Sustainable Schools

Yes, it's a chore, but everyone's got to do their ISA - it's part of the GCSE exam. 

These pages contain some helpful tips and advice to get you started.

So what do you want help with? 'Click' on a link below...

a) Planning           This is marked out of 8

bulletclick here to see a complete 'PLAN FOR CATALASE'
bulletSee also: '10 things you need to know about Enzymes'

b) Observing       This is marked out of 8

c) Analysing         This is marked out of 8

d) Evaluation        This is marked out of 6

e) Word-processing tips

See also: 'Finishing off your coursework'




Follow these guidelines for laying out your planning exercise and you will maximise your chances of a top mark…

Prior knowledge check:

1) Your first Biology investigation will be a PLAN.

e.g. 'What is the effect of exercise on heart-rate?'


Do you know how the heart and lungs work together to supply oxygen to muscles?


Do you know how waste carbon dioxide is removed?


Do you know the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration?


Have you considered how to plan for a 'fair test'? eg same temperature in room, same size step etc.

2) Your Second Investigation after Xmas will  be about ENZYMES, particularly one called CATALASE ... if you are doing 'Double award' (10.1, 10.2, 10.3) you will NOT need to do a plan for this - yesss!

3) If you are in 10.4 or 10.5....hardluck! You WILL need to do a plan for this one too!

10.4, 10.5 students: see the links page for ideas. You should be aiming to write about the points in the list below:

bulletWhat are the general properties of proteins / enzymes?
bulletWhat does the ‘lock-and-key’ model show?
bulletWhat is an ‘Active Site’ all about?
bulletWhat is the ‘kinetic theory of molecular movement’?
bulletWhat is the effect of  enzyme concentration on rate of reactions?
bullet(or… effect of  substrate concentrations...)
bulletFurther Research: What exactly is catalase? Where is it found? Why is it so important?




These sub-headings are the ones to use in your plan:

bullet(optional: Contents Page)
bulletIntroduction                     ( 'references' are needed for level 8)
bulletHypothesis / Prediction     (make it ‘quantitative’ for 6, and ‘justified’ for level 8)
bulletIndependent Variable         (need a range of at least ‘5’)
bulletDependent Variable            ( remember ‘units’)
bulletControl Variables               (…and justify ‘why’ they need to be controlled for a fair test)
bulletPilot Method and Results     ( needed for level 8, but you must show modifications.)
bulletFinal (modified) Method      (Bullet points; emphasise ‘repeats’)
bulletApparatus List                    (don't forget quantities and volumes)
bulletSafety Audit



 Now for the WRITE - UP!!



1) Introduction    

Make sure this shows good ‘Higher’ level  knowledge that you  have drawn from a variety of sources.

Use diagrams or graphs if necessary, and always acknowledge your references or secondary sources.

This means quoting the author’s surname and the date it was written. e.g.  (Moody page 223 'Exercise Physiology' 2003),

or the website you visited e.g.. www.allaboutexercise.com.

 At the end of the plan you can alphabetically list the references in more detail.

N.B. You will should aim to use and evaluate at least 2 good references to get top marks.


The introduction should link strongly to what you are trying to study (i.e. don’t waffle!) and it should develop the problem you have been set - eg what happens to the heart during the first few minutes of exercise? Why does this happen?

For 10.4 and 10.5 doing the Enzyme Planning:

INFO: You must mention CATALASE and the reaction it performs with Hydrogen Peroxide. (Give the equation...)

ERROR: Common errors here are to say something daft like 'yeast is catalase' (instead of 'yeast contains catalase enzyme') or that 'yeast catalyses the breakdown of H2O2' ( instead of 'catalase catalyses the breakdown of H2O2  ')

FACT: Yeast is a type of fungus - the cells of yeast contain lots of different enzymes, just one of which is catalase. It is this enzyme which breaks down hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen.

You must show that you understand this principle.


2) Hypothesis        Should be testable and quantitative (i.e. include figures).   It should also have a ‘because’ statement to justify your prediction.

