Biology International GCSE

If you are fascinated by the functioning of living organisms — plants, animals, bacteria — studying IGCSE Biology will develop your knowledge and understanding of the underlying mechanisms that govern them.

This course is one of our new Gold Star IGCSEs. Find out more about them here.



Course requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this course, but you need to be able to read and write in English. This is an online course you will also need access to the internet.

Duration of study

It's really up to you but, as a guide, a GCSE course takes about 120-150 hours plus extra time for assignment work you submit to your tutor. You will have tutor support for a period of up to 18 months from the date of enrolment.


This course follows specification 4BI1 from the awarding organisation Edexcel. Full details of the specification can be obtained from Edexcel's website.


Section 1 - The nature and variety of living things
  • Characteristics of living things
  • Animals and plants
  • Fungi and protoctists
  • Bacteria and viruses

Section 2 - Structure in living organisms
  • From cells to systems
  • Cell structure
  • Biological molecules
  • Enzymes
  • Movement of substances

Section 3 - Nutrition, respiration and gas exchange
  • Plant nutrition and growth
  • Food and diet
  • The digestive system and digestion
  • Respiration
  • Gas exchange

Section 4 - Transport in living things
  • The need for transport systems
  • Moving food and water in plants
  • Blood and immunity
  • The heart and circulation

Section 5 - Excretion
  • Excretion in plants
  • The organs of excretion in animals
  • The urinary system

Section 6 - Coordination and response
  • Responding to the environment
  • Response to stimuli in plants
  • The nervous system
  • Homeostasis and temperature regulation
  • Hormones

Section 7 - Reproduction
  • Reproduction in plants
  • Reproduction in humans
  • Roles of hormones in reproduction and development

Section 8 - Inheritance
  • Chromosomes and DNA
  • Protein synthesis
  • Genetic variation and evolution
  • Monohybrid inheritance
  • Mitosis and meiosis

Section 9 - Ecology and the environment
  • Organisms in the environment
  • Feeding relationships
  • Cycles within ecosystems
  • Human influence on the environment

Section 10 - Using biological resources
  • Crop plants
  • Micro-organisms in food production
  • Fish farming
  • Selective breeding
  • Genetic modification and cloning

Exams and assessment

Two exams:
  • 2 hours, 61% of marks
  • 1 hour 15 minutes, 39% of marks

Non-exam assessment (NEA):
  • None


Assignments do not contribute towards your final grade but provide you with an opportunity to submit work to your tutor for marking and feedback. This will help you to gauge your progress as you work through the course.

This course has:
  • 1 introductory assignment
  • 10 assignments
  • 14 core practicals

Set texts and resources

There are no additional set texts.

Using learn@nec

Your course is delivered online through learn@nec, so it’s important that you have access to a computer and the internet. We recommend that your computer is using one of the following operating systems and browsers to improve your experience of using learn@nec:

Operating systems:
  • Windows 7 or later
  • Mac OSX 10.7 or later
  • Google Chrome OS
  • Android 4.4 or later, using the Chrome browser
  • iOS 6 or later, using the Safari browser

  • Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Mozilla Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari 6 or later
  • Internet Explorer 10 or later (excluding IE11)

learn@nec may work on other operating systems and browsers with some restrictions. You can see full details of the system requirements by clicking here.

How to enrol

There are several ways to enrol with NEC:
  • Click the ‘Enrol now’ button above.
  • Telephone us on 0800 389 2839 or +44(0)1223 400200 and speak to our course advice team.
  • Ask us to send you an enrolment form which you can complete and return by post.

Paying in instalments

It’s your choice: you can pay in full at the point of enrolment, or you can spread the cost over monthly instalments with our finance offer. To pay in instalments you will need to enrol by telephone.

Representative example:
Course fee:  
Amount of credit:  
Monthly payment:  
Duration of agreement:  
Total repayable:  
Rate of interest:  
0% APR representative.  
  6 months
  0% (fixed)

The National Extension College (NEC) is the trading name of the Open School Trust, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 676788). Finance is provided through the Deko platform by a number of lenders. You will be offered the best rate available based on your credit history and the lenders’ credit decision policies.

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What our students say...

"The main office at NEC have always been very quick to pick up the phone and very helpful. All of my tutors were also very helpful and gave me some really good tips on how to improve my work. The best thing about distance learning for me has definitely been the flexibility of it."
— Isobel Hughes