GCSE Biology Test Format: What to Expect on the Day



As your GCSE biology test approaches, it’s a good idea to think ahead to what will happen on the day. Being familiar with the format of the tests and their timings will help put your mind at ease and enable you to perform at your best. To give you an extra confidence boost, we’ve put together this post to take you through the process step-by-step.


Let’s begin my taking a look at the topics you’ll be assessed in. In GCSE biology, there are eight main subjects that are covered over two test papers. The topics you’ll answer questions on are:


  1. Cell biology
  2. Organisation
  3. Infection and response
  4. Bioenergetics
  5. Homeostasis and response
  6. Inheritance, variation and evolution
  7. Ecology
  8. Key ideas


GCSE Biology Test Paper 1


The first test paper asks questions on the first four topics, i.e. cell biology, organisation, infection and response and bioenergetics.


The paper is a written test that lasts for 1 hour 45 minutes. Students will take the test at either the Foundation or Higher tier. There are 100 marks available, which contribute towards 50% of your overall GCSE biology grade.


The question types will be a combination of multiple-choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.


GCSE Biology Test Paper 2


The second test paper asks questions related to the last four topics, i.e. homeostasis and response; inheritance, variation and evolution and ecology.


The test is a written paper and also lasts for 1 hour 45 minutes. Again, students will take the test at either the Foundation or Higher tier and there will be 100 marks available. The second test paper counts towards 50% of your overall GCSE biology score.


Like the first test paper, questions will be a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.


For more information on the GCSE biology test format, please visit the AQA website.


Our Tips for the GCSE Biology Tests


how to prepare for the GSCE Biology exam


At Exam Papers Plus, we specialise in helping students prepare for their GCSEs with our GCSE biology practice packs. We know a thing or two about making the most of your time in the exam, so here are our top tips for exam day:


  • Read your revision notes before stepping into the exam hall. If you highlight the most important elements that you need to remember, e.g. equations, they’ll be fresh in your mind when the tests begin. You may even want to write down the equations that you struggle to remember on a separate sheet of paper once the test begins, so you’ll have them readily available.


  • Try to identify the ‘type’ of question you’re being asked, e.g. is it open response or a closed short answer? Once you know what type of question you’re answering, you should have a fairly good idea of how your final answer should ‘look’, e.g. does it require an explanation, or a single word? You should also try to identify the subject of the question to make sure your answer remains on-point and doesn’t stray from what’s being asked.


  • Consider the command words that are used in the question. For example, ‘state’, suggests that you can answer with a single word, sentence, or number. ‘Discuss’, however, implies that you need to explore advantages and disadvantages and then give your opinion.


  • Clarify how many points are up for grabs and make sure your answer covers each one. If you can’t see where the points will be awarded in your answer, you may need to consider whether you’re answering the question that’s being asked.


  • Stay hydrated in the exam. According to a recent study by the University of Westminster, students who drink a 330ml bottle of water during their exam can increase their focus by 25%. A similar study carried out in 2012 by the university also found that drinking water in an exam can boost performance by 5%.


  • Make the most of your time by double-checking your answers at the end. Ideally, you should finish both test papers with around ten minutes to spare, so you can re-read your answers. You should always assume that there’s a mistake that needs to be fixed somewhere.


For additional advice on the GCSE biology exam, take a look at this useful video from UnJaded Jade:



GCSE Biology Practice Tests


Revising topic themes and equations are certainly an important part of your GCSE biology preparation. However, as the exam approaches, you’ll want to put theory in practice by measuring your current attainment. At Exam Papers Plus, we publish biology packs that help students gauge how well they’re doing in their preparation.


As part of the process of creating our practice tests, we thoroughly analysed reports from previous years to make sure that our questions cover all the topic areas of the exam. Our packs also include more challenging questions that we know students tend to struggle with.


All of our GCSE practice papers are written and developed by former GCSE biology examiners and markers. As such, they’re written in a way that helps students become familiar with the layout of the tests and the types of questions they could be asked. When taken under timed conditions, our tests can also help improve time management skills.


Each pack focuses on the key skills that students need to develop to perform well in higher tier GCSE exams and includes detailed step-by-step answers and mark schemes for every question. Each question is labelled to identify the relevant exam boards.


We’d highly recommend the following resources in preparing for the GCSE biology tests:



GCSE Biology: Key Skills



All of our GCSE packs are available immediately after download.



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GCSE Biology: Key Skills Pack – Providing Essential Exam Practice and Preparation

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