The Edexcel GCE Biology specification provides two approaches to teaching and learning, the Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology (SNAB) context-led approach and the concept-led (traditional) route. Both approaches cover exactly the same content. The SNAB resources published by Pearson support the context-led approach.
The assessment is common to both routes. You can download the specification from the Awarding Body's website.
See our Guide to the Edexcel website.
Six assessment units
There are four written papers taken under formal examination conditions, two at AS and two at A2. The remaining two units are coursework, one at AS and one at A2.
Unit 1 (6BIO1), Lifestyle, transport, Genes and Health, examines the first two topics covered in the course: Topic 1 Lifestyle, Health and Risk and Topic 2 Genes and Health.
Unit 2 (6BIO2), Development, Plants and the Environment, examines the remaining two topics covered in the course: Topic 3 The voice of the genome and Topic 4 Biodiversity and natural resources.
Both units are assessed by means of written examination papers, which lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and include objective questions, structured questions and short-answer questions. They will also cover How Science Works and practical-related questions. Both units are worth 80 marks.
A2 units 6BIO4 and BIO5
Unit 4 (6BIO4), The Natural Environment and Species Survival, examines the first two units in the A2 course: Topic 5 On the wild side and Topic 6 Infection, immunity and forensics.
Unit 5 (6BIO5), Energy, Exercise and Coordination, examines the first remaining units in the A2 course: Topic 7 Run for your life and Topic 8: Grey matter.
Both units are assessed by means of written examination papers, which lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and include: objective questions, structured questions and short-answer questions. They will also cover How Science Works and practical-related questions. Both units carry 90 marks.
In Unit 5, one question will relate to a previously released scientific article that students will have studied during the course. Students may be asked to summarise the information in the article, and explain or comment upon the biology and other issues within the context of the article. The article may draw on knowledge and understanding from any of the four units 1, 2, 4, and 5. A different article will be provided each year and the examination questions will change to reflect this. This question carries a third of the marks of this unit.
Unit 3: Practical Biology and Research Skills (6BIO3) is the AS coursework. It consists of two parts: Part 1 Practical biology skills and Part 2 the Visit or Issue report.
Part 1: Practical biology skills
Students carry out the recommended core practicals and other practical investigations to develop practical skills. They learn to use apparatus skilfully and safely, produce and record reliable and valid results, and present and analyse data. Teachers verify the students’ ability in these areas. There are no marks associated with this part of the coursework. But the Unit 1 and 2 written papers contain questions that test a student’s understanding of How Science Works practical biology and investigative skills.
Part 2: Visit or issue report
Students prepare a report, that may be a related to a visit to a site of biological interest, or a report of non-practical research into a biological issue. The aim is for students to look at how biologists work in the 'real world'
There are 40 marks for the visit or issue report. It can be marked externally or internally with external moderation. The assessment criteria for both the visit and issue report are identical.
The individual student investigation forms the coursework component of A2.
Students submit a written report of an experimental investigation which they have devised and carried out. This is internally marked and externally moderated by Edexcel, or externally marked by Edexcel.
There are detailed criteria for Research and rationale. Planning, Implementing, Observing and recording, Interpreting and evaluation, and Communicating.
Also on the web
Preparing students for the Edexcel visit/issue report: Nowgen video featuring Dr John Dunkerton who is Edexcel Chief Examiner, Dr Lisa Melton who is News Editor at Nature Biotechnology journal, and students who recently completed their visit issue reports.
Link to Nowgen video.