GCSE biology

AQA GCSE Biology Exam

GCSE Biology is divided into two papers

The first paper assesses the following: cell biology, organisation, infection and response and Bioenergetics. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.
The second paper assesses the following: homeostasis and response, inheritance, variation and evolution and ecology. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.

There are three assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of GCSE Biology below, with requisite assessment details and objectives.

Assessment details

Paper 1

Topic 1: Cell Biology
Cell structure
Eukaryotes and prokaryotes
Animal and plant cells
Cell specialisation
Cell differentiation
Culturing microorganisms

Cell Division
Mitosis and the cell cycle
Stem cells

Transport in Cells
Active transport

Topic 2: Organisation
Animal tissues, organs and organ systems

The human digestive system
The heart and blood vessels
Coronary heart disease: a non-communicable disease
Health issues
The effect of lifestyle on some non-communicable diseases

Topic 3: Plant tissues, organs and systems
Plant tissues
Plant organ system

Topic 4: Infection and response
Communicable diseases
Communicable (infectious) diseases
Viral diseases
Bacterial diseases
Fungal diseases
Protist diseases
Human defence systems
Antibiotics and painkillers
Discovery and development of drugs

Monoclonal antibodies
Producing monoclonal antibodies
Uses of monoclonal antibodies

Plant disease
Detection and identification of plant diseases
Plant defence responses

Topic 5: Bioenergetics
Photosynthetic reaction
Rate of photosynthesis
Uses of glucose from photosynthesis

Aerobic and anaerobic respiration
Response to exercise

Paper 2

Topic 1: Homeostasis and response

Topic 2: The human nervous system
Structure and function
The brain
The eye
Control of body temperature

Hormonal coordination in humans
Human endocrine system
Control of blood glucose concentration
Maintaining water and nitrogen balance in the body
Hormones in human reproduction
The use of hormones to treat infertility
Negative feedback

Plant hormones
Control and coordination
Use of plant hormones

Topic 3: Inheritance, variation and evolution
Sexual and asexual reproduction
Advantages and disadvantages of sexual and asexual reproduction
DNA and the genome
DNA structure
Genetic inheritance
Inherited disorders
Sex determination

Variation and evolution
Selective breeding
Genetic engineering

The development of understanding of genetics and evolution
Theory of evolution
The understanding of genetics
Evidence for evolution
Resistant bacteria
Classification of living organism

Topic 4: Ecology
Adaptations, interdependence and competition
Abiotic factors
Biotic factors

Organisation of an ecosystem
Levels of organisation
How materials are cycled
Impact of environmental change

Biodiversity and the effect of human interaction on ecosystems
Waste management
Land use
Global warming
Maintaining biodiversity

Trophic levels in an ecosystem
Trophic levels
Pyramids of biomass
Transfer of biomass

Food production
Factors affecting food security
Farming techniques
Sustainable fisheries
Role of biotechnology

Key ideas

The complex and diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of a small number of key ideas in biology. These key ideas are of universal application, and we have embedded them throughout the subject content. They underpin many aspects of the science assessment. These ideas include:

• life processes depend on molecules whose structure is related to their function
• the fundamental units of living organisms are cells, which may be part of highly adapted structures including tissues, organs and organ systems, enabling living processes to be performed effectively
• living organisms may form populations of single species, communities of many species and ecosystems, interacting with each other, with the environment and with humans in many different ways
• living organisms are interdependent and show adaptations to their environment
• life on Earth is dependent on photosynthesis in which green plants and algae trap light from the Sun to fix carbon dioxide and combine it with hydrogen from water to make organic compounds and oxygen
• organic compounds are used as fuels in cellular respiration to allow the other chemical reactions necessary for life
• the chemicals in ecosystems are continually cycling through the natural world
• the characteristics of a living organism are influenced by its genome and its interaction with the environment
• evolution occurs by a process of natural selection and accounts both for biodiversity and how organisms are all related to varying degrees.

Assessment details

Assessment Objectives
    The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives:
  • AO1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific techniques and procedures.
  • AO2: Apply knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific enquiry, techniques and procedures.
  • AO3: Analyse information and ideas to: interpret and evaluate; make judgements and draw conclusions; develop and improve experimental procedures.