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Supervisions

You should expect to have one hour-long supervision for IB Physiology every week within term-time. Supervisions are arranged by your College, unlike every other aspect of the course which is arranged departmentally. Physiology supervisors vary a great deal from College to College, and may include lecturers within the course, PhD students or often clinical medical students from Addenbrooke's. All supervisors will help you with any questions that you might have about the course, and will try to guide you through problematic areas. Most will set you homework in the form of essays, calculation questions, or research related to the current topic, but this will depend on the individual supervisor. Contact your Director of Studies for more information about who your College uses to supervise this subject.

Of course, with rights come responsibilities – it is up to you to participate actively in supervisions. Supervisions represent a dynamic teaching environment: the supervisor is not there to give you another lecture, and is not a walking text-book who can answer every question, no matter how obscure – this is why you have libraries! Instead, supervisions are for building a deeper understanding of the subject, taking your understanding further in key areas, and discussing ideas... hopefully, your ideas!

The use of multiple choice questions (MCQs)

It is easy to become overly exam-oriented as the academic year progresses, rather than learning about physiology for its own sake. Associated with this, some students seem to base much of their learning around the multiple-choice questions from past exam papers. Some insist that their supervisors spend a lot of time going through MCQs in supervisions, and may spend a significant proportion of their revision time working through them too. Unfortunately, the result of this is often that these students reveal in their essays that they do not have a coherent, integrated understanding of physiology – which is not at all what we want to achieve in our course!

Past-paper MCQs can be useful to indicate the level of knowledge that students should expect to have in an exam. To this end, we have put some example questions on the CamTools website. However, in general, past-paper MCQs should be seen as part of the assessment of the course, not part of the course itself! Concentrating on MCQs is certainly NOT the right way to learn physiology, and although some supervisors may choose to use them for various purposes, students should neither insist nor expect that their supervisors spend time going through them.

We have taken the decision not to publish answers to past-paper MCQs, nor to make them available to supervisors, because we are concerned that having the answers available could be taken to imply that they represent a teaching resource, which will inevitably encourage rote-learning of question and answer pairs by some students. If students insist on working through past-paper MCQs, the answers are, in fact, available to them – in the handouts, books and scientific papers associated with the course! A little work is needed here, of course, but this can only be a good thing.

We understand that some students are disappointed by our not releasing MCQ answers, but we are confident that they will understand our reasons, as explained above. To repeat, MCQs are part of the assessment method, not the teaching and learning!

How to write a Physiology essay

What the Examiners want from a IB Physiology essay.

Further information for supervisors

Further information specifically aimed at Physiology supervisors can be found on the PDN Information for Supervisors webpages. If you are a new supervisor and would like help and advice about supervising this course for the first time, please feel free to contact Dr Matt Mason.