All about all of us

11th September 1998 at 01:00
UNDERSTANDING ADVANCED HUMAN BIOLOGY. By Jane Vellacott and Sarah Side. Hodder amp; Stoughton Pounds 24.99

Jane Vellacott and Sarah Side's well-written book aims to cover the requirements of A-level syllabuses in human biology as well as parts of those for biology, GNVQ health and social care and other pre-university access courses.

As with most books at this level, content is split into seven predictable sections. Each is generously illustrated with clear black-and-white line drawings and photographs, but compared with other books aimed at this market, it scores poorly on "flickability appeal".

However, between chapters 32 and 33 is an unusual feature: a "colour gallery" - several pages of full-colour illustrations. Some are colour versions of the black-and-white illustrations in the text, and in the main these work well. Foetal circulation, brain scans, computer tomography of the backbone are good examples. But the scarce resource of colour seems wasted on the photo of a bikini-clad woman on a beach, the quaternary structure of protein, a family tree and a mass-weight chart.

Each section begins with a double-page overview and the text pages are in a split format. Boxed sections in the margin summarise the main points and grey boxes provide cross-references to other sections.

New terms and formulae are shown in bold. Short questions at the end of each chapter should help readers check their understanding. Examples from past exam papers at the end of each section provide more rigorous testing.

Occasionally, the page layout changes to feature a case study (such as the additional information on E. coli) or an article (such as one from New Scientist on drugs in athletics).

There is no need to worry about the basics. At the end of the book are six pages dealing with SI units, information technology, elementary atomic structure and simple statistics. One of the most useful aspects is the branching decision key, which should help students choose the most appropriate statistical test for their experimental data. The book is worth looking at for this alone.

Jackie Hardie is acting headteacher at The Latymer School, Edmonton, north London.

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