How Does Life Work?

Studying towards a GCSE in Biology equips with you with some of the fundamental details and knowledge that you will need to be able to contemplate the above fascinating question.

With a focus on human biology, organisms, evolution and the environment, the topics are taught with everyday relevance so students will learn about the role of Biology and how it affects their lives day in, day out.

Because it is known as the Science of Life, Biology is relevant to all students and is a key transferrable subject. Unlike studying English or History, for example, which are taught in the context of the country in which they are being taught, Biology teaches about all human beings and explores the basics of our environment.

So, no matter which country you end up living in or in which climate, you will still have a reasonable understanding of how the nature around you works with a qualification in Biology, and how you as a human being interact with it and can nurture it.

Biology is the Science of Life, teaching us about how we and other living organisms survive on our planet.
Biology teaches about how so many things on our planet work. Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Visual hunt / CC BY

With many tests and experiments waiting for them, Biology students can benefit from acquiring a wide range of practical skills through hands on work. They will be encouraged to not only study how Biology works, but how elements of the Science can be used to solve problems. As such, a number of other skills play a big part in the process of studying Biology, like Mathematics, Physics and Technology.

No matter how good you are at the above, a Biology course is designed to bring out your best and is intended to provide you with the foundations for a profession related to the Sciences. Biology is a great subject to have under your belt if you dream of a career in Medicine, for instance.

Offered by multiple exam boards, the syllabi all have the same purpose, which is to teach pupils about their place within the world, raise awareness and to build a passion for Biology.

Biology Curriculum And Tips

For some, a Biology GCSE might be their last formal study of the Science yet for others, it could be the start of continued studies within the field, leading the way to a profession within the Live Sciences sector. Either way, Biology provides the foundations for understanding the natural world and how Science is continuously changing our lives.

Thanks to changes to the Biology curriculum in recent years, GCSE students now have the chance to study two separate scientific subjects, graded individually, rather than the old Double or Triple Science Awards (which meant studying all three and receiving the equivalent of two or three GCSEs at the end based upon performance across all subjects).

Pupils now choose one Science to focus their academic attention on and another which is taught as a more vocational subject.

GCSE Biology courses have been carefully put together to be informative whilst encouraging curiosity. The aim of the curriculum is to develop students’ scientific knowledge, (particularly when it comes to biological concepts), to apply observational and problem-solving as well as develop analytical skills.

Let's put it this way, there is little room for boredom when studying towards a Biology GCSE, such is the breadth of the subject.

GCSE Biology Exam Boards & Past Papers

Biology at GCSE Level is offered by AQA, WJEC, Eduqas and OCR, among others. The reformed Biology GCSE (which is now graded 9-1 as opposed to A*-E) started being taught from September 2016, which means that the first students to experience the amended exam will be examined in the upcoming summer.

Below are two of the most popular exam boards for Biology GCSE.


AQA officials have worked alongside teachers to create a specification that will stimulate and motivate students. As such, they’ve introduced a range of practical as well as evaluative topics, designed to answer that big question: How does Science work?

The specification is based on a series of topics related to the living world and relevant to students. It is designed to help them understand how Science can be used to explain the world in which they live and the impact humans have on it.

You can look forward to learning about a range of interesting topics during your GCSE Biology course.
Your Biology course will teach you much about the intricacies of the human body, among other fascinating topics. Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Visual Hunt / No known copyright restrictions


OCR's GCSE in Biology A helps students develop their biological knowledge and to deepen their scientific thinking. On the course, they discover how key concepts in Biology make sense of the natural world, putting to rest all of those theories that they were once curious about. Relevant practical skills are integrated with the numerous topics to mix hands-on learning with academic lessons.

Using The Exam Boards' Past Papers

Doing past papers is probably the best form of revision you can do in the run up to your Biology GCSE exam, especially if you are new to formulating exam-style responses.

By using past papers properly, you can work on improving your technique, thus growing in confidence. However, it is no good simply reading past paper questions or just jotting down answers haphazardly. Here are some tips on how best to use these resources.

How To Use Past Papers For Successful Revision

In the run up to your end of year exam, your teacher may organise a mock exam for you, or set a classroom task which simulates an exam. This will help you familiarise yourself with the exam setting.

For instance, pupils must arrive on time during examinations, and can only take a small number of items (including refreshments, stationery and, at times, books) into the hall with them. But, most importantly, there is strictly no talking, passing notes or any other form of communication allowed.

Exam-taking is not all about what you know and how well you cope under pressure though. A very important aspect of being assessed is how effectively you communicate your responses. Consulting past papers can enhance your ability to respond well and gain extra marks by teaching you what it is the examiner is looking for.

That said, be aware that past papers currently available may differ from your actual exam because of the changes to the curriculum.

Regardless, familiarise yourself with the types of questions that are commonly set and ask yourself what it is they are trying to get out of you.

Approaching the exam with some level of confidence is encouraged but pupils need to be realistic and educate themselves on the mark scheme. Not enough emphasis is placed on these documents, but the fact is that they tell you how to pass your exam - so take note!

Guides And Resources For GCSE Biology Revision

The Boards

Helpful Biology resources can be found on each of the exam boards’ websites. For example, AQA’s website has a page linking to teaching resources as well as documents for students to download.

OCR, meanwhile, proposes high-quality resources which can be searched by qualification type and resource type, to help you find the right documents for you. You can also download a skills guide from their site to match your personal skills to particular qualifications. This could be a worthwhile activity for those unsure where they are heading.

Reminder: Do not miss the past papers, which as you now know can be a great help when it comes to preparing for exams.

Revision Websites

If you have not yet come across it, be sure to visit BBC Bitesize for your learning needs throughout the course.

This website, dedicated to UK students of all ages and taking a variety of exams, will help to break down the topics in an easy way and will additionally make learning that little bit more fun.

As well as BBC Bitesize, Revision World is a fantastic place for students to go during times of need. This easy to use website offers students study help, coursework assistance, essay writing tips, past papers and many more valuable resources to make revising easy and enjoyable.

There is no shortage of revision materials online, but see here where to find the best sites.
Revision materials can be found anywhere and everywhere but there are some websites that are particularly useful. Photo credit: Solent Creatives via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Getting hold of revision materials online is brilliant as most resources are easily accessible at the click of a button, plus they are usually free (bonus!).

Exam Timetables And Grading

Timetables for compulsory exams like GCSEs are released up to two years in advance, accessible by you or your biology tutor, but are subject to amendments until the final timetables are confirmed, usually in the 12 months prior to the assessment period.

Why not use this to your advantage by planning revision sessions to fit around your exam schedule, so that you can visualise how the weeks leading to the exam period will pan out? Be sure to plan and do everything you want to do before reaching the date of the exam.

For instance, if you want to visit a particular Science museum, then make sure you do not waste any time and get this booked into your diary now. And, speaking of diaries, it is a good idea to highlight key dates in your diary, planner or on a calendar in your room to maintain your focus during those last weeks gearing up to exams. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

For information on finding a GCSE or a level biology tutor, you can speak to Superprof. They will be able to help you find biology gcse help by showing you the way to a biology online tutor or someone nearby (i.e. if you live in Glasgow then they will provide details of a biology tutor glasgow).

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.