Biology International GCSE

Colored representation of a molecule showing its structure

Study our online Biology International GCSE or IGCSE course to learn about the science of life and develop valuable skills.

The International GCSE in Biology is equivalent to the Biology GCSE, but is more suited to online and distance learning. In particular, you’ll be assessed on important practical and investigative skills through written exams, so you can study the course online and from home at a pace that suits you.

The IGCSE Biology qualification can help you to go on to further study, meet the entry requirements for university programmes such as teacher training, health-related professions and apprenticeships.

What and how you’ll learn with NEC
With our comprehensive course materials, you will look at the functions of different forms of life, from single-cell organisms, such as bacteria, plants and fungi, to the complex biological systems found in animals. You’ll explore issues around the environment and ecosystems, pollution, biotechnology and genetics – all fascinating and important subjects. You will carry out experiments and practical investigations, such as measuring the heartbeat or dissecting an organ – and where possible we’ll suggest how you can use household items to replace laboratory equipment.

The course includes 13 tutor-marked assignments based on the type of questions you’ll face in the exam, plus an introductory assignment and two practical assignments. Each assignment is is carefully designed to ensure that we cover the syllabus and help you be ready to take the exams.

When you start you’ll be enrolled on the Biology IGCSE course on learn@nec, where you can access and download all your course materials. You’ll be assigned a qualified and experienced tutor who will give you guidance and feedback on your submitted assignment work. Your tutor is there to help you succeed. Full details of the course can be found below.

Course materials developed by experts
Our course developer Penny Parkinson has worked for NEC for many years as a tutor, writer and consultant in Environmental and Biological Sciences. She has taught in several educational sectors, both full and part-time and now tutors environment courses for both The Open University and NEC. Penny is an experienced examiner for AQA at both GCSE and A level for Science, Biology and Environmental Science.

Fast track learning
See our information on fast tracking and studying your course within one year.

Course fee payment plan
You can pay for your course in full or by instalments. See ‘Course info – How to enrol’ in the tabs below for more details.

Last exam dates
There are two opportunities to take IGCSE exams, winter and summer. At the time of writing, please note the final opportunity to sit exams for this course is January 2019, because the specifications are changing. We will be updating the course to meet new requirements.




Entry requirements

No previous knowledge is required for this course.


This course follows specification 4BI0 from the awarding organisation Edexcel. Full details of the specification can be obtained from Edexcel's website.

Hours of study

As a broad guide, allow for between 100 and 150 hours' study time to complete the course. For example, if you wish to complete the course in 9 months we recommend you set aside about 4 hours a week on studying.

You will have tutor support for a period up until the final exam opportunity in January 2019.

Exams and assessment

Two exams:

  • 2 hours, 67% of marks
  • 1 hour, 33% of marks

Non-exam assessment (NEA):

  • None

All exams must be taken in the same session.
Please note that due to upcoming changes the final opportunity to sit exams for this course is January 2019.

NEC's tutor-marked assignments:

  • 1 introductory assignment
  • 13 assignments
  • 2 practical assignments


Additional information

Part of the course involves completing a number of simple, fun experiments which have been designed to be easy to carry out in your home. No laboratory access is required.

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

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.

How can you pay?
It’s your choice: you can pay in full at the point of enrolment, or spread the cost 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

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.

Deko is a trading name of Pay4Later Ltd who act as a credit intermediary. They are registered in England and Wales (company number 06447333) and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 728646). For more information please go to or visit

Unit 1: Living things

  • Introduction to living things
  • Animals and plants
  • Fungi, bacteria, protists and viruses

Unit 2: Inside living things

  • From cells to systems
  • Moving chemicals
  • Chemicals of life
  • Enzymes

Unit 3: Plant nutrition

  • How green plants make food
  • Plant growth

Unit 4: Animal nutrition

  • Food and diet
  • Chemical digestion
  • Absorption and assimilation

Unit 5: Transport

  • Transport systems – the heart and circulation
  • Blood and immunity
  • Exercise and the heart
  • Moving food and water in plants

Unit 6: Respiration, breathing

  • Respiration
  • Respiration and gas exchange
  • Breathing
  • Factors that affect breathing

Unit 7: Response to stimuli

  • Responding to the environment
  • The nervous system
  • Hormones
  • Homeostasis and temperature regulation
  • Excretion

Unit 8: Biotechnology and microbiology

  • Applied microbiology

Unit 9: Ecosystems and environment

  • Food chains and webs
  • Nutrient cycles

Unit 10: Population, pollution and conservation

  • Population size
  • Use of natural resources and conservation
  • Food production
  • Pollution
  • Conservation and recycling

Unit 11: Reproduction

  • Reproduction
  • Sexual reproduction in plants
  • Sexual reproduction in humans
  • Birth control
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

Unit 12: Genetics, variation and selection

  • Variation and chromosomes
  • Monohybrid inheritance
  • Mutation
  • Genetic modification
  • Natural and artificial selection
Including area code and country code (if outside of UK)

IGCSE Biology Course Sample

Thank you for your interest in this course. You can download a free sample of this course, made up of a topic and an assignment, to help you review its level, quality and approach.

Please fill out your details below, and you will receive an email containing a link to download the course sample.

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