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Biology Practicals

Science A levels (includes information on practical endorsements for A level)


Alternative Qualifications (see Science and Engineering section)

 Biology qualifications from Home Education

Most home-ed students take International GCSE (IGCSE) biology exams, which consist of written exams only. Unlike GCSEs, IGCSEs do not require core practical work to be carried out in the exam centre.  

These are the IGCSE biology options available to home educated students:  

Cambridge (CAIE) and Edexcel IGCSE Biology are exam-only syllabuses and are available to private candidates. Edexcel also offer Human biology which has its own information page here .

Can I do GCSE Biology?

For most home educators, GCSE Biology is not an option and they must do IGCSE. GCSE biology does not have a practical exam, BUT the head of the exam centre has to sign a form for each candidate saying that the candidate has been offered the opportunity to carry out all core practicals at the centre. Most centres won't do this for external candidates. Many home-educated children still do chemistry practicals, either in groups or at home, to prepare for IGCSE chemistry, but they do not have to do practicals in the exam centre.

Practicals exam questions in IGCSE Biology

Although there is no practical exam in IGCSE Biology, an understanding of practical work is necessary. Many home educators undertake chemistry practicals at home, in tutor groups or at workshops. Please see Biology Practicals for more information on doing experiments from home education. IGCSE biology specifications have 'alternative to practicals' questions, rather than requiring a practical exam.   

Biology Options for IGCSE

Edexcel IGCSE Biology 4BI1

This is a popular choice among home educators, as it is often easier to find an exam centre in the UK for Edexcel exams. The new specification was changed in 2017 for exams from summer 2019.

Exams are usually available in Summer and January sittings.

Syllabus overview: You can find the more information on the specifications, plus past papers and teaching and learning resources on the specification page for Edexcel IGCSE Biology

This specification has two exams and is a single tier entry, so all candidates take the same papers and have access to all grades from 9-1. The difficult and easier questions are scattered between the two papers. Unlike Cambridge IGCSE biology (which has an alternative to practicals paper), the practical questions in Edexcel IGCSE biology are spread over both papers.  

For those downloading past papers for exam practice, the Edexcel Certificate, KBI0, was the state schools' version of the IGCSE. It was available until Summer 2017 and is identical to 4BI0, the 2011 IGCSE syllabus for exams from 2013-2017.

You can use questions from the past papers of the 2011 syllabus for practice, but be mindful of any minor changes in the syllabus that happened when updated in 2017. There is a mapping document on the 2017 specification page, which describes changes and additions from the previous 2011 specification (Select "course materials", then "teaching and learning materials" and then "mapping document") which might be helpful. In the same place, you can also find a mapping guide which compares the content of the single, double and individual Biology IGCSE qualifications, if you are considering options.

Resources for Edexcel IGCSE Biology [last updated Aug 2020]

Some books include answers, others don't. Some publishers will provide links to answers if you contact them. If you are not sure what textbooks or revision books to buy, or where to find answers, please ask on the HE exams and alternatives group

Student textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE Biology

(Pearson) Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Biology Student Book (2017) by Bradfield and Potter. Some people find the layout a little cluttered, so check on Amazon's 'see inside' feature to compare with other textbooks.

(Hodder) Edexcel International GCSE Biology Student Book Second Edition (2017) by Larkcom and Delpech  

(Collins) Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Biology Student Book (2017) by Clegg, Kearsey, Price and Smith

Practicals workbook

Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Biology Student Lab Book: Exam practice and further application Not essential, but some families have found this helpful.

Revision books and workbooks for Edexcel IGCSE Biology

Revision books and workbooks aren't essential, but some students find them helpful. There are lots of options below and you don't need to buy all of them!


Some people find CGP revision books cluttered, and other people love them. Take a look on the 'look inside' feature of Amazon to see whether they will suit your child.

CGP Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Revision Guide (2017) designed for revision, but can also give a useful overview of each topic as it is being studied.

CGP Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Exam Practice Workbook (2017) A workbook to accompany the above revision book. Can be useful for testing knowledge before progressing to whole exam papers.

Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Complete Revision & Practice with Online Edition This book combines the CGP revision guide with some questions (fewer questions than if buying the exam practice workbook). There might be some overlap with the above books.

CGP Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Grade 8-9 Targeted Exam Practice Workbook (with answers) questions for students aiming for the top grades.

