The exam papers

You will sit two exam papers at the end of your GCSE Biology course. Paper 1 is called "Breadth in Biology", and paper 2 is called "Depth in Biology".

Each paper:

  • is worth 50% of your GCSE in Biology
  • has a total of 90 marks
  • lasts for 1 hour and 45 minutes
  • can be sat at Foundation or Higher tier
  • assesses knowledge and understanding from across the whole GCSE Biology course, including practical questions and maths questions.

The Breadth paper will contain questions worth 1, 2 and 3 marks. The Depth paper will contain questions worth 1-5 marks, plus two 6-mark extended writing questions

Demonstrating and applying what you know

Each exam paper will contain:

Questions that require you to recall what you've learnt

You will need to remember, select and clearly communicate facts and explanations that you have learnt from studying the specification.

Questions that require you to apply what you've learnt to an unfamiliar context

These questions may, at first, appear to be about things you haven't learnt. But the question will give you all the information you need to answer it when combined with your own knowledge and understanding from your studies.

When you see an unfamiliar context in a question:

  • don't panic!
  • read the information in the question carefully
  • think about how the context is similar to something you have studied
  • look for clues in the question that suggest how you can use what you know to explain the unfamiliar context

Questions that require you to analyse evidence or data and then make your own decision or conclusion

To get full marks on this type of question, you will usually have to do more than just processing data (eg doing calculations or plotting a graph) or describing it (eg describing the pattern in the results or the shape of the graph) – you will have to come up with your own conclusion or decision based on the evidence you have been given.

Sometimes, you may be asked whether you agree with a statement or a conclusion. You may not get any marks for simply stating that you agree or disagree – most or all of the marks will be given for explaining and justifying your decision. Your answer must make it clear to the examiner that your decision is based on the evidence you have been given in the question and your own knowledge and understanding of biology.

Questions taken from the OCR website.