During the coronavirus pandemic, second-year students on the B.Sc. molecular biology and genetics degree at Istanbul Technical University sat an open-ended online exam for a microbiology course in which one of the compulsory questions asked how the course had helped them during the first phase of the pandemic (April-July 2020). Fifty of 69 students gave consent for their (anonymous) responses to be analysed in order to discern any key ways in which their knowledge had been applied. The aim of the study was to investigate whether taking an advanced microbiology course increases understanding of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and has a positive impact on student behaviours with respect to public health practices. Findings were divided into four major themes: course content (information), application of course content to behavioural change (practice), professionalism and their 'audience' whilst at home in lockdown (family and friends). Social distancing, wearing face masks, and hand and surface hygiene were described as important behaviours, with this practice informed by their basic microbiology knowledge. This paper describes a scenario where rote assessment can be used to assess wider scientific literacy with respect to application in society, providing students with an opportunity to incorporate and apply their learning into real-life situations, whilst tutors can assess constructivist learning, conceptual understanding and impact on student behaviour.The microbiology examination assignment at Istanbul Technical University during the coronavirus pandemic is an excellent example of assessing wider scientific literacy with respect to application in society.