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Biology, Chemistryand PhysicsGCSE subject contentJune 2015

ContentsSubject Content4Introduction4Subject aims and learning outcomes4Working scientifically7Biology9Cell biology10Transport systems11Health, disease and the development of medicines12Coordination and control13Photosynthesis15Ecosystems16Inheritance, variation and evolution17Chemistry20Atomic structure and the Periodic Table20Structure, bonding and the properties of matter22Chemical changes23Energy changes in chemistry25The rate and extent of chemical change26Organic chemistry27Chemical analysis27Chemical and allied industries29Earth and atmospheric science31Physics33Energy342

Forces35Forces and motion36Waves in matter37Light and electromagnetic waves38Electricity39Magnetism and electromagnetism41Particle model of matter42Atomic structure43Space physics44Appendix 146Appendix 248Appendix 349Appendix 4503

Subject ContentIntroductionThese GCSE subject criteria set out the knowledge, understanding, and skills for GCSEspecifications in biology, chemistry and physics to ensure progression from key stage 3national curriculum requirements and the possibility of development into A level. Theyprovide the framework within which awarding organisations create the detail of thesubject specifications.Subject aims and learning outcomesThis document sets out the learning outcomes and content coverage required for GCSEsin the sciences. In subjects such as the sciences, where topics are taught inprogressively greater depth over the course of key stage 3 and key stage 4, GCSEoutcomes may reflect or build upon subject content which is typically taught at key stage3. There is no expectation that teaching of such content should be repeated during theGCSE course where it has already been covered at an earlier stage.GCSE study in the sciences provides the foundations for understanding the materialworld. Scientific understanding is changing our lives and is vital to the world’s futureprosperity, and all students should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge,methods, processes and uses of science. They should be helped to appreciate how thecomplex and diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of asmall number of key ideas relating to the sciences which are both inter-linked, and are ofuniversal application. These key ideas include the use of conceptual models and theories to make sense of the observeddiversity of natural phenomena the assumption that every effect has one or more cause that change is driven by differences between different objects and systems whenthey interact that many such interactions occur over a distance without direct contact that science progresses through a cycle of hypothesis, practical experimentation,observation, theory development and review that quantitative analysis is a central element both of many theories and ofscientific methods of inquiry.4

These key ideas are relevant in different ways and with different emphases in the threesubjects: examples of their relevance are given for each subject in the separate sectionsbelow for biology, chemistry and physics.GCSE specifications in the three sciences studied concurrently should enable studentsto: develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding through the specificdisciplines of biology, chemistry and physics develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science, throughdifferent types of scientific enquiries that help them to answer scientific questionsabout the world around them develop and learn to apply observational, practical, modelling, enquiry andproblem-solving skills, both in the laboratory, in the field and in other learningenvironments develop their ability to evaluate claims based on science through critical analysisof the methodology, evidence and conclusions, both qualitatively andquantitatively.Furthermore the sciences should be studied in ways that help students to developcuriosity about the natural world, insight into how science works, and appreciation of itsrelevance to their everyday lives. The scope and nature of such study should be broad,coherent, practical and satisfying, and thereby encourage students to be inspired,motivated and challenged by the subject and its achievements.The two main dimensions of the contentThe ways in which GCSE specifications in the three sciences should enable students toshow their understanding of the concepts and methods of science are spelt out below intwo main sections.The first section explains the main ways in which working scientifically should bedeveloped and assessed. Specifications should encourage the development ofknowledge and understanding in science through opportunities for working scientifically.Awarding organisations should identify in their assessment strategy how, over a cycle ofassessments, they will ensure that working scientifically is developed and assessedthrough the subject content.The second section sets out the key ideas and subject contents for biology, chemistryand physics. These content sections also set out the depth of treatment for both teachingand learning. Awarding organisations’ specifications should be designed to set out thelevel of understanding which pupils are expected to acquire.5

The content sections also set out the mathematical skills required for each sciencediscipline. In order to be able to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding inscience, students need to have been taught, and demonstrate competence, to select andapply the appropriate areas of mathematics relevant to the subject as set out under eachtopic and the mathematical skills listed in appendix 3. The mathematics should be atlevels up to, but not beyond, the requirements specified in GCSE mathematics for theappropriate tier.All mathematics content must be assessed within the lifetime of the specification.Four Appendices provide further details about (1) equations in physics; (2) units inscience; (3) mathematical skills; and (4) gives a list of apparatus and techniques.6

