Biology is the study of life. The first organisms appeared on the planet over 3 billion years ago and, through reproduction and natural selection, have given rise to the 8 million or so different species alive today. Estimates vary, but over the course of evolution 4 billion species could have been produced. Most of these flourished for a period of time and then became extinct as new, better adapted species took their place. There have been at least five periods when very large numbers of species became extinct and biologists are concerned that another mass extinction is under way, caused this time by human activity. Nonetheless, there are more species alive on Earth today than ever before. This diversity makes biology both an endless source of fascination and a considerable challenge.
Biologists attempt to understand 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 areas of research in biology are extremely challenging and many discoveries remain to be made. Biology is still a young science and great progress is expected in the 21st century. This progress is sorely needed at a time when the growing human population is placing ever greater pressure on food supplies and on the habitats of other species, and is threatening the very planet we occupy.
Nature of the group 4 subjectsGroup 4 students at standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) undertake a common core syllabus, a common internal assessment (IA) scheme and have some overlapping elements in the options studied. They are presented with a syllabus that encourages the development of certain skills, attributes and attitudes.
While the skills and activities of group 4 science subjects are common to students at both SL and HL, students at HL are required to study some topics in greater depth, to study additional topics and to study extension material of a more demanding nature in the common options. The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth.
Practical/investigative work is a compulsory component of the group 4 subjects. SL students are required to take part in 40 hours and HL students 60 hours of laboratory-related activities as part of the subject.
Prior learningPast experience shows that students will be able to study a group 4 science subject at SL successfully with no background in, or previous knowledge of, science. Their approach to study, characterized by the specific IB learner profile attributes—inquirers, thinkers and communicators—will be significant here.
However, for most students considering the study of a group 4 subject at HL, while there is no intention to restrict access to group 4 subjects, some previous exposure to the specific group 4 subject would be necessary. Specific topic details are not specified but students who have undertaken the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) or studied an international GCSE science subject would be well prepared. Other national science qualifications (such as Naturfag Vg1 SSP in the Norwegian curriculum) would also be suitable preparation for study of a group 4 subject at HL.