1. Home
  2. HSC
  3. HSC Exams
  4. 2010 HSC Exam papers
  5. 2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — Agriculture
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — Agriculture



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in Agriculture. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read along with the relevant syllabus, the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, the marking guidelines and other support documents which have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of Agriculture.

Teachers and candidates are reminded that the revised Stage 6 Agriculture syllabus will be examined for the first time in 2011. The syllabus and sample exam questions can be found on the Board’s website.

General comments

Teachers and candidates should be aware that examiners may ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating their knowledge, understanding and skills developed through studying the course. It is important to understand that the Preliminary course is assumed knowledge for the HSC course.

Candidates need to be aware that the marks allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper), are guides to the length of the required response. A longer response will not in itself lead to higher marks. Writing in excess of the space allocated may reduce the time available for answering other questions.

Candidates need to be familiar with the Board’s Glossary of Key Words which contains some terms commonly used in examination questions. However, candidates should also be aware that not all questions will start with or contain one of the key words from the glossary. Questions such as ‘how?’, ‘why?’ or ‘to what extent?’ may be asked, or verbs may be used which are not included in the glossary, such as ‘design’, ‘translate’ or ‘list’.

Paper 1

Section I

Question 1

  1. Better responses outlined a market specification. Poorer responses used general terms such as ‘quality’ and ‘freshness’.
  2. Better responses contained an example of current government legislation, giving features and the effects of the legislation on agricultural production.

    Mid-range responses contained a description of government intervention but did not relate it to agricultural production.

    Weaker-scoring responses discussed government power. These responses were mostly based on suppositions describing what a government can do and what outcomes can be expected of a hypothetical legislation.

  3. In better responses, candidates clearly identified yield, variable costs and income. They used the correct formula to calculate gross margin, giving the correct answer.

    In mid-range responses, candidates identified the higher-yielding crop and calculated total income but struggled with the calculation of variable cost and could not calculate gross margin.

    Weaker responses identified the higher-yielding crop but failed to calculate income, variable cost and overall gross margin.

Question 2

  1. In better responses, candidates listed a number of different personal protective equipment items or methods available to the farmer that would protect the skin from chemical absorption.

    In weaker responses, candidates only related information from the label or identified the required safety equipment.

  2. In better responses, candidates related the details of the nitrogen cycle applicable to the breakdown of urea into the various usable ionic forms (nitrates, nitrites, ammonium) by the particular forms of bacteria.

    In weaker responses, candidates only named an ionic form of nitrogen or identified that the microorganism responsible for this action was bacteria.

  3. In better responses, candidates showed the relationship between legumes and rhizobium bacteria in the fixation of nitrogen in the soil and also how this process returned nitrogen to the soil.

    In weaker responses, candidates only identified legumes, green manuring or composting as methods of increasing available soil nitrogen.

Question 3

  1. In better responses, candidates accurately plotted a column graph for each variety of corn against yield. Graph axes were correctly labelled with units and the scale was appropriate.

    Common errors in weaker responses were plotting a line graph, failing to label axes or featured incorrect scale for yield.

  2. In the best responses, candidates identified and sketched in general terms a procedure to ensure reliability of results in this experiment.

    Weaker responses only identified a procedure; for example, replication or standardisation.

    In better responses, candidates clearly supported an argument for a farmer choosing to grow crop Variety C even though it was the lowest-yielding variety. Some valid arguments included ability to meet niche market specifications, resistance to pests and diseases, adaptation to environment on the farm and significantly higher price per tonne for the variety.

    Mid-range responses only outlined a reason for choosing Variety C.

    Weaker responses only identified Variety C as having the lowest yield.

Section II

Question 4

    1. In better responses, candidates linked the management technique to the effect on the plants in this pasture; for example, spraying of weeds removes competition for light and nutrients in this pasture. The best responses linked the management technique to the effect on this pasture and the effect on the level of plant interference.

      Weaker responses failed to identify a management technique that was not appropriately linked to this pasture.

  1. In better responses, candidates related a level of planting density to the levels of vegetative or reproductive yield for an investigation that could be carried out. In the best responses, candidates described a trial and linked this to differing planting densities to levels of productivity.

    In weaker responses, candidates simply identified an effect of planting density on plant productivity or identified an investigation that could be carried out on plant density or failed to describe a trial in detail.

