Welcome to Imago Education's biology course which will prepare you for the Cambridge International Certificate of Secondary Education (IG) biology exams (Code: 0610). We trust that you will enjoy your study of IG biology and come to deeper appreciation of the life you see all around you every day.

Let us begin by explaining how this course works and what you need to do to get the most out of your studies.

The syllabus

The syllabus for the IG Biology is available from the Cambridge International website. It is important that you download the syllabus for the year that you are going to write the exam in. Read through the syllabus so that you are familiar with what is expected of you. You will find information about the exams and how they will be structured, as well as the content that needs to be covered. The syllabus will also state the assessment objectives which will tell you what the examiners will be looking for in your answers in the exams. There is also an important section where they give the definitions of command words that will be used in the exam question and how you should respond to such a question.

Note that Cambridge International offers the biology course at two levels - core and extended.

Core curriculum

Students taking the core course, will cover the core curriculum and can achieve a grading between G (20-29%) and a C (60-69%). In other words a student who does very well at Core level is considered to be at the C-grade of the extended course. Students taking the core course, will write the core exam papers:

  • Paper 1 (Core - multiple choice questions)
  • Paper 3 (Core - structured questions)

Extended curriculum

Students that do the extended level, will cover both the core and supplementary curriculum. The supplementary curriculum is highlighted in the textbook by a line down the margin beginning with an 'S' in a circle. Students taking the extended level can achieve grades between A+ (90-100%) and a G (20-29%). Students taking the extended level will also write three papers, namely:

  • Paper 2 (Extended - multiple choice questions)
  • Paper 4 (Extended - structured questions)

This study guide covers the work necessary for the extended level of the IG biology. It will therefore cover both the core and supplementary content of the curriculum.


Biology is a very practical subject and students are encouraged to do experiments throughout their studies. Please do try to do some of the experiments given in this study guide.

All students (Core AND Extended) will write one of two practical papers: either Paper 5 which is a practical exam OR Paper 6 which is the alternative to practical exam. Paper 6 will cover all the assessment objectives for practical work without having to actually do the practical work.

Text book

The text book is very important as this will be your main source of content. This study guide is based on the following text book: Cambridge IG Biology Coursebook, by Mary Jones and Geoff Jones, third edition (Cambridge University Press, 2014, ISBN: 987-1-107-61479-6). Since this edition of the text book reflects changes in the syllabus since the last edition was written, it is important that you get the third edition, not an earlier one. We will also be using the accompanying workbook which has exercises to help you practice the skills you are learning in the coursebook. This is a very helpful book in preparing for the exam questions. The details of the workbook are: Cambridge IG Biology Workbook by Mary Jones and Geoff Jones, third edition (Cambridge University Press, 2014, ISBN:978-1-107-61493-2). The Coursebook and Workbook can both be purchased from your local branch of Cambridge University Press. They are also available on some online bookshops, such as

Stationery required

Studying is a very active process and so just reading the text book and thinking about the questions is not enough. You will need an exercise book. This is where you will answer questions, do biological drawings, make comparison tables and make study notes. You could use either a file and notepaper or an exercise book (use a fairly thick book with at least 288 pages). If you use a file, we would suggest that you divide your file into twenty-two sections - one section for each chapter. By the time you write the exams, you will have synthesized most of the material, but it is useful in the learning phase to keep the different chapters' material separated. It is very important that you develop the good habit of keeping your notes correctly filed at all times. This will help you to find the information you need - especially when you are practicing past papers and need to refer back to something in your notes. Remember that the punched holes go on the left side of the front page. If you use an exercise book, then we suggest that you leave a few empty pages between chapters for any extra material you may need to add as you revise and work on past papers.

Biology is like learning a new language. There are many specific terms that you need to understand and be able to use appropriately and with confidence. To help you learn these terms, we have included a list of terms in most lessons under the heading of 'Definitions'. A very useful way of learning these terms is to create your own personal biology dictionary. You will need an index book (a book with alphabetic divisions) where you can record the terms and their definitions. There is a glossary of terms at the back of the Coursebook but you may need to look up other terms either in a dictionary or on the internet. Recording the terms in this way will make it much easier to find the term again than if you simply wrote the term in your notebook. If you struggle with learning the terms, you may want to make yourself a set of vocab cards. Get cards about the size of business cards, and write the term on the one side and the definition on the other side. You can then use the cards to learn the terms. Read the term and then try to say the definition. Check on the other side to see if you got the definition correct. You can also read the definition and then give the correct term for that definition.

