Biology 25/09/2018

Biology GCSE 2018 – Summary of examiners’ reports


This blog provides a summary of the examiner’s reports for the 2018 Biology GCSE Science papers.

The introduction of the new ‘9-1’ Science GCSEs of 2018 has been a challenging experience for students and teachers alike. This year, therefore, the examiners’ reports are more useful than ever as a diagnostic tool, to help teachers provide targeted guidance to students taking these exams in future.

This blog provides a summary of the examiner’s reports for the 2018 Biology papers. It covers both combined science and the separate sciences, foundation tier and higher tier. We have used the examiner reports prepared for the AQA exam board, but the same lessons apply to students taking Edexcel and OCR exams.

The links below provide tables of grade boundaries for all three sciences.

Traditionally, Biology has had the highest grade boundaries of the three sciences, as students found the subject more accessible than Chemistry or Physics. But in 2018, the introduction of more advanced topics to the Biology specification (some of them previously taught at A-level) proved a major challenge and Biology actually had the lowest grade boundaries.

Below we highlight points from the examiners’ reports, which help explain why grade boundaries in Biology were unusually low this year.

The examiners reported that, overall, AO1 (knowledge) questions were answered well, including answers to simple factual questions and questions which required basic calculations such as percentage change. The problems were with in-depth knowledge: answering AO2 questions (apply knowledge) and AO3 questions (analyse, interpret, evaluate, draw conclusions).

We’ve split the examiners comments into three broad (and overlapping) categories: ‘Required practicals’, ‘Key exam skills’ and ‘Subject areas for development’.


Required practicals

In both combined and separate science Biology, examiners reported that students lacked exposure to, and in-depth understanding of, required practicals, and that as a result, they lost marks on a number of exam questions. Many students were unable to give a detailed enough account of how to carry out practicals, for example, or could not explain and interpret the data analysis from practical experiments. Specifically:

It’s clear that, in preparing students for the 2019 exams, a focus on the teaching and learning of required practicals is essential for all schools.

My GSCE Science complements lab demonstrations of required practicals with learning videos on each of them. These videos are useful as preparation ahead of a class demonstration and can also be used for revision. My GSCE Science exam-style questions on practicals thoroughly test students’ knowledge and help prepare them for the exams. All videos on required practicals are available directly from a student’s video dashboard, by clicking on the PRACTICALS button at the top of the video dashboard, or by using the SEARCH function.

In addition, My GCSE Science teachers have prepared a number of blogs that deal directly with the issues raised by examiners and summarised above. The blogs are invaluable sources of advice on required practicals and graph skills, for teachers and students alike. They are freely available on


Key exam skills

Key exam skills were lacking and accounted for a large share of lost marks, according to the examiners. Specifically:

The errors above can be addressed by using My GCSE Science to help improve students’ exam technique. 1,000 multiple-choice questions are available to answer directly on the website. In addition, My GCSE Science long-form exam-style questions (and corresponding mark schemes) help students build an in-depth understanding of each topic while at the same time developing exam technique.

My GCSE Science teachers have also prepared blogs that deal directly with exam skills and maths skills in Biology. These blogs cover all of the issues raised by the examiners and are freely available on


Subject areas for development

The examiners highlighted a number of specific areas which require increased focus:

All of this subject matter is of comprehensively covered by My GCSE Science video tutorials and the associated exam-preparation resources. In addition, My GCSE Science teachers have prepared blogs that deal directly with the areas for improvement as outlined above. These blogs are freely available on




My GCSE Science

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