  2. In better responses, candidates outlined two or more issues in detail, including points for and/or against. The best responses outlined one or more breeding techniques in detail and produced two or more issues associated with the development of genetic techniques.

    Weaker responses simply identified a plant breeding system/technique or issue.

Question 5

    1. Some candidates identified an alternate breeding system and provided a detailed account of the benefits of it. Others provided a comprehensive series of arguments against the system indicated in (a) (i). Weaker responses identified reasons for using an alternative system without elaborating on it or naming it. These candidates were unable to distinguish between a breeding system and a breeding method.
  1. Better responses provided detailed reasoning for the variation between the samples. Weaker responses discussed nutrition.
  2. The best responses differentiated between the nutritional requirements of growth and those of development and clearly described the component parts of nutrition.

    Poorer responses concentrated on one or two parts of the question and failed to link each aspect. In these responses, candidates referred to types of feed rather than components of nutrition and concentrated on nutrition for production, not for growth and development.

Section III

Question 6

  1. Better responses identified different types of climatic information and their sources, describing in detail how this information influenced agricultural production.

    Weaker responses listed various types of climatic information but failed to outline how this information influenced agricultural production in Australia.

    Poorer responses described various control methods and related them to nominated pest or parasite. These responses failed to evaluate the methods of control.

    In better responses, candidates described in detail the various methods of control, evaluated each of them individually and then linked them in a detailed overall judgement on their IPM program.

Question 7

  1. In better responses, candidates clearly linked the processes involved to potential benefits, such as increased sale price per unit of raw product or increased sales due to product diversification. In weaker responses, candidates often confused farm processes which simply increased output with those that improved product quality and/or variety.
  2. In better responses, candidates compared the two marketing systems and showed an understanding of their similarities and/or differences. They compared such things as:

    • the guaranteed price when using contracts with the price variability often encountered when marketing via cooperatives
    • the rigid product specifications associated with contracts with the more flexible quality criteria associated with marketing via cooperatives
    • the guarantee of having a buyer when using contracts with the potential difficulty of finding buyers when using cooperatives
    • individual negotiation of contracts versus group negotiation with potential buyers when using cooperatives.

Question 8

  1. In better responses, candidates outlined two or more measures of performance and related them directly to management, such as relating estimated breeding values to breeding animal selection or backfat thickness to nutritional management. Mid-range responses identified one measure of performance and related it to management. Poorer responses failed to relate a measure of performance to management. These responses provided general information about management but failed to identify a measure of performance.
  2. The best responses gave a good explanation of at least two effects of nutrition on fertility, such as flushing, steaming and the effect of nutrition on sperm count and libido in males. Mid-range responses related poor nutrition or excess body condition to lowered conception or birth rate. Poorer responses gave a limited connection, such as ‘poor nutrition leads to poor fertility’. Weaker responses failed to identify a measure of fertility and gave a general discussion of the need for good nutrition.

Question 9

  1. In better responses, candidates made comparisons with respect to certain enterprises or within a particular regional context. Some candidates confused the role on farms of native trees and vegetation generally with that of pasture.
  2. In better responses, candidates considered the impacts on the physical characteristics of soils rather than other characteristics such as chemical and biological. In weaker responses, candidates described crop rotation but could not identify its impacts on soil physical characteristics.

Paper 2

Question 1 – Agribusiness

  1. In better responses, candidates named a financial analysis technique such as a gross margin. Poorer responses named techniques such as budgeting, keeping financial records and profit and loss. In these better responses, candidates described how to use these techniques as an analytical tool in financial or production decision making, resource allocation or problem solving.
  2. In better responses, candidates described some of the features of marketing options or methods and provided a judgement about the effectiveness of the marketing option or selling system for that product.
  3. In better responses, candidates named a large corporation or company and discussed some of its activities. In these responses, candidates identified the impacts of the corporation and/or company on the biological and/or physical components of the industry. The term industry was not clearly understood in the weaker responses.

