Wednesday, 17 October 2007

S204: The exam

Oh well, the day had to come. I've been revising for some time. You want to know about transport in phloem or xylem? I'm you're man. Different types of membrane transport, ask me!

So the exam is at 10:00 until 13:00. I got there at about 9:40, and saw a couple of people from the tutor group. There were a lot of other exams taking place too - the hall held maybe 50. S204 had the middle column of tables and I was in the middle of that. I think there was one person who didn't turn up out of about 5-6 places. Quite a few other empty seats around in other parts of the hall too.

We had the pre exam briefing and had to stash our bags and phones in the indicated places. The desks were barely big enough for the question book, the answer book and the range of pens and pencils I'd brought. I unwrapped a couple of sweets I'd brought, and then the lady announced we could start.

The first set of questions looked OK - there were a few I had no idea on, but I managed to find 9 I could answer out of the 12. The part B looked horrifying at first glance. Nothing there that really played to my strengths. I managed eventually to pick 3 that I could have a fair crack at though. The data analysis I skipped over in the first read through - you have to do them, so there's no point scaring yourself.

Then I turned to the essay topics. I was hoping desperately for something on fluid transport in plants. Not to be - the plant question was about plant survival in dry conditions. I knew the answer to that, I had four points ready for a short answer question on that, but I couldn't turn four points into an essay unless I was feeling really desperate.
There was a question on membrane structure and function - after pondering this for a bit, I thought it was reasonable. Part of membrane function is the membrane transport and I could manage that. So at the back of my mind I planned on that, and hoped that an hour or two from now all the derails would be back to the front of my brain.

I picked my way through the short answer questions - I managed a reasonable answer to most of them, and a slightly shaky answer to a couple. Part B I did manage to answer - but some of the answers were more shaky than others.

Going back to the data interpretation, there was a Hofstee-Eedie plot to draw on supplied graph paper. Well that was ok at least, except you had to plot two lines on the graph. This takes time, and you also have to be careful with these plots, as the line through the points has to extend to the origin. I've done one or two where the graph has a great scale, but then the line goes off the page before hitting the axis. I did a quick sketch graph to check before plotting it for real, and had to extend the X axis quite a way. I had no problem working out Vmax, but got confused about the Km constant. Couldn't remember how to invert the formula. Luckily I remembered the gradient was also the Km so used that. Not so sure I got the signs right.
The other questions were about fungi in compost heaps and temperatures in the thorax of a bee. I think I put something reasonable down for each.

Then the essay. I'd done well for time and had a bit more than an hour left. When it came down to it, I knew more than I thought about membrane structure, and drew quite a reasonable diagram too. I included as much as I could recall on various aspects of it, and got to 5 or 6 pages worth. I remembered to have an introduction and a conclusion, some diagrams and some examples. My writing by now was looking rather poor, it has never been great, so I slowed down a bit. I coloured in my diagram a little to show more details and added some labels.

I finished up with 15 minutes to go. I checked through some of the answers, I couldn't face some of them though. I spotted one glaring error in a short answer question, and fixed that.

Then I attached all my sheets together with the clips provided. Filled in the question numbers - which there wasn't enough space for! Attached the question sheet to the back, and was just about to put my PI number on the graph paper (it didn't ask for it but I thought it might be worth it) when the lady told us to stop writing.

How did I do? Who knows - I suspect plenty for the pass mark of 40%, but I'm hoping for more than that, but who knows.
Next S204 Prev S204


Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog. I'm considering doing this course next year and found your account both encouraging and scary!


Codec said...

Good luck to you if you take the plunge!