E.g.. “I predict that as the temperature of the solution rises by 10oC, the rate of enzyme catalysed activity will double, up to an optimum of about 40oC. This is because…(go on to mention kinetic energy, enzyme stability, denaturation etc)”

                                    A ‘null hypothesis’ is also acceptable.

e.g " I predict that after 1 minute of mild exercise there will be no increase in my heart rate. I think this because..."

Give a 'prediction graph'?


3) Variables:


a) Independent Variable

The condition in the investigation you intend to alter and its range of values. You need at least 5 points so you can plot a reasonable graph later.

E.g. “ I will vary the concentration of hydrogen peroxide used from x% down to y%, in z% increments"

(This gives  me ____ points…plenty for plotting on a graph)  

ERROR: The most common error here is to forget to state the 5 things you intend to vary...


b) Dependent Variable

This is what you will measure, and the units you expect to measure it in.

Decide at this point on a suitable number and range of observations and measurements.  

ERROR: The most common error here is not to give any UNITS!



c) Control Variables  

There will be several of these so it best to approach it with bullet points: For each factor you want to control, you should also say how you plan to control it, and what effect it would have on the dependent variable. i.e. justify your statements.

bullet “I will control temperature by using a thermostatically controlled water bath set at 40ºC. This will ensure all enzyme reactions proceed at equal rates.”
bullet“I will use the same concentration of sucrose solution throughout the investigation i.e. 5 mg dm-3. This will ensure that there is the same water potential in each test tube.”  
bullet "I will use the same step height throughout - this ensures that the subject climbs the same height each time."

ERROR: The most common errors here are not explaining WHY you need to keep things constant, and not thinking of enough controls to make it a fair test.


4) Pilot Study                  

                             Carrying out a preliminary study will allow you to demonstrate that you can modify things in the light of experience.

So show your pilot study method and results here, and then go on to say what worked well, and what didn’t, and how you plan to modify the ‘actual’ method.

ERROR: The most common errors here are not putting in the pilot results, or not explaining how they led to your 'final' method.


5) Method                       

                            Again, bullet points work best, and the method should be clearly set out and easy to follow – don’t try to write continuous prose. As a test, give your method to someone else to read through – they should be able to carry out this practical without having to ask any questions.

Don’t forget to:

 a) put in at least 3 repeat readings to make results statistically valid

                              b) justify (explain) why you are doing each step.


ERROR: Failure to ‘justify’ is one of the main reasons why plans fail to score high marks.


6) Apparatus list             

                            This is the list of apparatus, along with any diagrams of the set up. You must include quantities, volumes, concentrations etc.

e.g. “I will need 50cm3 of 10% hydrogen peroxide.”


Don’t forget to justify (there’s that word again!) why you need this apparatus if you haven’t already done this in the method.

ERROR: The most common error here is not putting in quantities or concentrations of hydrogen peroxide or yeast solution.


7) Safety                         

                            This is a safety audit / list that takes account of the need for safe working. There’s more to this than just “wear goggles and lab-coats”!


8) Treatment of results

Perhaps a sketch graph of expected results, or how you would perform any calculations. You could also ‘wrap things up’ here by justifying the strategy you developed, and how it should answer the question you were originally set.  



Helpful Tips for the rest of the write up...(all Year 10 groups)!



(O)       Observations (marked out of 8)


“Tables should follow Institute Of Biology (IOB) guidelines:”


bulletInformative title.                        (“Table to show…”)
bulletFully ruled.
bulletIndependent variable is first column (e.g. conc. of H2O2 %).
bulletNo units in body of table.


bullet'Table to show how heart rate varies after exercise'
Time after exercise / min

Heart Rate / beats per minute

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Average
1 105 104 106 105
2 98 97 96 97


ERROR: The most common error here is to put units in the  table, instead of at the head of a column, or even to forget them altogether.


