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Course Description

This course includes a broad exposure to the historical and contemporary concepts that underpin modern biology. It includes a wide range of required practicals to ensure students will be trained in working scientifically so that they can think scientifically; develop experimental skills and strategies; analyse and evaluate; and develop scientific literacy (inclusive of numeracy, vocabulary and schemas). This course covers content and skills that link with geography, history, mathematics and physical education.

How will I be assessed?

The course is assessed by external exam only. The two papers are sat at the end of year 11 and assess different topics:

  • Paper 1: Cell biology; Organisation; Infection and response; and Bioenergetics.
  • Paper 2: Homeostasis and response; Inheritance, variation and evolution; and Ecology.

Each paper is 50% of the GCSE, made up of 100 marks and are 1 hour 45 minutes long. There are different styles of questions including multiple choice, structured, closed short answer, and open response questions. 

40% of marks will be based on demonstrating knowledge and understanding (AO1); 40% of marks will be based on applying that knowledge and understanding (AO2) and 20% on analysing given information and ideas (AO3). There is also a significant maths/numeracy component to the examinations.

Foundation and higher tier versions of the papers are available and students will sit the papers that are most suitable for them. Foundation tier papers are for those likely to achieve a grade between 1 and 5, whereas higher tier papers are for those likely to achieve a grade between 4 and 9.

What will I learn?



Cell biology

  • Cell structure; animal & plant cells, microscopy
  • Cell division; stem cells
  • Transport in cells; diffusion, osmosis, active transport


  • Animal tissues, organs and organ systems: the digestive system, the circulatory system, cancer
  • Plant tissues, organs and systems

Infection and response

  • Communicable diseases: viral, bacterial, fungal & protist diseases; human defence; vaccination; antibiotics
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Plant diseases


  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration

Homeostasis and response

  • Homeostasis
  • The human nervous system; the brain & the eye
  • Hormonal coordination in humans
  • Plant hormones

Inheritance, variation and evolution

  • Reproduction; DNA & inheritance
  • Variation and evolution; genetic engineering
  • The development of understanding of genetics & evolution
  • Classification of living organisms


  • Adaptations, interdependence and competition
  • Organisation of an ecosystem
  • Biodiversity and human impact on ecosystems
  • Trophic levels in an ecosystem
  • Food production

What could I do next?

GCSE Biology allows for natural progress to A level biology in post-16. Students not wishing to study biology further will find the knowledge and skills developed on the GCSE Biology course are relevant in other post-sixteen courses and may directly complement other A-level subjects such as mathematics, sports science and chemistry. The knowledge acquired can also be utilised to provide examples of natural systems and interactions that have analogues in settings that are not explicitly scientific e.g. in art, business or engineering.