top of page


Course Breakdown


Neuroanatomy Test:                         20% (or 0%)
Assignment:                                      20% (or 0%)
Exam:                                                60% (or 100%)

Course Information


Biopsychology (8th ed) - Pinel
Official UoA Website: link.
Lecture recordings + Video: yes!

Basic Information

This review is written from the perspective of a student undertaking this paper with a background in the Medical Sciences (i.e. has done or is doing MEDSCI papers). This paper is relatively 'easy' when compared to other Stage II BIOSCI and MEDSCI papers and add on the fact that if you've done MEDSCI 142, MEDSCI 206 and BIOSCI 202, you've probably touched on most of the topics this course has to offer. This course had 3 hours of lectures per week. This has historically been split into a 1 hour lecture earlier in the week and a 2 hour lecture later in the week. Note that in 2017, the 2 hour lecture was Friday 2-4pm. For the more Medsci-heavy sections, this was quite the challenge to stay focused during the lecture. This course had 4 lecturers each, Prof. Ian Kirk (Course Co-Ordinator), A/Prof. Paul Corballis, Prof. Russell Gray and A/Prof. Lynette Tippet. 

This course has no course guide and runs solely on either printouts or lecture slides.


"Laboratory" Component

There were 8 labs in total in 2017. These were 2 hours labs in which the tutor mostly just went through either lecture content, essay prep, test prep etc. The labs definitely were assessable for the test but for the rest of the labs, they more-so helped consolidate understanding in lecture content or gave massive hints on how to do well in the essay. The labs were attendance based and you needed to attend the majority of them in order to be eligible for plussage. The labs themselves were pretty chill with pretty cool tutors going through the content in a relatively small group of students: 1 tutor to approximately 20 students. However, a lot of the labs simply required you to watch videos and could get relatively boring. 

A quick note that for the exam, you can 'reference' or refer to examples given in the labs. Most the time, the examples videos given in the labs are covered by the lecturers themselves so when writing an essay in the final exam, by referring to the examples given in the labs, you can score easy marks there.



It was possible to have plussage in this course. There were two options in which your final grade could be calculated: 20% Test + 20% Essay + 60% Exam or 100% Exam thereby rewarding those who are good at taking exams. However, the conditions for plussage were as follows: achieved at least a pass in the Test, achieved at least a pass grade in the essay and a lab attendance of at least 7 out of the 8 labs*. You didn't need to apply for plussage - the course organisers simply saw if you were eligible and took whichever mark was higher.

*If you could not attend a lab but could produce 'satisfactory evidence' (e.g. medical certificate), that would not be counted for the "2 labs missed". I.e. you simply could miss a maximum of 2 labs for absolutely no reason at all but had to attend the remaining 8 or produce a 'satisfactory' reason for your absence. Just check with your course coordinator to be absolutely sure about your eligibility especially since we are hardly an authoritative source! It is also worth noting that should you be unable to attend your lab stream (due to a lab report due the same day, etc) it is possible for you to attend a different lab stream so long that it is within the same week and there are spare seats. If this becomes relevant for you, I would suggest one of the 8am lab streams, however there is a limit of 3 lab hops per semester (in 2017).  You may want to double check the limit with your course co-ordinator to be safe. 


Examinable Components

Neuroanatomy Test

This test covers the content covered by Prof. Ian Kirk in his 6 lectures and the associated lab session. This test was considered relatively easy not only by Medical Science students but also by most as the class average is historically quite high. However, medical science students definitely do not need to put in as much effort - most of it is prior knowledge from either MEDSCI 142 or MEDSCI 206. However, be warned that there were a few smaller, more intricate structures that you were required to be able to identify that you probably had not come across before. The test itself was just a combination of MCQs and SAQs with the SAQs mostly being 'label this diagram' type questions.


Lab Assignment

In 2017, the Lab Assignment was based on Prof. Corballis' lecture series. This was particularly handy for MedSci students, as his section (as elaborated on later in this article) is on Vision. For this assignment we were expected to write about 4 out of 6 key concepts presented in his lectures and how they relate to 2 different sensory systems. This is in essence a review of Medsci 206 and 316, however don't let this lull you into a false sense of security. SImilar to Psych 109, you are limited to a box, half a page in size to 'comprehensively' compare and contrast the 2 senses of your choice (~450 words). Although the average was slightly above average, the key was concise answers with breadth which is quite the oxymoron. Note also that the essays were marked by the tutors (but not necessarily your own lab tutor).