TIP: Check for suitable range of entries (range of 5, with repeats for each…perhaps some simple stats too)... and checkfor precision too     i.e. no ‘silly numbers’ e.g. 4.4cm3 NOT 4.356378cm3


(A)       Analysis (this is marked out of 8)



bulletInformative title.                        (“Graph to show…”)
bulletIndependent variable is the ‘x’ axis.
bulletAxes are labeled… and have units.
bulletPlots use ‘x’, and line of best fit (make sure there are enough points!).
bulletHand-drawn, in pencil. Do not use Excel - you need to show that you can draw graphs.


 ERROR: The most common error is forgetting to label the axes, or put in units.

“Calculations:” (A=6b)   You need to show you can do a bit of number work!

bulletShould be ‘...more than simple mean’.          e.g. could calculate gradients, rates, etc.
bulletConclusions should be based on your own data (therefore quote / analyse your data (results) extensively).
bulletWhat do your calculations actually show? Do they match your earlier predictions?

ERROR: The most common error here is not being able to show any more maths ability than calculating a simple mean.



“Written analysis:” (A=8)


bulletBring in more research / references / detailed biology to explain results e.g. about active sites, chances of collisions etc..
bulletShould be more than the AQA textbook stuff, but not just copied blindly – unacknowledged copying is always ignored - related to this work.
bulletYou should aim for up to two A4 sides of discussion and analysis.
bulletPut in a diagram or two - e.g. 'lock and key' model to explain your results?



ERROR: Most people lose marks in this section because they do not write enough by way of explanation of their results. i.e. what do they actually show? Did it match the original hypothesis? etc.



(E)      Evaluation (this is marked out of 6)


bulletYou're getting tired by this stage but don't give up! 
bulletTry to emphasise criticism of both results and technique, followed by improvements to the reliability of your results, and the accuracy of your technique.
bulletThink of it like this....


























bulletIf you could write several bullet points of information on each of the above boxes, you should be about right...


bulletDon't forget to account for so-called 'anomalous results' - e.g. why did they not follow the trend / pattern?


bulletAny improvements you suggest should be related to this practical.


bulletDiscuss extending the range of the independent variable being studied, and think about intermediate values (between the ones you looked at). 



TIP: To get a top mark you will have to give a pretty full outline account of your new improvements! By this I mean suggesting, even drawing, a new set of apparatus, and/or a new way of doing the experiment.



ERROR: Don't fall in to the classic traps of saying something bland like 'take more readings' (how many more??), or 'use a computer to take better readings' (how would the computer be set up or used??)



ERROR: Most people lose marks on this section because they do not write enough in the way of critical evaluation, or suggest any good improvements to either method or apparatus. Write as much as you can here!

10 Word-Processing tips

bulletBack up work on both hard drive and a floppy disc. Keep a copy until after the GCSE exam!
bulletDon't get fancy! Best ‘font’ is Arial, Courier or Times New Roman. 
bulletUse 'subscript' or 'superscript' to get things like cm3 , or CO2
bulletYou can do this by first highlighting the number or letter, then clicking 'Format', 'Font', then 'Superscript' or 'Subscript' from the toolbar. 
bullet Advanced users can add appropriate buttons to their toolbar (by clicking the 'down-arrow' on the far right of the toolbar).
bulletALWAYS DO A SPELL-CHECK. (N.B. Catalase is not recognised by Microsoft spell-check! It suggests 'catalyse', which is wrong...)
bulletHand in your draft to your teacher for checking, then the completed report first week after half term.
bulletIf you are late handing it in, you may have to come in at lunchtimes to finish off.
bulletDon't put it off and don't pretend this thing will go away - you HAVE to do this, so set your sights high and...JUST DO IT!
bulletIf you get stuck on anything or need some extra help, please ask your teacher or click on a link below:


bulletSee also: '10 things you need to know about Enzymes'
bulletSee also: 'Finishing off your coursework'
bulletSee also : 'Introduction to Catalase'
bulletSee also : 'Catalase Plan'



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