With an emphasis on human biology, the Cambridge IGCSE Biology syllabus helps learners to understand the technological world in which they live, and take an informed interest in science and scientific developments. Learners gain an understanding of the basic principles of biology through a mix of theoretical and practical studies. They also develop an understanding of the scientific skills essential for further study at Cambridge International A Level, which are useful in everyday life. As they progress, learners understand how science is studied and practised, and become aware that the results of scientific research can have both good and bad effects on individuals, communities and the environment.
What do you enjoy about the subject?
Chloe: I like how well it relates to everything around us and us in general.
Lydia: Yeah and I’ve always found it really interesting so to study it in depth more is- it’s nice.
Saranya: All about plants, very much environmentally friendly, I would say. So if you’re a nature person, go for bio.
Lydia: And it doesn’t involve a lot of math, so if you’re not a physics or chemistry person- biology.
What is the most challenging thing about the subject?
Lydia: I think remembering everything.
Chloe: Yeah, and how specific it is, so like key words- key terms- especially in the exams, if you don’t have the right key words you won’t get the marks. Things like that.
Saranya: My drawing skills were pretty bad and I think drawing an animal’s foot was so bad that I think I only got like one mark. Improving on my drawing skills was probably the hardest part.
Why did you choose this subject?
Lydia: I feel like bio has always been my strongest science and I found it the most interesting.
Chloe: So compared to physics and chemistry, it’s the easiest for those who aren’t good at maths or aren’t good at trying to think about the abstract concept like physics and chemistry.
Lydia: It’s the easiest to understand.
Saranya: Like what Chloe said, especially for physics, remembering formulas and stuff like that wasn’t for me, so bio was a good thing.
Was there anything in the subject that was different from your initial expectations? What were the main changes from year 9?
Lydia: It is what I expected, because I like learning about people and I like learning about animals, and it has that so yeah.
Saranya: I think in year 9 you learn a bit from each of the three sciences- and when you pick one you go so in depth, and you’re like “okay, I’m trying to remember things!”, yeah.
Lydia: It’s like really focused.
What do lessons look like?
Chloe: It varies with your teacher.
Lydia: Because you do sit at a table with your friends and then you sort of just help each other out. It’s like “Oh I don’t know this, do you know how to do it?”
Chloe: A lot of it is note taking. Yeah, note taking is very important in class.
Saranya: There’s a lot of “Think, Pair, Share”, which is helpful because we get to learn what the teacher says and what our friend says.
How much homework or independent study will I be doing in a week in this subject?
Lydia: It really does depend on the teacher. Like for Mr Jared, he doesn’t give a lot of homework, but he sort of makes you revise stuff in class.
What are the skills or knowledge you can develop in this subject and why are they useful?
Lydia: I feel like you develop a better understanding of the world, because you sort of understand how things work, and it helps you understand yourself better- like the way your internal stuff works.
Chloe: I feel like you get better at learning how to be concise with your answers, because you have to make sure to put key terms- but you also have to make sure you fit within the given lines as well and you don’t ramble. Because there’s a lot to write in bio so you don’t waste time by dilly-dallying.
Saranya: Accuracy, I guess, because for me, my drawings skills were really bad. When it came to, you know, expanding the smaller drawings, I had to make sure I drew things correctly.
Do you have any tips for new Bio students? How do you study for the subject?
Lydia: I think for me, the biggest help was to make your notes interesting to read, because if they’re just like blank- just writing, I probably wouldn’t revisit it. But if I make them really colourful, and interesting, and I make flashcards- so it makes me want to study it more often. If you don’t constantly go over it, and you forget it, it makes it a lot more difficult.
Chloe: Following from what Lydia said- make notes from the start- do not rush it before your IGCSEs. You’ll feel like IGCSE is like years away, you won’t study- you will not study-
Lydia: Oh yeah.
Chloe: You will not study in the beginning, but you should. Consistent studying is key. Study.
Saranya: Labelling the diagrams as well, I think taking very short notes would help, but adding in key words.
Chloe: And also, don’t use other people’s notes. It doesn’t work. It’s not your own writing, it’s not your own phrasing, you won’t remember it as well. And also do past year papers, mark schemes and past year papers will be your holy grail. That’s where you learn all the key terms and key phrases.
Lydia: And follow the syllabus! It’s all in the syllabus, make sure you know it.
Chloe: Refer to the syllabus content.Will taking other subject help me be successful in this one?
Lydia: I think chemistry in a sense does connect to it a bit, but I feel like biology is quite an independent subject. You don’t really need a lot to understand it, but chemistry does help a little bit in some aspects.
Chloe: And also I think the end chapters in bio relate a lot to geo, so I mean, if you want...
Overview by Mr Jared
Describe your subject in 3 words
Alright, bio could be described in three words that would be relevant, realistic, and also applicable.
What are the top 3 skills needed to successful in your subject?
The important three skills needed for you to do well in bio would be: you need to be organised, you need to ensure you do your periodical reviews as well, and also that you get enough practice especially in your past year papers.
How does your subject promote professional development?
The career prospects for learning bio would definitely be an area of life sciences, if you’re interested to do medicine you need to take bio- and also chemistry I believe, and if you’re thinking about environmental sciences then bio would be crucial as well.
What’s the best thing about your subject?
I think the best thing about learning bio, it’s a real subject you’re able to relate to yourself and also you’re able to relate with things around you and it makes it a very applicable subject.
Papers in IGCSE Biology
Paper 2: Multiple Choice
30% of total mark
Based on Core and Supplement syllabus.
Paper 4: Theory
1 hour 15 minutes
50% of total mark.
Consists of short and long structured questions requiring specific detail and knowledge based on contents of Core and Supplement syllabus.
Paper 6: Alternative to Practical
20% of total mark
Tests ability to plan, conduct, and detail the results of specific experiments.