Biology Challenge Exam Information

The Biology Department Challenge Exam is designed to assess whether you have a good grasp of the basic principles of cell biology that form the foundation knowledge for more advanced biology courses such as Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Zoology, and Botany. This information is designed to help you prepare for the exam.

List of Contents:

  • Brief Description of the Exam
  • Course Description
  • Sample Texts
  • Course Outcomes
  • Sample Syllabus
  • Selected Websites Related to the Material in the Course.

Here is a sample course description and the text and laboratory manual used by many members of the department.

Brief Description of Exam

The biology challenge exam is 90 multiple choice questions (90 points) and 2 essay questions (10 points). The essay portion of the exam includes one required essay question and a choice of 1 out of 4 other questions. A student must score a minimum of 70 points to pass. The exam is corrected by a member of the Biology Department, and it is returned with a score and the words Pass or Fail.

Course Description

31121 Biological Principles I 4 Credits
This course introduces basic principles of biology. Topics include scientific method, evolution, cellular and subcellular structure, basic cell chemistry, transport across cell membranes, mitosis, meiosis, metabolism, photosynthesis, DNA structure and replication, protein synthesis, and patterns of inheritance. This course is required as a prerequisite for all other four-credit biology courses.

Lecture: 3 hours Laboratory: 2 hours

Prerequisite: One unit of high January 2, 2013 e Reading II (11092), Introductory Writing (11099), and Fundamentals of Mathematics (38010) or waiver by placement testing results or Departmental Approval

Sample Texts

Biology: Concepts and Connections Flex-Text Version, 4/E
Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reece, Lawrence G. Mitchell, Martha R. Taylor
ISBN: 0-8053-6823-X
Publisher: Benjamin Cummings
Copyright: 2003

Laboratory Manual:
Selected Exercises from Biology Laboratory Manual, 6/E, 4/E
Daryl Vodopich, Randy Moore, Sylvia Mader
Original Exercises - MCCC Biology Department
ISBN: 0-07-281873-5
Copyright: 2002

Course Outcomes

The department has developed a set of course outcomes to help students understand the intent of the course and the reason for various course activities and assessments (tests, papers, lab reports, etc.) These outcomes were accepted by a vote of the department. It will be helpful to consult these outcomes as you prepare for the test.

Scientific Method/Science
Describe the general steps of the scientific method and use these steps in solving problems, in order to understand how scientists think, distinguish between pseudoscience and real science, and evaluate scientific information in the popular press.

Explain why evolution is the central theme in biology so that students can understand the unity and diversity of life

Demonstrate knowledge of basic chemistry including the properties of atoms, ions, chemical bonding and chemical reactions to understand biologically important molecules and processes.
Describe the role of biologically important molecules in order to understand the correlation between cell structure and function.

Cell Structure
Distinguish between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, and identify and describe the structure and function of plant and animal cells and their organelles, in order to appreciate the unity and diversity of living things.
Describe the structure of the plasma membrane and relate it to its functions in diffusion, transport, metabolism, and cell to cell interaction.

Explain the principles of cellular respiration and photosynthesis so that the students understand energy flow in living systems.

Compare and contrast mitosis and meiosis in order to understand the process of growth, reproduction and the importance of sexual reproduction to the evolution of the species.

Demonstrate understanding of basic concepts in inheritance in order to solve simple genetic problems and recognize common misconceptions regarding human heredity.
Describe the structure and replication of DNA and its role in protein synthesis in order to understand the chemical basis of genetics and the use of DNA in genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Laboratory Skills
To work safely in the laboratory and follow simple laboratory protocols in order to work cooperatively to complete laboratory exercises and conduct experiments using the scientific method.
To be able to use the microscope to observe cell structure and function in order to develop good technique in preparation for more advanced courses.
To be able to perform simple mathematical calculations and construct and interpret graphs in order to record and communicate the results of experiments.