CGP New Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Revision Question Cards (2019) Note these are not flash cards of topic summaries, but are question cards. Not essential, but might be useful for some students.

CGP Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: 10-Minute Tests (with answers) Again, not essential, but a possible tool for some students.


(Hodder) My Revision Notes: Edexcel International GCSE (9–1) Biology (2018) By Nixon

(Hodder) Edexcel International GCSE Biology Workbook (2017) by Larkcom, Delpech and Evans

Other useful resources for Edexcel IGCSE Biology

MrExham Youtube channel has a series of good videos which are geared toward the Edexcel IGCSE biology syllabus.

Study plan that combines Hodder textbook with CGP exam practice workbook and online videos for each topic/chapter. Created by a home educator for the latest (2017) syllabus.

Click4biology Youtube channel has videos with a no-frills approach to covering the topics. It is aligned to the old Edexcel biology syllabus, but still a useful resource for the new syllabus.

Cambridge (CAIE) IGCSE Biology (0610 or 0970)

The current specification exam code for A*-G grading is 0610. The equivalent specification for 9-1 grading is 0970 The syllabuses are exactly the same, with the same exam content, just with different grading options (numerical or letter). Some exam centres will only enter students for 0970.

You can find the specifications, past papers and teaching and learning resources on the exam syllabus pages linked above.

Syllabus overview: The specification has three papers: a 1h Alternative to Practical, a 45 min Multiple Choice and a 1 hr 15 Theory paper. The multiple choice and theory exams used to be taken back to back (so effectively 2 hours), but for the past two years have been examined on separate days. CAIE science IGCSEs are tiered. This means that less able students can opt for the core tier, (papers 1, 3 and 6) but can only get a maximum grade of C or 5. More able students can opt for the higher (extended) tier (papers 2, 4 and 6) with the grade range of 9-1.

Resources for Cambridge IGCSE biology [last updated Aug 2020]

Some books include answers, others don't. Some publishers will provide links to answers if you contact them. If you are not sure what textbooks or revision books to buy, or where to find answers, please ask on the HE exams and alternatives group ]

Student Textbooks for Cambridge IGCSE Biology

Complete Biology for Cambridge IGCSE  Student Edition, Oxford University Press (2017) Ron Pickering 

Cambridge IGCSE Biology Coursebook with CD-ROM Cambridge University Press (2014) by Mary Jones  (Author), Geoff Jones (Author)

Cambridge IGCSE™ Biology Student's Book (Collins Cambridge IGCSE™) Collins (2014) by Sue Kearsey

Cambridge IGCSE Biology 3rd Edition (Book & CD) Hodder (2014) by D. G. Mackean and Dave Hayward 

Other resources for Cambridge IGCSE Biology 

Seneca Learning is a free resource site with courses on CIE Biology for IGCSE.

Free download from iTunes of CIE Biology textbook.  The actual downloads are available from the iTunes Stephen Pearse Foundation Store. The free material is only available in the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad, not on a PC or windows laptop.

Click4biology Youtube channel has videos with a no-frills approach to covering the topics. It is aligned to the old Edexcel biology syllabus, so not CAIE specific, but is still a useful resource.

D G Mackean has a website, Biology Resources with some resources. (Note that the textbook answers on the site appear to be for the 2nd edition of the book, not the most recent third edition, and other resources might be similarly out of date).

AQA Level 1/2 Certificate in Biology

No longer available. You might find older exam papers for this, which are ok for practice.

Edexcel Human Biology

Please see the Human_Biology page for information on available specifications and resources.

Practical Work

Doing some practicals at home will be useful for answering the practical questions in the exam. IGCSE exams contain questions about equipment, experiment design, and procedures, as well as safety and general scientific methodology, such as controlling variables.

Please see our page Biology Practicals about doing biology experiments from home. It includes information on obtaining supplies and hints and tips. There are many practicals on the GCSE and IGCSE syllabus which can easily be carried out at home.

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

Courses and General Resources

See our page of course providers for a list of providers of live, self-led online and correspondence courses that home educators have used. File:Overview of Key Experiments in IGCSE Biology - Copy.pdf

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

IGCSE Biology Pinterest board resources for general Biology, compiled by one of our members. list of experiments

Quizlet flashcard sets on IGCSE Biology

RSC Teacher Resources  For a little extra

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

Naked Scientists    Tip: use '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)

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