Tuesday, 12 October 2010

S366: The exam

The exam - oh my!

So the exam comes around, as always a bit of a tense time. The exam consists of several sections.
The first section is 10 questions which comes in pairs. You have to answer 1 from each pair, plus two others. So 7 questions in total from 10, but narrowed down so you have to be able to focus on the topics within each pair.

Q1 concerns 5 statements, and you have to explain why each of them is false. From mutations to molecular clocks to the allometry of horses teeth.
Q2 picks pairs of definitions and you have to explain why they are related.
I did both of these in the end, despite not quite knowing what one of the terms was.

Q3 Is about area cladograms and vicariance. Two subjects that didn't stick with me, so I missed this out.
Q4 Is about mass extinctions and what can cause them. I attempted this one

Q5 Is about the neutral theory of evolution, and molecular clocks
Q6 Concerns the different type of selection, directional, stabilising and disruptive.
Both of these tried

Q7 is about birds and sexual selection, and life balance trade offs. I tried this one.
Q8 is about allopatric selection. I wished I could remember exactly what that was - on the day I wasn't certain enough to attempt it.

Q9 Is about chromosome counts and how breeding possibilities between near relatives such as horse and donkey. I tried this one
Q10 Is about morphological constraints and how they affect things - I think I skipped this one

The next section part 2 and mandatory, is usually a question on cladograms. You have to be able to draw one usually, and usually amend it. In this exam we had to draw the given one with state changes marked on it. Then redraw it in a different format, and see which version was more parsimonious. It concerned various birds and their ancestors. I found the cladograms easier to draw than I had on mocks for this one, although I messed up the definition of sister taxon, drawing a line parallel to its sister, rather than a branch. It became obvious when the two tree lengths were the same. After looking at it for a time, and checking all the transformation states twice, I spotted the branch and everything became better.

Part 3 is also mandatory and is to do with graphs and data associated with the breeding date of birds. You are then asked to relate these things to natural selection and say whats going on. Based on the results you found you then had to infer a few things about their histories.

Finally part 4 is about a paper that you are given before hand and have to read. Then the question asks various things about the paper, and the evolutionary concepts it relates to. The paper is one from Scientific American about the loss of hair in humans, the probable time it happened and the reasons behind it. I think this went ok - but its all a bit hazy now.

All in all, it wasn't a bad exam. I'm not sure I'll have done staggering well, but enough to pass I think. It was a fair test of the stuff learnt on the course, and seemed eminently achievable. I could have done better, I could have been better prepared for some of the questions - but that is always the case. In contrast to my other exam - this seemed like a breeze!

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