I just couldn't tell what they were asking. I really hate that, where it's not that I don't know the stuff, it's that I can't actually interpret what theyre asking, or the way they ask something makes me suspicious of my answers. One asked me to do a diagram demonstrating three similarities and three differences between B and T lymphocytes. What kind of diagram can show all those?? I just did two diagrams, showing the haemotopoietic stem cell family tree and an antibody and T cell receptor. The essays were also not nice and I didn't get to show off much of what I know; I did the Genetics essay and about 2 of my 4.5 pages were actually from the Evolution module. 


So here I am done now and becoming filled with dread whenever I think about results because even though I worked very hard and put pretty much everything I could in, the stakes are high and I really want to get into Genetics. It doesn't help that I can't remember what I wrote in a lot of exams (for specific) so I'm worried I'll have accidentally written down something totally stupid, like getting the 5' and 3' backwards in the diagram for molecular genetics, which are very much central to the issue. So fingers crossed I guess. 

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