Exam Board: AQA

What is the GCSE about?

GCSE Biology is the study of all living organisms and their interaction with each other and the world around them. It is a fabulous course that provides great preparation for Biology at A level or for anyone who is interested in the natural world in general and the living organisms that surround us. You will study things that are very small (cells) and learn about how these work. You will see how the different cells within a plant or animal all work together to allow the organism to work well and learn about how organisms interact with each other and their environment. There are a huge range of practicals that we do throughout the GCSE course and these allow pupils to develop a much deeper understanding of how Biology works.

What does the GCSE consist of?

There are five main areas of study over the course. Of course, there are chapters within each of these and each chapter is broken down into a number of lessons.

Here are the five topics:

  • Cells and organisation (one of 5 topics): cell structure; cell division; organisation and the digestive system; organising animals and plants (four chapters).
  • Disease and bioenergetics: communicable diseases; preventing and treating disease; non-communicable diseases; photosynthesis; respiration.
  • Biological responses: the human nervous system; hormonal coordination; homeostasis in action.
  • Genetics and reproduction: reproduction; variation and evolution; genetics and evolution.
  • Ecology: adaptations, interdependence and competition; organising and ecosystem; biodiversity and ecosystems.

Do I need to have studied the subject at GCSE?

If you are entertaining the slightest thought of studying Biology at A level or if you are wanting to keep your options open just in case you develop a vague interest in any of the careers below, then you should choose to study GCSE Biology.

Whom does the subject suit?

Biology suits those with a natural curiosity about the world around them and anyone who has enjoyed the spectacular BBC productions of Planet Earth and the Blue Planet and others. Others choose Biology because they are passionate about conservation and want to reduce the negative impact we are having on the planet. Others are more interested in the human side and want to find out more about how our bodies work. Some prefer the tiny things, the microbes and minibeasts. This course covers all of those areas, so there is a little bit for everyone.

What skills should I have?

A "can do" attitude is extremely important along with a good grasp of the English language and an ability to learn new terms quickly. You need to be able to think in a logical manner and communicate your ideas using precise words. Having good mathematical skills is also very useful for Biology.

What might the subject lead to?

A level Biology is a useful stepping stone to future study of a vast array of degree courses such as:

  • Botany - studying plants on the land and in the oceans.
  • Zoology - study of animals in a whole range of environments from the most inhospitable to the most exotic.
  • Genetics - study of the DNA in organisms and how this affects how the organism works. This is probably the area where there is the biggest expansion of knowledge and new discovery. If you are aiming for a major Science award, then this is a good area to go into.
  • Biochemistry - looking at the chemical processes within living organisms and other chemical processes surrounding living things. It is the interface between Biology and Chemistry which may well take you into industry or helping geneticists to crack the problems they are facing.
  • Molecular Biology - closely linked to genetics these days but a fascinating area of Biology in and of itself. It is the study of the composition and structure of molecules found in cells and how they interact to enable a cell to function efficiently.
  • Microbiology - the study of microscopic organisms. This could lead to a career in looking at solving the problems that pathogens cause; or using food technology to solve the problem of how to feed billions of people each and every day.
  • Sports and Exercise Science - where you gain an understanding of sports performance and the factors affecting how athletes perform on any given day. There are a whole suite of other careers for which Biology is an integral part, such as veterinary science, farming, food production, ecology and conservation. Although Biology isn’t strictly required for
  • Medicine, it certainly is a subject that is highly valued not just for Medicine but for all the other branches of medicine such as nursing, physiotherapy, psychology and many more.

What trips are involved?

The annual trip to the Big Bang Fair in the fourth form is not just a spectacular Science fair with some awesome shows but introduces pupils to the vast array of careers that use Biology.

What else should I consider before choosing?

Biology is a challenging course and should not be chosen as an option just because the other options in the option block don’t appeal. This is because this subject is relatively demanding and is not an easy option. It is a great option if you are prepared to work very hard from the start.

What books should I read?

It would be very helpful if you could regularly read National Geographic for kids. Keep looking at the Science pages on the BBC website, although some of their Science correspondents are a little sloppy with the language they use.

Who will teach me?

Mr Miller or Mrs McFarlane or Mr Blackie