Provincial Exams

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BC Provincial Exam practice page… Practice exams for all provincially examinable subjects. Practice exams for Biology 12, Chemistry 12, Principles of Math 12, and Physics 12.

Provincial Exam Specs Get the specifics on your exams, from what you will be given, to definitions for terms and symbols used in the exams. This page contains specs for the grade 10, 11, and 12 exams.

Exam Vocabulary

Some information below is taken from Success on the Provincial Exam, by Castle Rock Research Corp.

Directing words


Using mathematical procedures that involve letters or symbols represent numbers


To make a mathematical, chemical, or methodical examination of parts to determine the nature, proportion, function, interrelationship, etc. of the whole


Examine the character or qualities of two things by providing characteristics of both that point out their similarities and differences


State a logical end based on reasoning and/or evidence


Point out the differences between two things that have similar or comparable natures


Point out the demerits of an item or issue


Provide the essential qualities or meaning of a word or concept; make distinct and clear by marking out the limits


Give a written account or represent the characteristics of something by a figure, model, or picture


Construct a plan; i.e., a detailed sequence of actions for a specific purpose


Find a solution, to a specified degree of accuracy, to a problem by showing appropriate formulas, procedures, and calculations


Specify one by one or list in concise form and according to some order


Give the significance or worth of something by identifying the good and bad points or the advantages and disadvantages


Make clear what is not immediately obvious or entirely known; give the cause of or reason for; make known in detail


Using a drawing that is produced electronically or by hand and that shows a relation between certain sets of numbers


Show in what manner or way, with what meaning


Form a tentative proposition intended as a possible explanation for an observed phenomenon; i.e., a possible cause for a specific effect. The proposition should be testable logically and/or empirically


Recognize and select as having the characteristics of something


Make clear by giving an example. The form of the example must be specified in the question; i.e., word description, sketch, or diagram


Form a generalization from sample data; arrive at a conclusion by reasoning from evidence


Tell the meaning of something; present information in a new form that adds meaning to the original data

Justify/Show How

Show reasons for or give facts that support a position


Find a model (in mathematics, a model of a situation is a pattern that is supposed to represent or set a standard for a real situation) that does a good job of representing a situation


Give in an organized fashion, the essential parts of something. The form of the outline must be specified in the question; i.e., list, flow chart, concept map


Tell in advance on the basis of empirical evidence and/or logic


Establish the truth of validity of a statement for the general case by giving factual evidence or logical argument


Show logical or causal connection between things


Provide a drawing that represents the key features of an object or graph


Give a solution for a problem; i.e., explanation in words and/or numbers


Give a brief account of the main points


Give a step-by-step description of the development


Establish, by substitution for a particular case or by geometric comparison, the truth of a statement


Show the cause, reason, or purpose


Common Directing Words

There are some commonly used words in exam questions that most often require you to respond in a predetermined or expected manner. The following list provides you with a brief summary of how you may wish to consider proceeding in planning your response to exam questions containing these words.

Evaluate (to assess the worth of something)

  • Determine use, goal, ideal, or whatever, from which you can judge something’s worth

  • Make value judgement or judgements on something

  • Make a list of reasons for the judgement

  • Develop examples, evidence, contrasts, details, and the like which support your judgements and clarify your reasoning

Discuss (usually to give pros and cons on some assertion, quotation, policy)

  • Make a list of bases for comparing and contrasting

  • Develop details, examples, and the like to support or clarify each pro and con

  • On the basis of your lists, conclude with the extent to which you go along with what is asserted

Compare and Contrast (to give similarities and differences of two or more objects)

  • Make a list of bases for comparing and contrasting

  • For each basis, judge similarities and differences

  • Supply details, examples, that will support and clarify your judgement

  • Assess overall similarity or difference

  • Determine significance of similarity or difference in connection with the purpose of the comparison

Analyze (to break into parts)

  • Break subject of essay (process, procedure, object) into major parts

  • Connect and write about parts according to purpose of question: describe, explain, criticize

Criticize (to judge good and bad points of something)

  • Make a list of the good points and bad points

  • Develop details, examples, contrasts to support judgements

  • Make overall judgement of quality

Explain (to show causes of or reasons for something)

  • In Science, usually show what leads to what in producing something, thoroughly presenting details of each step

  • In Humanities and often in Social Sciences, make a list of factors that influence something, developing evidence for each factor’s potential influence

Describe (to give major features of something)

