Lecture/Reading Exams


Click here to read my general suggestions in response to past low exam scores! (recommended)


Preparation.  You will be tested on lecture material, reading material, and laboratory material. I encourage you to study in groups—you will especially learn more if you quiz each other to test the depth of your understanding of terms and concepts.


The information you learn here (or in any class) will be more valuable to you if it is develops concepts that can be applied to solving new problems.  Exams will therefore emphasize concepts that I have emphasized in class: relationships between structures and their functions, how different body plans solve and create problems, etc. To be conversant in a field, however, one must know the language.  In this class, the language includes terms for important processes and body parts, especially those that distinguish groups.

Guides to important material.  Your best study guide comes from each class handout: the major themes, specific goals, and illustrations used in lecture.  Note, however, that (1) the outline may not cover the material completely and (2) the best kind of exam question would ask you not to reproduce exactly what you've been told in class, but to apply that information to answering a new question.  Therefore, don't be satisfied that you understand the concepts if you have simply organized the material to address each study goal.  Quiz each other with questions that go beyond the goals.

Readings.  As noted earlier, you are responsible for information from the textbook that relates to lectures.  Lecture time is too short to cover all the important details, and I could not possibly be as complete as a book.  My goal in lectures is to organize for you a large amount of information, and to reinforce the major themes. You are not responsible for new vocabulary from the book unless it was also introduced in lectures or lecture notes.  To prepare for answering questions about other readings (Research Focus Boxes and supplementary reading) you should understand the goals of the research, the general approach to answering questions, and the conclusions drawn.

Taxonomic detail.  For lecture/reading exams, you should know the taxonomy of groups to the levels listed at the top of each lecture handout.  Typically this list does not go below the Class level, but sometimes I include other groups that you should also know (for example, hydroids and siphonophores are Orders within the Class Hydrozoa).  For the laboratory portion of the midterm exams (see below), you will be responsible for the taxonomic detail covered on lab handouts.


Question types

Exams will contain a mix of questions that test different kinds of skills.  The "Preliminary exam" (see details in Grading) will give you practice with answering some of the different styles of questions in preparation for the more extensive Midterm (2) and Final exams.  Below are examples of ten different types of questions and their instructions:

QUICK IDENTIFICATION.  Identify the structure or process and name a group that uses it.

SHORT ANSWER.  Answer briefly in the spaces provided.

PHYLOGENY.  Using the phylogenetic tree provided, for each trait give the tree branch that corresponds to when the trait most likely originated.

PHYLOGENETIC RECONSTRUCTION.  From the traits given, show the steps involved in deducing the best supported hypothesis for evolutionary relationships among the species.

JEOPARDY!  Fill in the blank to complete the question that is answered.

TRUE/FALSE.  If false, correct the statement by changing, eliminating, or adding words in underlined sections so that the statement  is true. You may not change or eliminate words that are not underlined.

SINGLE CHOICE.  Choose only the single best answer from the choices given.

MULTIPLE CHOICE.  Choose as many answers as are correct (0 to 5 possible).

PARADOXES.  Explain the following paradox.  Your answer must contain a complete explanation and not just point out why the statement is a paradox.

FALSE STATEMENTS.  Give a convincing argument about why the statement is false.  Your answer must contain an explanation and not just contradict the statement.

RESEARCH RESULTS.  Referring to research described in class or readings, fill in the graphs in a way that would be consistent with the following results.

RESEARCH DESIGN.  Referring to research described in class or readings, state a testable hypothesis for a given observation, or design a simple set of experiments to test the hypothesis posed.



Laboratory Portion of Midterm Exams


Format and study guide


What the heck is this?

(Hint: found only on the lips of lobsters)

Each of your two Midterm exams (see grading for relevant dates) will include a portion of questions relating to laboratory material.  This part of the exam will involve a series of stations set up around the lab, to be visited by students in turn. Stations will contain short answer questions, microscope displays, and specimens. You will be given 4 minutes at each station to examine the specimens and to answer the questions. After all students have visited each station there will be time to revisit stations.  There should be little time pressure.

The best way to study for these questions is to review material from your lab worksheets and drawings.  Know the taxonomic details to the levels listed in the "Taxonomy" section of the lab handout.  Be sure you can identify important structures, know the anatomical terminology, and can describe the function of different structures.  If something isn't clear to you from your notebooks or from your textbook, be sure to ask me for help.  I can be available to help you during review sessions/office hours or by appointment.




Sample questions

Three basic types of questions will be asked on the exam:

  • Taxonomic IDs. These fill-in-the-blank questions will ask for the taxonomy of the specimen presented at the station. These will usually ask for the taxonomic hierarchy of specimens as presented in lab handouts. For example: To what phylum, class, and order does this animal belong? In addition, there will be questions asking you to identify the major characteristics of a certain taxonomic group (phylum, class etc.). For example: What characters seen in laboratory can be used to differentiate scyphozoan and hydrozoan medusae?

  • Structure/function. These questions will ask for the function of a particular structure that we focused on in the lab. Some of the stations will have a specimen on display with a pin inserted into or pointing at a particular structure. For example: give the name of the structure labeled by pin A and describe its primary function.  A question might ask you to identify the structures contacted by a pin as it was pushed through the animal.  For example: list in order the names of epithelia contacted by this pin as it was pushed through the body.  In addition, this section may ask you to describe the activity of the organism. For example: Describe the locomotion of this leech and give one reason why its locomotion differs from that of a nematode.

  • Short answer. These questions will be similar to the "thought questions" posed on your handouts each week, which focus on concepts rather than on the strict memorization of taxonomy, structure names, or functions.  For example: Give a reason why asconoid sponges are smaller in size than either sycon or leucon grade sponges.