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Department of Biochemistry



General advice on examination skills has been drawn up by the Faculty of Biology

Criteria used for marking and classing are provided by the Management Committee for the Natural Sciences Tripos  for NST overall and more specifically for NST IB.

Marking and classing criteria are also discussed on the Faculty of Biology website

Copies of recent past papers are provided on the BMB Camtools site. Answers to the data-handling questions in Paper 3 have been provided for your supervisors: it’s better for you to try the questions before looking at the answers! Earlier BMB papers are available in the bound collections in college libraries.

NST Part IB Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Examinations are sat in the Easter Term.

The examination consists of three papers, each of three hours’ duration, and each paper carries equal marks.

Paper 1 consists of five sections, and students should answer one question from each section. Sections A and B will be based on lectures in the Michaelmas Term, Sections C and D on lectures in the Lent Term and Section E on the Easter Term lectures. Each section will carry equal marks.

Paper 2 consists of two sections. Section A is made up of roughly 14 short-answer factual questions based on the whole lecture course, and carrying equal marks. Students should attempt all questions in Section A. Section B consists of 4-5 essay questions of a more general and wide-ranging nature than those in Paper 1, from which students need to answer two. These can be perceived as “open ended” questions in which the student may be asked to develop an issue that was not specifically dealt with in the lectures, but is based on the material taught in the lectures. Sections A and B will carry equal marks.

Paper 3 is concerned with practical techniques covered in the practical classes and journal clubs, as well as other material in the practical section of the course handbook and experimental techniques covered in the lecture course. There are three sections. Sections A and B each contain 2-3 questions while Section C consists of one longer subdivided question. Sections A, B, and C will carry equal marks. All questions in Paper 3 should be attempted.

When answering essay questions, take particular care that you have absorbed what the question is specifically asking for. It is a common fault for candidates to react unthinkingly to a "trigger word" and simply write all they know in response. Take a little time to reflect, rather than leaping straight in.

The examiners will have regard to the style and methods of candidates' answers. You should write legibly and not adopt note form unless specifically requested to do so. Helpful diagrams are welcome as part of an essay. You are perfectly free to use abbreviations that are standard scientific vocabulary without definition (for example G6P, ATP, DNA, RNA).