Biology > KS4
In Key Stage 4 all pupils sit the Edexcel IGCSE exam in biology.
IGCSE (or international GCSE) courses are offered by the exam boards as an alternative to normal GCSE specifications in some subjects. These IGCSE specifications are more traditional and academic in nature and were initially aimed at international schools and independent schools in the UK. Since 2010 IGCSE specifications have been available to UK state schools as well.
We believe that the IGCSE biology course represents a more interesting and thorough biology experience, well suited to the students at Heckmondwike Grammar School. The main features of the IGCSE specifications are:
· There are two exam papers at the end of the IGCSE course: a 2-hour paper and a 1-hour paper. Each paper examines the full syllabus. (The normal GCSE has three 1-hour module exams.)
· There are no controlled assessments (i.e. teacher assessments or coursework) in the IGCSE qualification, unlike the normal GCSE. Everything is assessed in the two exam papers. This frees up several weeks of teaching time, which can be used for more interesting and adventurous investigative work. The IGCSE places great weight on the scientific method, which is assessed by questions in the terminal exams.
· The IGCSE biology specification has less focus on some of the “woolly” aspects of How Science Works, instead focusing on scientific knowledge and an understanding of the scientific method.
· About 80% of the content of the biology GCSE and IGCSE specifications is identical. The remaining 20% of the IGCSE course consists of biology topics that are interesting and relevant to A-level biology (such as reproduction, ecological cycles and classification) instead of applied biology topics that are often repeated from key stage 3 (such as diet and drug use).
What is the qualification called?
This is where it gets confusing! By law, state schools can only do exams with “GCSE” in the title if they conform to the strict GCSE criteria set by the government. The IGCSE specifications don’t meet these criteria (since they don’t have a teacher assessment), so the exam boards produce identical qualifications called Certificates, which state schools are allowed to do. The biology qualification will therefore be recorded as the “Edexcel Certificate in Biology” on the students’ results sheet. The content, exam papers and textbooks are exactly the same for IGCSE and Certificate. The normal grades (A*, A, B, etc.) are awarded, and they are recognized by the government and by the universities as exactly equivalent to the GCSE grades. Indeed universities often regard them as more valuable. Because the qualification is the same as the IGCSE, and the IGCSE has been going for many years, everyone calls this an IGCSE and that is term we routinely use.
Download the Edexcel ICSE Biology Specification here.