Things wrong with our class Practicals culture!

Back when I was a student I enjoyed Practicals more than I enjoyed the class practicals were more fun and you’d learn more from a practical than the theory classes. I could barely sit through a theory class (usually 45 minutes) , but during the practicals I wished I could stay more, that’s because it was fun!

The way we do it, the culture of it has remained the same since I was a student. Most students never pay attention during the practical class, it was kind of like a retreat from the boring theory classes. And, getting your assignments done wasn’t much of a problem, all you had to do is come in early or skip lunch and start drawing your figures and writing down your comments. Practicals weren’t important among my friends when I was a student and now that I am a teacher it still isn’t important among my students. But the thing is practicals are way useful that the Theory classes. That’s what we need to understand! I’m not sure how it goes with the other subjects i.e. Botany, Chemistry and Physics but in case of Zoology, the files are a completely derelict.

The first problem lies in the fact that the students “Don’t think” its important! For the last year and half I have seen repeatedly that its more of a negligence than unforced errors. Even though they are aware of the fact that the files carries extra marks, the negligence is evident. The second problem is relying on the book for everything! Copying from the book as it is.


Binomial Nomenclature:

No matter where it is on the paper you ALWAYS underline the Scientific Name! This is the rule that students studying Biology should master by the end of few months of their intermediate level. But even B.Sc. 2nd and 3rd year students go on to say “Yaha pani underline garna parcha ra sir” pointing towards the comment section of the practical sheet. No matter where you write the scientific name it has to be Underlined. Linnaeus developed the system of Nomenclature that we use today and it is mandatory for everyone to write it in either Italics if you are typing or if its handwritten you have to Underline it! No matter where you write it.


Everything in science is beautiful because there is a need for uniformity and universality. Whatever you write at the right side of the drawing should be reflected in the comment section at the left side. The details on both of the sides should be uniform since, usually its the figure on the right that we are describing on the left. You have to have the exactly same details on both side. You can’t write the Common name on the label of the figure and start with Scientific name on the comment section.

The major problems on the files are:

Mentioning only the Genus on the right side while writing the species on the comment section:

Unless you have mentioned the species on the figure and classification you shouldn’t write the species else where. For instance that particular species might not be the same species that you observed during your practicals. This is the most common mistake ever.

If the specimen you’ve observed is a Rock Pigeon (The common pigeon that we see in our temples) its Scientific name is Columba livia) but if you just write Columba in the classification and the caption/label of the figure. Then you can’t go on to write “Columba” is commonly called Rock Pigeon. You can write Columba are commonly called Pigeons, but not Rock Pigeons. Because Columba is a genus and there are 6 different species of Pigeons under the genus Columba that are found in Nepal. So just “Columba” could be rock pigeon or snow pigeon or hill pigeon. So it is essential to specify which species you are talking about while commenting on its common name. Unless sure about it, just write , birds under the Columba genus are commonly called Pigeons. But if you are certain that you know the species too then, write Columba livia are commonly called Rock Pigeon, Columba leuconata are commonly called Snow Pigeons – in that manner.

– Writing used as Lab specimen under the Economic importance:

My first response to that particular comment is: If we had no subject called Zoology or if we didn’t study at all these animal would have no importance at all? Economic importance not necessarily mean the benefit or economic gain, it could mean Ecological importance or ecological loss or economical loss. For Eg. The Economic importance of Lamprey is that its a Quasi-Parasite and is responsible loss of large amount of fishes which in turn causes the economic loss. Rats cause damaged to crops and stored seeds to that economic importance as well. That sections deals with the importance of that particular species whether good or bad.

– Drawing in scale:

Except for few people who have the innate ability to draw, most of us are bad at drawing. But that doesn’t mean we can draw out of scale. So it is very essential to draw, at least in scale outlining the proper structure. The concept of drawing the animals on practical files comes from the fact that decades ago there were no cameras and while on the field, one would have to draw the animals as it is to identify. We had no camera to take photos and to identify it later so it is a form of developing skill that would be required in the field if you were to become a wildlife scientist. That’s why it is essential to be careful while drawing the figures. Drawing a Danphe the size of a Sparrow and a Sparrow the size of Danphe can’t be good.

– Writing every single comments that’s written in the book

The next big mistake is that most students copy every single comment from the book. For instance, we just look at the specimen from outside and we are only concerned with what it looks like and how one would Identify it in the times when we have to do so. But students just copy everything from the book. Since we are just concerned with how the animal looks and how we would identify it we just have to care about its physical appearance. But I usually see that the comments include the type of kidneys the animals have or other such anatomical characteristics. Just write what you can see and it doesn’t have to be a full page as long as the reader gets the idea of its appearance by just reading the comments. Just write those things that would help you identify the species.

– Labeling the diagram vertically

That is one of the other things that goes terribly wrong when it comes to the practical sheets. To keep it standard and clean just label the parts horizontally, use lines or arrows if necessary but do not label it horizontally as if someone had to turn the page around to see the name of that particular part.

– Copying the comments blindfoldedly without improvisation:

It can be accepted that the students depend upon an Indian writers book for the comment. But while writing you can actually improvise. For eg. Most students, under Geographical distribution, go on to write the name of the countries from Maldova to Micronesia to every single country except Nepal. The specimen would be of a Rock Pigeon or a Common Crow, but they fail to write : They are found in Nepal (as well). But they do write the name of half of the countries of the world. Originality is very hard to find in that regard. Also when it comes to the common name: They go on to write Maindak,  Chamdagar or Koel as the common names but fail to write Bhyaguto, Chamero or Koili. That’s something we should be careful of because even students of Science might not know what a “Satarmurg” is! Just because its written in the book doesn’t mean you have to copy it.

– Drawing in hierarchical order:

This is for both specimen observation and comparative anatomy section. The drawing should be arranged from the low rank class to high ranked class. You can’t draw the figure of a Mammal first and then Aves, Reptiles and Amphibian- in that order. You have to start from the Amphibian and move up to the Mammal. While maintaining the file at the end, you have to follow the same rules as well. If its the invertebrates, start from Protozoa leading up to Echinoderms. If its vertebrates then started from Hyperoartia to Mammals. 

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Mr Zoologist

I am a Zoologist!

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