IB@Nesbru vgs

Satelite site for the IB Diploma programme at Nesbru videregående skole


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 subjects

Group 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 learning

Past 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.

Syllabus outline

Core syllabus

Topic 1: Cell biology

  • Introduction to cells
  • Ultrastucture of cells
  • Membrane structure
  • Membrane transport
  • The origin of cells
  • Cell division

Topic 4: Ecology

  • Species, communities and ecosystems
  • Energy flow
  • Carbon cycling
  • Climate change

Topic 2: Molecular biology

  • Molecules to metabolism
  • Water
  • Carbohydrates and lipids
  • Proteins
  • Enzymes
  • Structure of DNA and RNA
  • DNA replication, transcription and translation

Topic 5: Evolution and biodiversity

  • Evidence for evolution
  • Natural selection
  • Classification of biodiversity
  • Cladistics

Topic 3: Genetics

  • Genes
  • Chromosomes
  • Meiosis
  • Inheritance
  • Genetic modification and biotechnology

Topic 6: Human physiology

  • Digestion and absorption
  • The blood system
  • Defence against infectious disease
  • Gas exchange
  • Neurons and synapses
  • Hormones, homeostasis and reproduction

Additional higher level syllabus

Topic 7: Nucleic acids

  • DNA structure and replication
  • Transcription and gene expression
  • Translation

Topic 10: Genetics and evolution

  • Meiosis
  • Inheritance
  • Gene pools and speciation

Topic 8: Metabolism, cell respiration and photosynthesis

  • Metabolism
  • Cell respiration
  • Photosynthesis

Topic 11: Animal physiology

  • Antibody production and vaccination
  • Movement
  • The kidney and osmoregulation
  • Sexual reproduction

Topic 9: Plant biology

  • Transport in the xylem of plants
  • Transport in the phloem of plants
  • Growth in plants
  • Reproduction in plants


Students follow one option chosen from the options outlined below.

Option A: Neurobiology and behavior

  • Neural development
  • The human brain
  • Perception of stimuli
  • Innate and learned behaviour (HL only)
  • Neuropharmacology (HL only)
  • Ethology (HL only)

Option C: Ecology and conservation

  • Species and communities
  • Communities and ecosystems
  • Impacts of humans on ecosystems
  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Population ecology (HL only)
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles (HL only)

Option B: Biotechnology and bioinformatics

  • Microbiology: organisms in industry
  • Biotechnology in agriculture
  • Environmental protection
  • Medicine (HL only)
  • Bioinformatics (HL only)

Option D: Human physiology

  • Human nutrition
  • Digestion
  • Functions of the liver
  • The heart
  • Hormones and metabolism (HL only)
  • Transport of respiratory gases (HL only)


Assessment in all group 4 subjects follows a common assessment framework.

Student learning is continuously assessed in the forms of topic tests, practical laboratory assignments, theoretical assignments, student presentations and bi-annual examinations. All assignments and examinations are assessed using established criteria.

The final assessment from the IB consists of the following components:

The internal assessment component is assessed by subject teacher and moderated externally by the IBO at the end of the course. This component makes up 20% of the final grade and consists of an individual investigation.

The external assessment component consists of three examinations at the end of the course.

Adapted from the IB Biology guide © International Baccalaureate Organization