Table of Contents


Biology is the study of life. The first organisms appeared on the planet over 3 billion years ago and, through reproduction and natural selection, have given rise to the 8 million or so different species alive today. Estimates vary, but over the course of evolution 4 billion species could have been produced. Most of these flourished for a period of time and then became extinct as new, better adapted species took their place. There have been at least five periods when very large numbers of species became extinct and biologists are concerned that another mass extinction is under way, caused this time by human activity. Nonetheless, there are more species alive on Earth today than ever before. This diversity makes biology both an endless source of fascination and a considerable challenge.

An interest in life is natural for humans; not only are we living organisms ourselves, but we depend on many species for our survival, are threatened by some and co-exist with many more. From the earliest cave paintings to the modern wildlife documentary, this interest is as obvious as it is ubiquitous, as biology continues to fascinate young and old all over the world.

The word “biology” was coined by German naturalist Gottfried Reinhold in 1802 but our understanding of living organisms only started to grow rapidly with the advent of techniques and technologies developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, not least the invention of the microscope and the realization that natural selection is the process that has driven the evolution of life.

Biologists attempt to understand the living world at all levels using many different approaches and techniques. At one end of the scale is the cell, its molecular construction and complex metabolic reactions. At the other end of the scale biologists investigate the interactions that make whole ecosystems function.

Many areas of research in biology are extremely challenging and many discoveries remain to be made. Biology is still a young science and great progress is expected in the 21st century. This progress is sorely needed at a time when the growing human population is placing ever greater pressure on food supplies and on the habitats of other species, and is threatening the very planet we occupy.


Group 4 students at standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) undertake a common core syllabus, a common internal assessment (IA) scheme and have some overlapping elements in the option studied. They are presented with a syllabus that encourages the development of certain skills, attributes and attitudes, as described in the “Assessment objectives” section of the guide.

While the skills and activities of group 4 science subjects are common to students at both SL and HL, students at HL are required to study some topics in greater depth, in the additional higher level (AHL) material and in the common options. The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth.

Biology and TOK

The theory of knowledge (TOK) course (first assessment 2015) engages students in reflection on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know. The course identifies eight ways of knowing: reason, emotion, language, sense perception, intuition, imagination, faith and memory. Students explore these means of producing knowledge within the context of various areas of knowledge: the natural sciences, the social sciences, the arts, ethics, history, mathematics, religious knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems. The course also requires students to make comparisons between the different areas of knowledge, reflecting on how knowledge is arrived at in the various disciplines, what the disciplines have in common, and the differences between them.

TOK lessons can support students in their study of science, just as the study of science can support students in their TOK course. TOK provides a space for students to engage in stimulating wider discussions about questions such as what it means for a discipline to be a science, or whether there should be ethical constraints on the pursuit of scientific knowledge. It also provides an opportunity for students to reflect on the methodologies of science, and how these compare to the methodologies of other areas of knowledge. It is now widely accepted that there is no one scientific method, in the strict Popperian sense. Instead, the sciences utilize a variety of approaches in order to produce explanations for the behaviour of the natural world. The different scientific disciplines share a common focus on utilizing inductive and deductive reasoning, on the importance of evidence, and so on. Students are encouraged to compare and contrast these methods with the methods found in, for example, the arts or in history.

In this way there are rich opportunities for students to make links between their science and TOK courses. One way in which science teachers can help students to make these links to TOK is by drawing students’ attention to knowledge questions which arise from their subject content. Knowledge questions are open-ended questions about knowledge, and include questions such as:

How do we distinguish science from pseudoscience?

When performing experiments, what is the relationship between a scientist’s expectation and their perception?

How does scientific knowledge progress?

What is the role of imagination and intuition in the sciences?

What are the similarities and differences in methods in the natural sciences and the human sciences?

Examples of relevant knowledge questions are provided throughout this guide within the sub-topics in the syllabus content. Teachers can also find suggestions of interesting knowledge questions for discussion in the “Areas of knowledge” and “Knowledge frameworks” sections of the TOK guide. Students should be encouraged to raise and discuss such knowledge questions in both their science and TOK classes.


Through studying biology, chemistry or physics, students should become aware of how scientists work and communicate with each other. While the scientific method may take on a wide variety of forms, it is the emphasis on a practical approach through experimental work that characterizes these subjects.

The aims enable students, through the overarching theme of the Nature of science, to:

1. appreciate scientific study and creativity within a global context through stimulating and challenging opportunities

2. acquire a body of knowledge, methods and techniques that characterize science and technology

3. apply and use a body of knowledge, methods and techniques that characterize science and technology

4. develop an ability to analyse, evaluate and synthesize scientific information

5. develop a critical awareness of the need for, and the value of, effective collaboration and communication during scientific activities

6. develop experimental and investigative scientific skills including the use of current technologies

7. develop and apply 21st century communication skills in the study of science

8. become critically aware, as global citizens, of the ethical implications of using science and technology

9. develop an appreciation of the possibilities and limitations of science and technology

10. develop an understanding of the relationships between scientific disciplines and their influence on other areas of knowledge.

