Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: Biology

Timothy Hoffmann

Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: Biology

This subject brief covers the Biology syllabus at both Core and Extended level.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Cambridge IGCSE Biology aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the subject while helping them develop the necessary skills for further education in science.

There are currently two curricula for Biology: 0610 and 0970. The only difference between them is the grading system. Biology (0610) is graded on the traditional A*-G scale, whereas Biology (0970) is graded on a scale 9-1, with 9 being the equivalent to an A*. Please note that from 2018, schools in the UK will offer the 0970 curriculum, which will also be available in Administrative Zone 3 from 2019 onwards. All other zones will continue to follow the 0610 curriculum until further notice.

Topics covered:

Throughout the two-year course, students will study 24 different topics:

  • Characteristics and classification of living organisms
  • Organisation of the organism
  • Movement in and out of cells
  • Biological molecules
  • Enzymes
  • Plant nutrition
  • Human nutrition
  • Transport in plants
  • Transport in animals
  • Diseases and immunity
  • Gas exchange in humans
  • Respiration
  • Excretion in humans
  • Coordination and response
  • Drugs
  • Reproduction
  • Inheritance
  • Variation and selection
  • Organisms and their environment
  • Biotechnology and genetic engineering
  • Human influences on ecosystems

Each topic has a series of subtopics which you can see in detail in the Cambridge syllabus. The Biology syllabus has can be taken at Core level or Extended level. However, almost all schools only offer the Extended curriculum, which teaches Core subtopics as well as Supplements, which are simply additional subtopics.

Assessment and Grading:

As mentioned before, whether you are graded on the A*-G scale or the 9-1 scale depends on your school. Core students will not be able to score higher than a C (or a 6). All candidates take three papers. Core students will take Papers 1 and 3, while Extended students will take 2 and 4. Both Core and Extended will take either Paper 5 or Paper 6, depending on the school’s decision. You can see the structure of each exam below:

Core exams:

Extended exams:

All candidates take either:

Or:

Exams cover three types of Assessment Objectives (AOs). AO1 – Knowledge with understanding, assesses a student’s knowledge of scientific concepts and terminology. Meanwhile, AO2 – Handling information and problem solving, evaluates data-handling skills. Lastly, AO3 – Experimental skills and investigations, assesses a student’s ability carrying out experiments. AO1 and AO2 are assessed in papers 1-4, while AO3 is only assessed in papers 5 and 6.

Grade boundaries change every year, but in June 2017, the minimum mark to score an A* was 139 marks out of 200 (around 69.5%), while a C was at a minimum of 83 marks (41.5%).