Biology OptionsEdit

Exam-only Biology IGCSEs are available from CIE, Edexcel and AQA (last AQA Certificate exams summer 2017).  

The new 9-1 GCSEs will not be feasible for most external candidates. Although they don't have a practical exam, OFQUAL has required that school heads sign a declaration that candidates have undertaken the core practicals for each syllabus, and the exam boards require that these are carried out in the exam centre. While some private exam centres may support this, it is very unlikely that any school will allow it. Most home educators will continue with IGCSE sciences as they are well-respected and are still being used in many independent schools.  

Edexcel offer Biology or Human Biology. CIE offer only Biology, and this syllabus appears to have more Human Biology content than the Edexcel 'general' Biology.

Human_Biology is on its own page.

The Edexcel specification is changing to 9-1 grading, with some other syllabus changes. The first new exams will be summer 2019 (a year later than the first new GCSE science exams).

CIE has not announced any changes to its specifications as yet.

CIE / Cambridge IGCSE Biology Edit

CIE IGCSE Biology The current specification exam code is 0610.

ClickBiology is a resource site focussed on CIE Biology for IGCSE.  It also has resources for Edexcel A-level Biology.  

Seneca Learning is a free resource site with courses on CIE Biology for IGCSE. It has content written by senior examiners and the platform applies neuroscience to make students learn 2x faster.  

Cambridge New IGCSE Biology Student Book by Collins

Book recommendations from HE-Exams groupEdit

Free download from iTunes of CIE Biology textbook. The link takes you to a BBC story about it. The actual downloads are available from the iTunes Stephen Pearse Foundation Store.

One parent commented:

We would recommend IGCSE Biology by D G Mackean. There are good review questions at the end of each section and good chapter "checklists" but the really good bit is that the author has a website, Biology Resources, with answers to all the questions in the book and additional self-assessment question sheets ( and answers) that can be printed out. The site also has lots of other diagrams, information about practicals etc.

The downside is that the book is very detailed and doesn't follow the order of the exam syllabus exactly.

The best way to mitigate the problem of feeling swamped is to also get IGCSE Study Guide for Biology by Dave Haynward (pub Hodder) . It summarises all the key information for each topic-key objectives, key definitions, key ideas and also has sample exam questions and examiners tips. It is a great map to help you navigate the course and make the best of the Mackean book.

Cambridge IGCSE Biology published by Collins is about a third of the thickness of Mackean, has good diagrams and review questions and can be helpful in getting a first grip on a topic area.

Edexcel IGCSE Biology 4BI0 Edit

The current Edexcel IGCSE Biology code is 4BI0. Last sitting for this syllabus will be January 2019. After that it is being updated to the new 9-1 IGCSE version.

The new Edexcel IGCSE Biology, graded 9-1, is 4BI1 and first exams will be in summer 2019.

The Edexcel Certificate is the state schools version of the IGCSE and will be available until last exams in Summer 2017 . The code for the Certificate is KBI0.  If you look at the materials for 4BI0 (the IGCSE) and KBI0 you'll see they are exactly the same - they use the same exam papers, and each one has both exam codes on it. It is purely down to personal choice whether you sit the Certificate or the IGCSE.  State schools can only enter their own students for the Certificate, but if you're an external candidate using a state school as an exam centre, you can choose whichever you want. Schools abroad can only enter for the IGCSE.  There are only differences between the Certificates and IGCSEs for a few subjects - see the IGCSEs section

Syllabus Information Edit

The spec hasn't changed much from the 2011 spec.  There have been minor changes to the Edexcel IGCSE science syllabuses because, AFAIK, they wanted to keep the IGCSE and the Edexcel Certificate the same where possible & there were certain things that OFQUAL demanded in order to approve the Certificates.  Largely for the sciences this was emphasising certain terminology. You can see a list of the changes - it's very short - in the Mapping Document which Edexcel has produced.  Go to the subject page for IGCSE Biology from 2011 and you'll see it in the menu.

On this page you can download past papers, mark schemes and examiners' reports from Summer 2012 and January 2012. 