Study Skills
To apply a study skills method to learning biology in order to improve success in an academically rigorous course.
Strengthen Core Competencies in order to increase success in college courses and other courses in the workplace

Sample Syllabus

Biological Principles - 31-121
Sample Course Syllabus
Week ofTopicChapterLab Exercise
January 20Introduction to Life
Scientific Method
No Tuesday class this week
January 27Chemical Basis of Life
Measurement 1
February 3Molecules of the Cell
Water W
February 10Molecules of the Cell
Hydrogen Ion
Concentration H
Models M
February 17Exam I
A Tour of the Cell
Models M
February 24The Working Cell
Microscope and Cells
2.1, 2.2, alternate 2.3, 2.5, Table 2.1
March 3The Working Cell
Cells ctd. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 3.4 and Human Epithelial Cells
March 10How Cells Harvest 
Chemical Energy
Exam II
6.1, 6.2, 6.3
March 16-22Spring Recess (No classes)  
March 24How Cells Harvest Chemical Energy
Diffusion and Osmosis
8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.8
March 31Photosynthesis
11.1, 11.3
April 7Mitosis Meiosis
Exam III
12.1, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6, 12.7
April 14Patterns of Inheritance
13.1, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4, Table 13.1
April 21Molecular Biology
DNA Replication
Meiosis of the Gene 14.1, Table 14.1
Genetics Problems
DNA Extraction

April 28Molecular Biology of the Gene 
Protein Synthesis
No Lab - Preregistration
May 5Exam IV
Control of Gene
DNA Technology
Protein Synthesis

Selected Websites

You certainly don't need to visit all of these sites, but they are listed here as a resource for you. Some are fairly elementary and some are more sophisticated. In some cases there are topic suggestions.

Animations and Illustrations - DNA, RNA, replication, transcription, translation
These sites show the structures and processes in varying degrees of detail and complexity. Try a few to find the one that is best for you.

Translation interactive site
DNA replication with Okazaki fragments

Biology for Kids
A good place to start if it has been a while since you studied biology.

Biochemistry for Kids

Studying Cells Tutorial

  • The Scientific Method
  • Size and Biology
  • Major Events in Cell Biology

The Cell Cycle & Mitosis Tutorial

  • DNA Basics
  • The Cell Cycle
  • Mitosis

Meiosis Tutorial
This exercise is designed to help you understand the events that occur in process of meiosis, which takes place to produce our gametes.

  • Reproduction
  • Chromosomes in a diploid cell
  • Meiosis 1
  • Meiosis 2

Prokaryotes, Eukaryotes, & Viruses Tutorial

  • Organization
  • Prokaryotes
  • Eukaryotes
  • Viruses

Cells Alive - Home Page


Plant, Animal and Bacteria Cell Models

Photomicrographs of plant cell mitosis

Mitosis Animation

Meiosis Animation

Different types of cells

Digestion of Dietary Carbohydrates - A bit complex

A good overview but also a fair amount of detail:

Suggested choices

  • The Energy Derived from Glucose Oxidation
  • The Individual Reactions of Glycolysis
  • Anaerobic Glycolysis
  • The Pyruvate Dehydrogenase (PDH) Complex - just the overview
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Introduction
  • Complexes of the Electron Transport Chain - the basics
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation

Online Tutorial/Animations:

  • Very basic animation
  • Glycolysis
  • Tricarboxylic acid cycle (Citric acid cycle)
  • Electron Transport Chain
  • Carbon Fixation in Photosynthesis

Chemistry Review

  • Large Molecules
  • Cell Biology
  • 1-5, 8,9, 12
  • Glycolysis and the Krebs Cycle
  • Photosynthesis
  • Mendelian Genetics
  • Central Dogma
  • Prokaryotic Genetics and Gene Expression
  • Recombinant DNA

The WWW Virtual Library of Cell Biology

Jay Doc Histoweb - many photomicrographs of different cell types