Biology Coursework Layout Design

Biologists investigate the living world at all levels using many different approaches and techniques. 

At one end of the scale is the cell, its molecular construction and complex metabolic reactions. At the other end of the scale biologists investigate the interactions that make whole ecosystems function.  Many discoveries remain to be made and great progress is expected in the 21st century.

Through studying a science subject students should become aware of how scientists work and communicate with each other. While the scientific method may take on a wide variety of forms, the emphasis on a practical approach. In addition, through the overarching theme of the “Nature of Science” this knowledge and skills will be put into the context of way science and scientists work in the 21st Century and the ethical debates and limitations of creative scientific endeavour.

The sciences are taught practically. Students have opportunities to design investigations, collect data, develop manipulative skills, analyse results, collaborate with peers and evaluate and communicate their findings. The investigations may be laboratory based or they may make use of simulations and data bases. Students develop the skills to work independently on their own design, but also collegiately, including collaboration with schools in different regions, to mirror the way in which scientific research is conducted in the wider community.

Biology syllabus outline:

 Higher level (240 hours)

  • Internal assessment (individual investigation): 20%
  • External assessment: 80%

 Standard level (150 hours)

  • Internal assessment (individual investigation): 20%
  • External assessment: 80%

Key features of the curriculum and assessment models

  • Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)
  • The minimum prescribed number of hours is 150 for SL and 240 for HL
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally
  • Biology students at SL and HL undertake a common core syllabus and a common internal assessment (IA) scheme.
  • While there are core skills and activities common to both SL and HL students, students at HL are required to study the options and some topics in greater depth as well as some additional topics.  The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth.
  • A practical approach to the course delivery is emphasised through the interdisciplinary group 4 project and a mixture of both short-term and long-term experiments and investigations.
  • Internal assessment accounts for 20% of the final assessment and this is assessed through a single individual investigation. This investigation may involve a hands-on approach, use of data-bases, modelling, simulation or a hybrid. Student work is internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB.

The external assessment of biology consists of three written papers.  In paper 1 there are 30 (at SL) or 40 (at HL) multiple-choice questions. Paper 2 contains short-answer and extended-response questions on the core (and Additional Higher Level (AHL) material at HL). Paper 3 has two sections; Section A contains one data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work on the core (and AHL material at HL). Section B contains short-answer and extended-response questions from each of the four options

Much of this information is taken directly from the biology subject guide, available to all IB teachers on the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC).

Learn more about biology in a DP workshop for teachers. 

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The four-year plan listed below is designed to provide suggestions for sequencing your major courses, but there are also other ways to sequence most majors. This plan is meant to provide aid in early, provisional planning. Please consult with your academic advisor to make strategic academic decisions about which courses to take each semester.

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FALL—Semester 1
BIOL 107 Intro Biology I (Fall)
BIOL 145 Freshman Seminar
MATH 156 College Algebra (or placement)
CHEM 129 Basic Principles of Chemistry
Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
SPRING—Semester 2
BIOL 108 Introductory Biology II (Spring)
MATH 157 Plane Trigonometry (or placement)
CHEM 130 Principles of Chemistry I
Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
FALL—Semester 3
BIOL 200 Cell Biology (Fall)
CHEM 131 Principles of Chemistry II
MATH 198 Analytic Geometry and Calculus I
Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
SPRING—Semester 4
BIOL 300 Genetics (Spring)
CHEM 329 Organic I
STAT 190 Statistics
Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
FALL—Semester 5
BIOL 301 Intro to Ecology (Fall)
CHEM 330 Organic Lab I
CHEM 331 Organic II
PHYS 185 College Physics I
Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
SPRING—Semester 6
BIOL 315 or 405 (Physiology)(Spring)
CHEM 332 Organic Lab II
PHYS 186 College Physics II
BIOL Elective or Learning Plan*
Elective(s) and/or Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
FALL—Semester 7
BIOL Elective or Learning Plan*
BIOL Elective or Learning Plan*
BIOL 349 Writing Biology*
Elective(s) and/or Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
SPRING—Semester 8
BIOL 545 Senior Seminar
BIOL Elective or Learning Plan*
Elective(s) and/or Liberal Studies Program (LSP) coursework
*Can be taken any semester, typically junior and/or senior year.
(F) = Fall only
(S) = Spring only
This is a sample course sequence to illustrate class offerings for this major. The Office of the Registrar is responsible for certifying completion of degree requirements based on requirements specified in Truman’s Official Catalog.

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