On the IGCSE from 2009 page you can download past papers for Summer 2011, which was the first time the 2009 spec was examined (are you keeping up?!!) The course date is when schools are expected to first teach the syllabus, two years before the first exam.  For more practice you can get papers from the old specification, 4325.  This is a tiered paper, unlike the current spec, so we only used the higher tier paper for practice - 2H - and the 'alternative to practical' paper 3.  In the current spec the 'alternative to practical' questions are distributed throughout the exam papers.  

Collection of Edexcel IGCSE Biology past papers from Nov 2007 to Jan 2013

For more info see this Edexcel IGCSE Science FAQ

where it says;

"What are the changes to the International GCSE Sciences? 

The changes clarify the demands of the specifications, and demonstrate links to practical activities. The majority of these changes will not require you to revisit areas of the specifications that you have already taught. However, a small number of changes involve the removal of material from the Double Award into the separate sciences; or the addition of new material into all sciences specifications.  

There is also a small change in the Assessment Objective weightings in the question papers, although the style of the question papers is unchanged. It has been necessary to make these changes immediately for first examination in the June 2013 series. 

What if my students are half-way through their International GCSE qualification? 

The majority of these changes will not require you to revisit areas of the specifications that you have already taught. Please ensure that you visit our website to download the mapping documents which explain these amendments for each of the sciences. 

There is also a small change in the Assessment Objective weightings in the question papers, although the style of the question papers is unchanged. Teachers should continue to teach the qualification as per normal with the new specification. "

The updated Teacher Support Materials are very useful - see  - they include a list of 15 recommended practical experiments.  The Scheme of Work contains more suggestions for practical work and some links to suggested resources.  You can find the Scheme of Work on the IGCSE subject page.

Textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE Biology Edit

Edexcel IGCSE Biology (Student Book) by Philip Bradfield et al. - This is the Student Book that Edexcel specify for the '2011' specification, although it is the 2009 edition - see Edexcel Resources for confirmation of this. You will also need the Answers to the Student Book questions as these are not provided with the book, though Pearson Edexcel supply them online as a free pdf. [ Link updated 15/5/2015]

Collins International GCSE - Biology Student Book: Edexcel International GCSE - Endorsed by Pearson Edexcel as suitable for their syllabus, and published by a different company. You will need to download the answers here: answers to the IGCSE Biology Student Book as these are not provided with the book.

Hodder Edexcel International GCSE and Certificate Biology Practice Book Paperback – 28 Jun 2013, by Erica Larkcom  (Author), Roger Delpech (Author), Kathy Evans (Author) . Does not come with answers, so a member of the HE Exams group obtained them from Hodder and you can download here: Answers to Hodder Edexcel IGCSE Biology Practice book

It is down to personal preference which you use.  Note that Pearson Edexcel always provide answers to all questions in their Student books - sometimes on a CD-ROM that comes with the book and sometimes as a download from their site.  Collins books generally have answers to some questions, but the answers to the 'Exam-style' questions are only given in the Teacher Pack, which is sold separately at nearly £100. However, Collins have provided a pdf of the answers to the IGCSE Biology Student Book for the use of home-educating families. You can email them and ask for the answers if you explain that you are home educating, they have been sent free of charge as a PDF by email. ( File:IGCSE Edexcel Biology Student Book answers Collins 2012 edition.pdf Different members of the HE-Exams group have different preferences:

"The Collins book is less detailed, sticks closely to the specification (exactly in chronological order) and is the one I use the most when teaching my biology groups. The Edexcel/Pearson book is far more detailed than necessary but full of extra information that is very interesting. I tend to set this book as a reading homework."

You may want to purchase the Edexcel/Pearson revision guide which is only about £7 or £8 which has revision style notes and a good supply of past exam questions (answers are on the accompanying dvd)


"The Edexcel Student Book was all my son needed to study with, and he got an A*.  He found the book interesting and comprehensive, and all answers were easily available.  He just worked through it and then did past papers."

AQA Level 1/2 Certificate in Biology Edit

AQA Biology Certificate/IGCSE

This specification has been available to private candidates from June 2013. AQA are discontinuing all their Level 1/2 Certificates as the new 9-1 GCSEs in each subject become available. Last sitting for this exam will be summer 2017.