  • Pick out highlights or major aspects of something

  • Develop details, illustrations and the like to give a clear picture

Argue (to give reasons for one position and against another on something)

  • Make a list of reasons for position on something

  • Make a list of reasons against another position on something

  • Refute objections to to your reasons for and defend against objections to your reasons against

  • Fill out reasons, objections, and replies with details, examples, consequences, logical connections and so on

Comment (to make statements about something)

  • Calls for a position, discussion, explanation, judgement, or evaluation regarding a subject, idea, situation

  • Is strengthened by providing supporting evidence, information, examples

Demonstrate (to show something)

  • Depending upon the nature of the subject matter, provide evidence, clarify the logical basis of something, appeal to principles or laws as in an explanation, supply a range of opinion and examples

Synthesize (invent a new or different version)

  • Construct your own meaning based upon your knowledge and experiences

  • Support your assertion with examples, references to literature and research studies

Science Process Words

Hypothesis: A single proposition intended as a possible explanation for an observed phenomenon; e.g., a possible cause for a specific effect

Conclusion: A proposition that summarizes the extent to which a hypothesis and/or a theory has been supported or contradicted by the evidence

Experiment: A set of manipulations and/or specific observations of a nature that allow the testing of hypotheses and/or generalizations

Variables: Conditions that can change in an experiment. Variables in experiments are categorized as

  • manipulated variables (independent variables) – conditions that were deliberately changed by the experimenter

  • controlled variables (fixed or restrained variables) – conditions that could have changed but did not, because of the intervention of the experimenter

  • responding variables (dependent variables) – conditions that changed in response to the change in the manipulated variables

Technology: The development of our understanding of science is directly related to the development of technology. The meaning of technology has many facets, but in general, technology refers to a method or process for handling a specific practical problem. This includes the development of tools and new techniques for solving problems. It also includes ideas and their organization for achieving practical purposes. In the context of an examination question, technology includes both these facets of meaning. That is, a technological explanation should include not only identification and descriptions of equipment (tools, products) but also explanations of procedures.

Significant Digits, Data, and Rounding

Guidelines for Significant Digits, Manipulation of Data and Rounding for Science Provincial Examinations

Significant Digits (measured values)

1. For all non-logarithmic values, regardless of decimal position, any of the digits 1 to 9 is a significant digit and 0 may be significant. For example: 123, 0.123, and 0.00230, 2.30 x 103 and 2.03 all have 3 significant digits.

2. Leading zeros are not significant. 0.12 and 0.0000012 both have two significant digits.

3. All trailing zeros are significant digits. 100, and 0.120 have three significant digits. 20.000 has five significant digits.

4. For logarithmic values such as pH, any digit to the left of the decimal is not significant. For example: a pH of 1.23 has two significant digits; a pH of 7 has no significant digits.

Manipulation of Data

1. When adding or subtracting measure quantities, the answer should be rounded to the same degree of precision as that of the least precise number used in the calculation if this is the only operation.

12.3 + 0.12 + 12.34 = 24.76

12.3 is the least precise (1 decimal place) so the answer should be 24.8

2. When multiplying or dividing measured quantities, the calculate answer should be rounded to the same number of significant digits as containes in the quantity with the fewest number of significant digits if this is the only operation.

(5.45)(6.7893) = 37.001685

The answer should be 37.0 since 5.45 has only 3 significant digits.

3. When a series of calculations is performed, each interim value should not be rounded before carrying out the next calculation. The final answer should then be rounded to the same number of significant digits as are contained in the quantity in the original data with the fewest number of significant digits.

For example in (1.23)(5.883) / (2.11 – 2.05) there is three calculations. The subtraction, the multiplication, and then the division.

(2.11 – 2.05) = 0.06
(1.23)(5.883) = 7.23609
(7.23609) / (0.06) = 120.6015

The answer would be 121 since the original data contain at fewest three significant digits.

4. When calculations involve exact numbers (counting and defined numbers) the calculated answer should be rounded based upon the precision of the measured value or values.

12 eggs x 52.3 g/egg = 627.6 g
5 mol x 32.06 g/mol = 160.30 g
1mol (-1.095.8 kJ/mol) + 2 mol (40.8 kJ/mol) = -1014.2 kJ


1. When the first digit to be dropped is less than or equal to 4, the last difit retained should not be changed. For example:

1.2345 round to three digits is 1.23

2. When the first digit to be dropped is greater than or equal to 5, the last digit retained should be increased by one. For example:

12.25 rounded to three digits is 12.3