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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.  

Cambridge (CAIE) and Edexcel IGCSE Biology are exam-only syllabuses and are available to private candidates. Edexcel also offer Human biology.

Other useful pages:

Science - this page gives a general overview of your options for GCSE/IGCSE Level Science.

Biology Practicals

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

Alternative Qualifications (see Science and Engineering section)

Biology - FAQs

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.


Do I need to complete practicals for IGCSE Biology?

Although there is no practical exam in IGCSE Biology, an understanding of practical work is necessary. Both specifications have a list of core practicals that the candidate is required to understand, but no form has to be signed to say these have been done/observed making the specifications easier for private candidates to access. IGCSE biology specifications have 'alternative to practicals' questions as part of the written exam papers.  Carrying out practicals will help with understanding but it is not a requirement, videos can be found of most experiments - the Biology Practicals page overs ideas and support.


Edexcel International GCSE Biology

This is a popular choice among home educators, as it is often easier to find an exam centre in the UK for Edexcel exams.

Edexcel International GCSE Biology page and specification

  • Exams from: June 2019
  • Available in June and January
  • Specification code: 4BI1


Subject Content

The Edexcel International GCSE Biology has 5 topics:

  1. The nature and variety of living organisms
  2. Structures and functions in living organisms
  3. Reproduction and inheritance
  4. Ecology and the environment
  5. Use of biological resources


Assessment

100% exam based.

  • Paper 1 - 2hrs - 110 marks - 61.1%
    • A mixture of different question styles, including multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, calculations and extended open-response questions.
    • Will include questions about practicals
    • Covers topics 1- 5 but only the content that is listed in the syllabus not in bold
    • Can use a calculator
  • Paper 2 - 1hr 15 minutes - 70 marks - 38.9%
    • A mixture of different question styles, including multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, calculations and extended open-response questions.
    • Will include questions about practicals
    • Covers topics 1- 5 all content listed in syllabus (bold and not bold)
    • Can use a calculator


Edexcel IGCSE Biology Resources

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 You only need one student textbook and one is not better than the others, it is personal preference.

Student textbooks

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(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. Answers are available here

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

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(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

Revision books and workbooks aren't essential, but some students find them helpful. There are lots of options below, so they have been organised by publisher. You don't need to buy all of them!

CGP

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.

Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Revision Guide (2017) designed for revision, but can also give a useful overview.

Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Exam Practice Workbook (2017) A workbook to accompany the above revision book.

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

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

New Edexcel International GCSE Biology Practice Papers for the Grade 9-1 Course (2020).

New Grade 9-1 Edexcel International GCSE Biology: Revision Question Cards (2019) Note these are question cards not flash cards of topic summaries.

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

Edexcel International GCSE Biology Workbook (2017) by Larkcom, Delpech and Evans Answers are available here

Exam board resources

The Teaching and Learning materials on the specification page has topic guides, mapping documents, exemplars, past training and getting started guides which are really helpful.

Past papers can be accessed through the specification page or here. Papers with an R suffix were available in a different time zone. They are the same specification and can be used as practice. Paper 1B will also have Double Award listed on the front - this is because the same paper is used for both qualifications - those sitting IGCSE Biology sit 1B and 2B, those sitting Double Award Science sit 1B, 1C and 1P.

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, (2016 - Word Doc) which describes changes and additions from the previous 2011 specification which might be helpful. 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.

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

Cambridge offer 2 IGCSEs in Biology from 2019. The difference is in the grading, 0970 being 9-1 and 0610 being A*-G, otherwise the syllabus is identical. Some exam centres will only enter students for 0970.

CAIE International GCSE Biology (0970) page and specification

CAIE International GCSE Biology (0610) page and specification

0970 was new in 2019, any tweaks to 0610 at the same time look to be minor so papers from pre-2019 will still be useful.

  • Exams from: 2019
  • Available in Autumn and Summer series
  • Specification code: 0970 (9-1) or 0610 (A*- G) There are small amendments to the specification for exams from 2023, mainly a couple of subtopics being removed.


Subject Content

Cambridge Biology has more human biology content than Edexcel.

Candidates study the following 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

Cambridge Biology is 'tiered' students enter for core (which allows them to achieve grade 5-1) or extended (which allows them to achieve grade 9-1). Those doing Core just need to study the core content, those doing Extended need to study the core and supplementary content.

Assessment

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.

100% exam based.

  • Paper 1 (core) or 2 (extended) - Multiple choice - 45 mins - 40 marks - 30%
    • Forty compulsory multiple-choice questions
    • Covers all content
  • Paper 3 (core) or 4 (extended) - Theory - 1hr 15 minutes - 80 marks - 50%
    • Short-answer and structured questions
    • Covers all content
  • Paper 6 - (sat by both core and extended) - Alternatives to Practical - 1hr - 40 marks - 20%
    • Questions will be based on the experimental skills outlined in Section 4 of the specification.


Cambridge IGCSE Biology Resources

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

(Be aware that there are some small specification changes in 2023, so publishers might bring out new editions)

Student Textbooks

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

(Cambridge University Press) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Coursebook with CD-ROM (2014) by Jones andf Jones

(Cambridge University Press) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Coursebook with CD-ROM and Cambridge Elevate Enhanced Edition (2 Years). (2017) by Jones and Jones.

(Collins) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Student's Book (Collins Cambridge IGCSE™)  (2014) by Kearsey and Clegg.

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

Revision books and workbooks

Revision books and workbooks aren't essential, but some students find them helpful.(Cambridge University Press) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Revision Guide. (2015) by Burton.

(Cambridge University Press) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Workbook with Digital Access (2 Years) (2021) by Jones and Jones. This is for the specification for exams from 2023.

(Oxford University Press) Cambridge IGCSE® & O Level Complete Biology: Workbook Fourth Edition. (2021) by Pickering. Presumably for 2022/23 exams.

(Oxford University Press) Complete Biology for Cambridge IGCSE®: Student Book & Revision Guide Pack. (2020). By Pickering. (In this link this OUP revision guide appears to be part of a bundle, however it might be available separately elsewhere)

(CGP) New Cambridge International GCSE Biology Complete Revision & Practice: Core & Extended + Online Ed (2020). (2020) States that is is for exams in 2022 and 2023, but do check for any changes in specification that might be relevant.

(Hodder) Cambridge IGCSE Biology Study and Revision Guide 2nd edition.(2016) by Hayward.


Past papers

Past papers can be found on the specification pages or sites such as pastpapers.co and papacambridge. Each series of 0610 (besides the March series - which is only sat in India) has 3 sets of papers available. These are because they were sat in different time zones. They are the same syllabus and useful for practice. You can use both 0970 and 0610 papers to practice either spec. 0970 was new in 2019, any tweaks to 0610 at the same time look to be minor so papers from pre-2019 will still be useful. There are a couple of subtopics being dropped from 2023 exams, but papers from before will still be useful.

Other resources

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).


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.


General Resources

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.

www.biology-resources.com- 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)

Distance Learning

Many home-educated students study Biology successfully using just the textbook and free online resources, but some find a distance learning course suits their family better, or want to use a tutor occasionally for marking essays or past papers. Course providers can be found on the Distance Learning Providers page.


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