Edexcel Human BiologyEdit

Please see the Human_Biology page for information on available specifications, plus a great list of resources on human biology.

Practical WorkEdit

It is not necessary to carry out practical work at home to get a top grade in the exam, but doing some practicals will, of course, help. The IGCSE exams contain questions about how certain experiments would be designed and these can be challenging, requiring you to think about factors which might affect your results.

Please see our new page all about doing Biology Practicals from home, which includes information on obtaining supplies and hints and tips.

Note that the Edexcel and CIE syllabuses for single sciences are very similar, so you can use resources for either.

There are many practicals on the GCSE and IGCSE syllabus which can easily be carried out at home - food tests, photosynthesis - growing plants in different conditions, diffusion and osmosis, examining cells under a microscope.

Nuffield Practical Biology has free 'how to do it' sheets for every practical activity on the GCSE, IGCSE and A-level syllabus. They are aimed at teachers but it's not too complicated and there is plenty of help on the home-ed exams forum if you get stuck.

Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson - a textbook which doesn't assume any prior knowledge and is particularly good on use of a microscope. It goes up to roughly A-level standard. It can seem a but daunting but certainly gives you confidence in how to do experiments at home. It is aimed at home hobbyists and US-based high-school home-educators.

The Edexcel IGCSE Biology Teacher Support Materials are available free online and are very useful - see  - they include a list of 15 recommended practical experiments.  The Scheme of Work contains more suggestions for practical work and some links to suggested resources.  You can find the Scheme of Work on the IGCSE subject page under 'Teaching and Learning Materials'.

One parent comments:

"We are using Collins Cambridge IGCSE Biology. This also has a chapter on "Developing Experimental Skills" which covers such topics as:-

  • how much detail should I give in my description
  • what are my safety precautions
  • how do I record my observations
  • how many measurements/observations do I need to take
  • the best way to show the pattern in my results
  • best technique

etc etc for 22 pages

Having looked at the Alternative to practical paper I think this chapter is invaluable.

We also have a DVD of experiments "Shortcuts to Success" Kieran Coleman.  It is produced for the Irish Junior Certificate but we have found most of the Biology experiments useful. (Also has Chemistry and Physics on the same DVD)."

Practical Skills in Biology Slideshare show on the topic.

Seneca Learning have a course on the science practicals required for the GCSE papers. This course covers all of the detail required to answer the exam questions, and tests the students on this. It is a completely free online course!

Courses and General Resources Edit

Sam Martell Correspondence Courses- a home-ed parent offering popular IGCSE correspondence courses in Biology.

IGCSE Science Courses - Graham Bray is a Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at a large comprehensive school in East Sussex. He initially prepared a set of video courses for a local home ed student with dyslexia who was struggling with reading textbooks. He 'teaches' the whole syllabus in a series of c15minute videos of himself talking through a set of powerpoint animated slides. He now offers 'talking papers' with model answers, lesson plans and checklists. Videos cover each of the 3 sciences and CIE and Edexcel Boards. File:Overview of Key Experiments in IGCSE Biology - Copy.pdf

South West Science School - Offer online courses which you can study at your own rate with weekly question sheets and mock exams following the IGCSE EdExcel Physics Syllabus.

Key Biology Practicals for Edexcel IGCSE - table of key activities and resources, videos etc compiled by our member Tracey S.

IGCSE Biology Pinterest board Great set of resources for general Biology, compiled by one of our members.

Human_Biology fantastic resource list compiled by one of our members. great list of experiments

Quizlet flashcard sets on IGCSE Biology

RSC Teacher Resources  For a little extra

Nuffield Foundation Practical Biology  Edexcel based

Click Biology  Excellent links within 

Practical Bio blog   some interesting articles and a bit of fun in the kitchen (enzymes, fermentation)

SAPS  plant biology and ecology

Sciencebuddies  Most of the projects suggested were 'hard beginner' or intermediate but some of the advanced look highly doable.

Naked Scientists    I use this enormous site by 'search' and then 'advanced search' (eg. bacteria in 'search for', internal pages in search in' and experiments in 'category' will come up with a few experiments mostly suitable to GCSE, some a bit young)