The Biology Regents – Analyzing Charts

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Of the 80 questions on the Biology Regents, every year approximately ten are based on accompanying charts or tables. Of all the questions on the Exam, none place greater stress on reasoning and less on memorization than these. Most of these questions ask you to predict the outcome of the data listed in the chart by applying your understanding of one or more scientific principles.

Within this group, there is usually a sequence of as many as four questions relating to a single table containing data.

All of these questions test your ability to draw an appropriate graph and interpret it. But, the Regents divides what might have been one or two questions into four: one for labeling an axis of the graph and choosing the appropriate scale, one for linking the data points, one for choosing the correct interpretation of the data. No knowledge of any scientific principles other than how to correctly plot and interpret data is required.

Together with the essay questions, these are among the few non-multiple choice questions on the exam. The key, as always, is practice. The student who has reviewed prior exams and practiced plotting data in a graph in response to such questions will be prepared and confident. In addition, sometimes the Exam poses a multiple-choice question that shows four different graphs and asks the student to choose the one which correctly illustrates the data. Although the format is different, the student who is accustomed to plotting data in a graph will utilize that experience to find the correct choice.

Frequently, the Regents asks one or more questions which tests the student’s knowledge of correct experimental procedure. Often, this question makes reference to an illustration or graph which may appear complex or unfamiliar to the student. But, armed with prior practice and with a little patience in analyzing the question, the student will conclude that the correct response involves a basic principal of experimental procedure which appears frequently on the Regents: i.e. data is only valid if the experimental design includes a control group or data is only valid if collected from the full range of organisms involved and the full range of time during which the process being measured occurs.

Often, there is a question, asking the student to draw a conclusion regarding the data in a graph. Often, the correct response is the most conservative one of the choices, one that notes a relationship between the data, but avoids overstating what the relationship is.

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