Question 2 – Animal management

  1. In better responses, candidates named a breeding program such as line breeding or cross breeding and outlined the role of named measurements in that breeding program. Responses in the mid-mark range outlined the use of objective measurement only. The weakest responses simply named a breeding program or identified an objective measurement.
  2. The best responses articulated the progression of resistance from an initial tolerant pest/disease organism to subsequent populations of pest/disease organisms via natural selection and inheritance. These responses usually included specific examples in animal production systems in their explanations. The mid-range responses showed some understanding of the development of resistance. The weaker responses only named a pest and/or general control method that could result in chemical resistance.
  3. In better responses, candidates named various reproductive hormones and stated their function. They also outlined the inter-reactions of hormones in the reproductive cycle. They then linked this knowledge to the manipulation of reproduction in animals. Mid-range responses either discussed hormones and their functions without an explanation of their role in reproduction manipulation or described reproductive technologies involving hormones without demonstrating an understanding of the function of the hormones. The weakest responses named hormones or outlined reproductive technologies with no relationship to hormones.

Question 3 – Horticulture

  1. The best responses identified at least two components and detailed the management of them to achieve economic and/or environmental sustainability. In the better responses, candidates provided an insight into the balance between economic and environmental issues.

    In better responses, candidates identified a change in an international market such as a change from bottled to bulk wine. They then linked this change to an alteration to the post-harvest handling of the product. Weaker responses either did not mention a post-harvest management change or explained changes in production instead.

    Weaker responses usually either focused on environmental sustainability only, or omitted to provide any detail in their analysis. The weakest responses identified factors that have an impact on a horticultural system’s profit or environment.

Question 4 – Innovation and diversification

  1. Better responses described the technologies or production system and identified an impact on farm management.
  2. Better responses described why research was needed.

Question 5 – Plant management

  1. The best responses named a cell type found in the leaf and provided an outline of both its anatomical features and function. Mid-range responses named a type of leaf cell and identified either the anatomy OR function. Weaker responses named a cell type or the anatomy/function of a cellular structure found within a type of plant cell.
  2. In better responses, candidates identified two or more plant hormones and described in detail their role/s in relation to fruit production. Mid-range responses named one or more plant hormones involved in fruit production, providing a brief description of role. Weaker responses either named one or more plant hormones or described a general role of plant hormones without connecting a specific hormone to its function.
  3. In the best responses, candidates stated the equation for photosynthesis, identifying all the inputs and described in detail how they are converted to glucose and water during the light and dark phases. An understanding of the management of all three inputs was demonstrated, as was the relationship between input management and their effect on plant growth. Mid-range responses provided an extensive outline of the process of photosynthesis or gave a detailed description of how an input could be managed in order to improve plant growth/yield. The poorer responses simply stated one or two of the inputs or the equation of photosynthesis or defined plant growth. Other poor responses showed that the students did not understand the role of carbon dioxide in making glucose.

Question 6 – Sustainable management

  1. In better responses, candidates named a farm practice that increased or decreased the level of soil acidification and identified the relationship between the farm practice and the change in the soil acidity. In poorer responses, candidates only identified a farm practice that related to a change in the level of soil acidification. Many candidates were able to identify that fertilisers affected soil acidity and outlined the practice but were unable to relate the practice to acidity or support their answer.
  2. In better responses, candidates identified government intervention for both land and water and demonstrated how the government intervenes. Weaker responses tended to identify government intervention for only land or only water not both.
  3. In better responses, candidates identified and described cause and management, plus compared the similarities or differences between both dryland and irrigation salinity. In mid-range responses, candidates gave a detailed description of the cause and management of dryland and irrigation salinity but failed to demonstrate the similarities and/or differences between the two.

Optional research project

In the best responses, candidates produced a detailed and well-structured research report with appropriate statistical analysis. They used correct experimental design. They drew appropriate conclusions from the data collected and made meaningful recommendations from the research question and findings. These projects often had real agricultural relevance. Better projects were also accompanied by process journals that clearly detailed the progress in developing and conducting the research. They were correctly formatted and included a well-spaced margin and appropriate and consistent font size. Better projects not only presented relevant literature reviews but also related their own findings back to those of other researchers. These projects were well organised and demonstrated a clear understanding of the role of the literature review in a research project.

In weaker projects, candidates often showed a poor understanding of correct scientific method. They lacked sufficient research depth to qualify the results. In the weaker projects, candidates who provided some statistical analysis had difficulty explaining or interpreting the results with accuracy. Confusion in terms of treatment variables resulted in candidates attempting to study a number of variables rather than investigating the effects of one, leading to difficulties in results interpretation. Understanding the significance of statistical analysis and interpreting results to support recommendations is an important component of scientific investigations. These poorer responses often made no reference to the important area of ethics and welfare. Weaker projects presented poor referencing with no clear link from the text to the details in the reference section. Website references were not dated.


Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size