Assessment Objectives

The assessment objectives for biology, chemistry and physics reflect those parts of the aims that will be formally assessed either internally or externally. These assessments will centre upon the nature of science. It is the intention of these courses that students are able to fullfill the following assessment objectives:

1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

a. facts, concepts and terminology

b. methodologies and techniques

c. communicating scientific information

2. Apply:

a. facts, concepts and terminology

b. methodologies and techniques

c. methods of communicating scientific information.

3. Formulate, analyse and evaluate:

a. hypotheses, research questions and predictions

b. methodologies and techniques

c. primary and secondary data

d. scientific explanations.

4. Demonstrate the appropriate research, experimental, and personal skills necessary to carry out insightful and ethical investigations.

Syllabus Outline

Syllabus Outline.pdf

Group 4 Skills

Integral to the experience of students in any of the group 4 courses is their experience in the classroom, laboratory or in the field. Practical activities allow students to interact directly with natural phenomena and secondary data sources. These experiences provide the students with the opportunity to design investigations, collect data, develop manipulative skills, analyse results, collaborate with peers and evaluate and communicate their findings. Experiments can be used to introduce a topic, investigate a phenomenon or allow students to consider and examine questions and curiosities.

By providing students with the opportunity for hands-on experimentation, they are carrying out some of the same processes that scientists undertake. Experimentation allows students to experience the nature of scientific thought and investigation. All scientific theories and laws begin with observations.

It is important that students are involved in an inquiry-based practical programme that allows for the development of scientific inquiry. It is not enough for students just to be able to follow directions and to simply replicate a given experimental procedure; they must be provided with the opportunities for genuine inquiry. Developing scientific inquiry skills will give students the ability to construct an explanation based on reliable evidence and logical reasoning. Once developed, these higher-order thinking skills will enable students to be lifelong learners and scientifically literate.

A school’s practical scheme of work should allow students to experience the full breadth and depth of the course including the option. This practical scheme of work must also prepare students to undertake

the independent investigation that is required for the internal assessment. The development of students’ manipulative skills should involve them being able to follow instructions accurately and demonstrate the safe, competent and methodical use of a range of techniques and equipment.

The “Applications and skills” section of the syllabus lists specific lab skills, techniques and experiments that students must experience at some point during their study of their group 4 course. Other recommended lab skills, techniques and experiments are listed in the “Aims” section of the subject-specific syllabus pages. Aim 6 of the group 4 subjects directly relates to the development of experimental and investigative skills.

Mathematical requirements

All Diploma Programme biology students should be able to:

perform the basic arithmetic functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division

carry out calculations involving means, decimals, fractions, percentages and ratios

represent and interpret frequency data in the form of bar charts, graphs and histograms, including direct and inverse proportion

plot graphs (with suitable scales and axes) involving two variables that show linear or non-linear relationships

plot and interpret scattergraphs to identify a correlation between two variables, and appreciate that the existence of a correlation does not establish a causal relationship

determine the mode and median of a set of data, calculate and analyse standard deviation

select statistical tests appropriate for the analysis of particular data and interpret the results.

Use of information communication technology

The use of information communication technology (ICT) is encouraged throughout all aspects of the course in relation to both the practical programme and day-to-day classroom activities. Teachers should make use of the ICT pages of the teacher support materials.

Planning your course

The syllabus as provided in the subject guide is not intended to be a teaching order. Instead it provides detail of what must be covered by the end of the course. A school should develop a scheme of work that best works for its students. For example, the scheme of work could be developed to match available resources, to take into account student prior learning and experience, or in conjunction with other local requirements.

HL teachers may choose to teach the core and AHL topics at the same time or teach them in a spiral fashion, by teaching the core topics in year one of the course and revisiting the core topics through the delivery of the AHL topics in year two of the course. The option topic could be taught as a stand-alone topic or could be integrated into the teaching of the core and/or AHL topics.

However the course is planned, adequate time must be provided for examination revision. Time must also be given for students to reflect on their learning experience and their growth as learners.

Learner Profiles

Learner Profile.pdf

Syllabus Overview

Syllabus Outline.pdf

Assessment Outline

Assessment Outline.pdf

Internal Assessment

Internal Assessment Details.pdf

Group 4 Details

Group 4.pdf

Command Terms

Command Terms.pdf

Specimen Papers and Markscheme

Specimen Paper and MS.pdf

Specimen Extended Essay

EE exempler.pdf

Specimen Extended Essay- School Based

School Sample EE.pdf

Specimen Internal Assessment- School Based

School Sample IA.pdf