You will also need some graph paper and square paper for graph work.

 You will need a pen - either blue or black. Do all your written work in pen so that you are used to writing in pen. In the exams you will need to write in pen as all pencil work (except diagram and graphs work) will not be marked. If you make a mistake, draw one neat line through the mistake and either write to the right of your mistake or just above the mistake, making sure that it is legible and clear to read. Do not scribble out - that looks ugly! You are not allowed to use correction fluid in the exam, so get used to not using correction fluid during the course.

You will be making a number of biological drawings, so you will need a sharp Hb pencil. You must work with a sharp pencil, so you will also need a pencil sharpener and a good quality eraser to rub out any mistakes on your drawings. A rule (ruler) is needed to rule label lines in drawings.

You will be doing calculations in biology, so you will also need a scientific calculator.

Time allocation

Cambridge International recommends 130 guided hours per subjects at IG level. This translates into about 4 hours per week per subject over 32 weeks. Remember that it is assumed for every guided hour there is also 1 hour of home work or personal work. For private candidates, you should be looking at working 1 to 1 1/2 hours per day per subject for 5 days a week. Some students will work faster and so need less time, but other students will work slower and therefore need more time. This study guide has broken up the work into manageable lessons, dealing more or less with one sub-section per lesson. Some lessons will therefore be longer than others, and students may find that there are some lessons which they will need to do over two days rather than just the one day. Such lessons are marked and students will be warned that a particular lesson is slightly longer than usual.

It is best to work out a year schedule for yourself similar to the model one found in your downloads documents. The schedule helps you to evaluate your rate of work and whether you will complete the course in time. You need to complete the coursework at least 6 weeks before the exams so that you give yourself plenty of time for revision and practicing past papers.

Lesson structure.

Every lesson will open with some questions. These questions are there to stimulate your thinking. Remember, learning is an active process - your mind needs to be engaged and focused. These opening questions are there to help you engage your mind and begin to focus. Do not simply read the questions and move on. You must answer the questions. Ideally, if you have a parent or tutor helping you, you could discuss these questions together. Otherwise, you can either jot down some points in response to the questions or answer the questions out aloud - so that you can hear your answers.

You will then be directed to read the relevant section in the Coursebook. Read carefully. The best reading strategy would be to quickly read the section so that you have an idea of the overall meaning of the section. Then read the section again, this time slowly to get the meaning of the text. Keep asking questions of the text, like "Why is that like that?" or "How does that work?" or "When would that happen?". Some students find it helpful to write notes as they read - just don't copy the text! (That is time consuming and not a good learning method). Other students like to write comments in their textbook. If you don't understand what is being said, re-read the section. Try to identify what exactly you don't understand - is it a term or a concept that you don't understand. Which term? What concept? Then find the definition of the term you don't understand and add the term and definition to your index book. If it is a concept you don't understand, make a note of it. If at the end of the lesson, you are still unsure of this concept or you are unable to continue the lesson because you don't understand this concept and it seems necessary to understand it to do the activities, then you will need to research that concept. The internet is a wonderful resource - use it but be careful that the source you use is reliable.

Once you have read the section, there will be a number of learning activities which will help you to consolidate your learning. Some of these learning activities will be to write terms and definitions or formulas in your index book. These activities will be given in a green box. Learning activities to be done in your exercise book or workbook will be given in a grey box.

As you come to the end of the lesson, you will mark your own work. This will help you to learn from your mistakes. Do not just put a cross next to a wrong answer. Find out where you went wrong and if you do not understand a particular concept or term, revise that or do further research to help you understand. Learning is a very active process!

You should also write a summary or make a mind map of each section. This will be your main exam revision tool - so make sure you have all the important information on your summary or mind map.

The lesson will end with some questions for you to evaluate your performance and understanding of the material in the lesson. Again, do not ignore these questions or just read them - answer them!

It will help you a lot to discuss what you are learning with your parents or tutor. Discussion brings in another sense organ - you are now hearing the material and it can bring in other perspectives that can help you see a bigger picture.

Conclusion and encouragement

The study of biology should lead you to amazement at the order and beauty in the world around us. I trust that Imago Education's study guide will help you to see that order and beauty.

Imago Education seeks to give you help and guidance in your studies but ultimately only you can construct the knowledge for yourself. No-one can pour the knowledge into your head! So, it is really up to you. The more you put into your studies, the more you will get out of it and the more you will enjoy the subject and the better you will do in the exams. Mastering anything in life requires discipline and regular practice and this applies to studying biology as well.

Enjoy your biology studies!