Working scientificallyThis second section explains, with both general and subject-specific examples, the mainways in which working scientifically may be developed and assessed.1. Development of scientific thinking understand how scientific methods and theories develop over time use a variety of models such as representational, spatial, descriptive,computational and mathematical to solve problems, make predictions and todevelop scientific explanations and understanding of familiar and unfamiliarfacts appreciate the power and limitations of science and consider any ethical issueswhich may arise explain everyday and technological applications of science; evaluate associatedpersonal, social, economic and environmental implications; and make decisionsbased on the evaluation of evidence and arguments evaluate risks both in practical science and the wider societal context, includingperception of risk in relation to data and consequences recognise the importance of peer review of results and of communicating resultsto a range of audiences.2. Experimental skills and strategies use scientific theories and explanations to develop hypotheses plan experiments or devise procedures to make observations, produce orcharacterise a substance, test hypotheses, check data or explore phenomena apply a knowledge of a range of techniques, instruments, apparatus, andmaterials to select those appropriate to the experiment carry out experiments appropriately having due regard to the correctmanipulation of apparatus, the accuracy of measurements and health andsafety considerations recognise when to apply a knowledge of sampling techniques to ensure anysamples collected are representative make and record observations and measurements using a range of apparatusand methods evaluate methods and suggest possible improvements and further7

investigations.3. Analysis and evaluation Apply the cycle of collecting, presenting and analysing data, including: presenting observations and other data using appropriate methods translating data from one form to another carrying out and represent mathematical and statistical analysis representing distributions of results and make estimations ofuncertainty interpreting observations and other data (presented in verbal,diagrammatic, graphical, symbolic or numerical form), includingidentifying patterns and trends, making inferences and drawingconclusions presenting reasoned explanations including relating data tohypotheses being objective, evaluating data in terms of accuracy, precision,repeatability and reproducibility and identifying potential sources ofrandom and systematic error communicating the scientific rationale for investigations, methodsused, findings and reasoned conclusions through paper-based andelectronic reports and presentations using verbal, diagrammatic,graphical, numerical and symbolic forms.4. Scientific vocabulary, quantities, units, symbols and nomenclature use scientific vocabulary, terminology and definitions recognise the importance of scientific quantities and understand how they aredetermined use SI units (e.g. kg, g, mg; km, m, mm; kJ, J) and IUPAC chemicalnomenclature unless inappropriate use prefixes and powers of ten for orders of magnitude (e.g. tera, giga, mega, kilo,centi, milli, micro and nano) interconvert units use an appropriate number of significant figures in calculation.8

BiologyBiology is the science of living organisms (including animals, plants, fungi andmicroorganisms) and their interactions with each other and the environment. The study ofbiology involves collecting and interpreting information about the natural world to identifypatterns and relate possible cause and effect. Biological information is used to helphumans improve their own lives and strive to create a sustainable world for futuregenerations.Students should be helped to understand how, through the ideas of biology, the complexand diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of a small numberof key ideas which are of universal application, and which can be illustrated in theseparate topics set out below. These ideas include: life processes depend on molecules whose structure is related to their function the fundamental units of living organisms are cells, which may be part of highlyadapted structures including tissues, organs and organ systems, enabling livingprocesses to be performed effectively living organisms may form populations of single species, communities of manyspecies and ecosystems, interacting with each other, with the environment andwith humans in many different ways living organisms are interdependent and show adaptations to their environment life on Earth is dependent on photosynthesis in which green plants and algae traplight from the Sun to fix carbon dioxide and combine it with hydrogen from water tomake organic compounds and oxygen organic compounds are used as fuels in cellular respiration to allow the otherchemical reactions necessary for life the chemicals in ecosystems are continually cycling through the natural world the characteristics of a living organism are influenced by its genome and itsinteraction with the environment evolution occurs by a process of natural selection and accounts both forbiodiversity and how organisms are all related to varying degrees.This content sets out the full range of content for GCSE Biology. Awardingorganisations may, however, use flexibility to increase depth, breadth or contextwithin the specified topics or to consolidate teaching of the subject content.Higher tier GCSE biology specifications must assess all the content set out below,whether it is underlined or is not underlined. Foundation tier GCSE biologyspecifications must assess all the content set out below, except for content which isunderlined.9

GCSE biology specifications should require students to:Cell biologyProkaryotic and eukaryotic cells explain how the main sub-cellular structures of eukaryotic cells (plants andanimals) and prokaryotic cells are related to their functions, including thenucleus/genetic material, plasmids, mitochondria, chloroplasts and cellmembranes explain how electron microscopy has increased our understanding of sub-cellularstructures explain the aseptic techniques used in culturing organisms.Growth and development of cells describe the process of mitosis in growth, including the cell cycle explain the importance of cell differentiation describe cancer as the result of changes in cells that lead to uncontrolled growthand division describe the function of stem cells in embryonic and adult animals and meristemsin plants discuss potential benefits and risks associated with the use of stem cells inmedicine explain the role of meiotic cell division in halving the chromosome number to formgametes.Cell metabolism explain the mechanism of enzyme action including the active site, enzymespecificity and factors affecting the rate of enzymatic reaction describe cellular respiration as an exothermic reaction which is continuouslyoccurring in all living cells compare the processes of aerobic and anaerobic respiration explain the importance of sugars, amino acids, fatty acids and glycerol in thesynthesis and breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.Use of mathematics10

demonstrate an understanding of number, size and scale and the quantitativerelationship between units (2a and 2h) use estimations and explain when they should be used (1d) carry out rate calculations for chemical reactions (1a and 1c) calculate with numbers written in standard form (1b) calculate cross-sectional areas of bacterial cultures and clear agar jelly using πr2(5c).Transport systemsTransport in cells explain how substances are transported into and out of cells through diffusion,osmosis and active transport.Transport systems in multicellular organisms explain the need for exchange surfaces and a transport system in multicellularorganisms i