The exam had three sections in 2017: Section A (50 marks): a collection of SAQs worth values ranging from 2 marks to 4 marks. Section B (25 marks) had two choices for an essay whereas Section C (25 marks) also had two choices for an essay.  The essay choices and the lecturers they come from vary from year to year, but as a general note, Ian Kirk, Paul Corballis, and Lynette all had essay questions in 2017 (available on the UOA Library Exam Database). During the last lab session, the tutor will go through the last hints that the lecturers have regarding what their essays are on, and the key topics that would be most likely to have an SAQ or an Essay. 


Lecture Content

Prof. Ian Kirk's section - 6 lectures

The first block of lectures in PSYCH 202 in 2017, this block covered these topics: 

  • Neurodevelopment

  • Neuroanatomy

  • Neurophysiology

  • Neurophamracology

  • Addiction

  • Psychiatric Disorders

As you can see in the list above, this section of the course is the one which overlaps the greatest with other medical science papers. The first few lecture topics are quite easy for any medical science student but the latter few topics start getting more foreign. Ian is hilarious and his lectures are always great fun to attend. His section, however, towards the end can become increasingly complicated as he goes through experiments that certain researchers have done and what they mean. His lecture slides are thus a lot of graphs and can be difficult to understand without referring to the original source information.


Prof. Russell Gray - 3 Lectures

The second block of lectures in PSYCH 202 in 2017, this block covered these topics:

  • Nature/Nurture debate (MEDSCI 206, PSYCH 108/109)

  • Genes & Intelligence (BIOSCI 101, BIOSCI 202, PSYCH 108)

  • Genes, behaviour & epigenetics (BIOSCI 101, BIOSCI 202)

Russell is a really cool lecturer who has a great number of laughs during his lecture topic! He's very distinguished in academic circles as well (and doesn't let you forget it). Russell uploads both handouts (which contain most information summarised) and lecture slides prior to the lecturer which lets you annotate during the lecture. 
In the list above, I have put in brackets other courses which have touched on these topics before to illustrate how familiar you might be with these topics. This section mainly focuses on the ability to think critically by weighing up evidence for and against a certain topic before giving it your personal judgement. The amount of content to learn was not a lot but as an essay, the ability to write was crucial in order to clearly convey your viewpoints. The SAQs associated with this section of the course were relatively predictable (as they were often repeated from year to year) and the lecturer himself dropped many obvious hints during the lecture. 


A/Prof. Paul Corballis' section - 6 lectures

Paul's section is another section that is based heavily on content in Medsci (206 and 316). In 2017 he covered:

  • Cortical Vision

  • Higher Level Vision

  • Auditory System

  • Sensorimotor System

  • Chemical Sensation

  • Neural Plasticity

  • Lateralisation of Function

As mentioned previously, in 2017, the Lab Assignment was based singularly on his lecture series. I would recommend going through his lectures as he gives major hints on how to go about applying the theories to the various sensory systems. Coming from a MedSci background, I found his lecture style a little inaccessible as the way he explained the content didn't follow the line of thought as Medsci 206 or 316 had. I His explanations were quite convoluted and he made the concepts sound a little more complicated than it needed to be.  As a result I ended up using my notes from Medsci 206 and 316 in prep for the exam. I would say its worth going through the recordings at least, purely for the lab assignment and to ensure that you are aware of what his content is. It is also important to bear in mind that the lecture at the end of the week (Friday 2-4pm in 2017) is 2 hours long in the afternoon. It was quite the mission to be focused during this lecture slot, especially for this section of the course. 

A/Prof. Lynette Tippett's section - 11 hours worth of lectures

Lynette's section contains the following sub-topics in 2017:

  • Neuropsychological Methods

  • Brain Damage and Neural Responses

  • Disorders of Consciousness

  • Hemineglect

  • Neuroimaging and Society

  • Memory

  • Language and Aphasia

These sub-topics are relatively new and Lynette usually goes through these topics with her very detailed lecture slides. You'll need to pay a lot of attention to them due to the large amount of information presented per lecture.   Some may find her section rather 'boring' but it really does provide a great introduction to a lot of interesting different neural deficits. Especially her section on Brain Damage and the disorders of consciousness, where she goes through some fascinating studies. 

bottom of page