Why choose this specification?

GCSE Biology helps students get a good understanding of the world of living things, from how a basic cell works to the complexities of an ecosystem. This topic-based specification is designed to encourage teachers to adopt a practical enquiry approach which helps students develop practical Science skills.

Its structure allows opportunities for co-teaching and flexibility in curriculum planning because of unit overlaps with the GCSE Science A, Additional Science and Further Additional Science specifications.

It can contribute towards the Science component of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) if students enter any three of the four separate sciences – GCSE Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science – and achieve grades A* to C in at least two of them.

Teachers like:

  • the fact that the specification is backed up by lesson and homework ideas – especially suggestions for practical activities as it saves them time
  • the fact that it is easy to see how they would teach content
  • the chance to teach a broad and interesting course with topics ranging from evolution to keeping healthy and biofuels
  • the clear additional guidance on the level of detail required
  • the fact that the controlled assessment is well thought out and manageable
  • the fact the course gives students the opportunity to study Science at a higher level.

Students like:

  • the fact that theory and practice go hand-in-hand which helps recall
  • learning about things relevant to their lives such as diet and exercise, homeostasis and the environment
  • getting involved in the practical work
  • finding out more about the real facts behind issues like global warming.

Knowledge/skills gained:

  • knowledge and understanding of Biology
  • understanding of the effects of Biology on society
  • understanding of the importance of scale in Biology
  • understanding of the relationships between hypotheses, evidence, theories and explanations
  • awareness of risk and the ability to assess potential risk in the context of potential benefits
  • observational, practical, modelling, enquiry and problem-solving skills
  • ability to evaluate claims using scientific methods
  • skills in communication, mathematics and the use of technology in scientific contexts.


  • tools to help plan workload, create exam resources, check student progress and become consistent in marking
  • Enhanced Results Analysis to help understand students' strengths and weaknesses
  • access to subject departments by email or telephone
  • training for teachers, including practical teaching strategies and methods that work, presented by senior examiners
  • individual support for controlled assessment
  • 24 hour support through our website and online with Ask AQA
  • past question papers and mark schemes
  • a wide range of printed and electronic resources for teachers and students.


Students have to enter all the assessment units at the end of the course in June, at the same time as they enter for the subject award. Re-sits can be taken in any of the June series available, until the end of the specification. Students who choose to re-sit must sit all of the exams in the same series.

With the move to linear assessment, students will be allowed to carry forward their controlled assessment unit result(s) following the initial moderation and aggregation during the lifetime of the specification.

Overlap with other qualifications

The Unit 1 content of GCSE Biology is the same as the Biology Unit in GCSE Science A. The same Unit 1 content is covered in GCSE Science B, though not as one self-contained unit.

The Unit 2 content of GCSE Biology is the same as the Biology Unit in GCSE Additional Science.

The Unit 3 content of GCSE Biology is the same as the Biology Unit in GCSE Further Additional Science.

Private candidates

Private candidates must have their controlled assessment supervised and marked at an AQA school/college. For more information, please see our Private candidates page.

Follow-on study

GCSE Biology could lead on to further study in Biology at A-level or other science-related subjects or more vocationally-related courses.