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The New IBDP Biology Course: An Overview for Prospective Students

This week at my school here in Morocco our current 10th grade students and their parents will be coming to campus to learn all about our program options for the 11th and 12th grade. While most of our students choose to take on the full IB Diploma program, we offer two other pathways which will lead to a U.S. High School Diploma & potentially some IB Certificates. It is an important evening for our 10th grade students and their parents as they make big decisions for the last two years of their high school experience with an eye towards their future career options and university admissions dreams.

As the only IBDP Biology teacher at my school it is my responsibility to help both students and parents to understand the course, including its content (knowledge and skills), assessment and what students can expect should they choose to take on two years of Biology at either the SL or HL level. Since the IBDP Biology curriculum has changed in a fundamental way this particular group of students cannot rely on their older classmates to guide them. For this reason I have put together a few different infographics and posters to help clarify the key information and the significant change to the course framework. I display these infographics on a table along with some biological models and sample books for students and parents to flip through. You can see my display from last year pictured above.

For anyone looking for a quick overview of the new course, I have spent several hours going through the new IBDP Biology Guide (first exam May 2025) and here are they key points for teachers, as well as prospective students & parents:

  • The course is arranged conceptually based on four key themes of biology, they are: Unity & Diversity (Theme A), Form & Function (Theme B), Interaction & Interdependence (Theme C) and finally, Continuity & Change (Theme D)

  • Each of these themes will then be examined at four levels, which are: Molecules (Level 1), Cells (Level 2), Organisms (Level 3) and Ecosystems (Level 4)

  • This conceptual organization means that each unit of instruction will include several different topics or examples of each theme at each level, for example Evolution is included in three of the four themes (A4.1, B4.1 & D4.1), rather than as a separate unit

  • While students may find the back & forth nature of this conceptual framework challenging it should lead to an excellent breadth and depth of understanding of key biological concepts which will prepare students very well for post-secondary studies in Biology

  • The Internal Assessment (IA) for Biology is now called the Scientific Investigation and it is worth 20% of the overall score, one big change for this syllabus is that students are now permitted to work in groups to examine multiple aspects of the same research question

  • The exams for this course have been reduced from three separate papers to two papers, with the first one including both multiple choice and data-based questions and the second paper including short and extended response as well as data-based questions

These key pieces of information can be found in the following infographics for your reference. Post them on your course page or use them at as a reference for incoming IB Diploma students, I hope they help clarify the key components of the new course for you! Please note that the lists of topics on the first page in the "what topics will we learn about" list is not comprehensive, but is meant to give students a sample of what they will learn at the SL & HL levels.

IBDP Biology SL vs. HL May 2025 Exam Infographics
Download PDF • 2.42MB

If you have some knowledge of the old syllabus (May 2016 to May 2024) from a teacher, an older sibling or a friend who has completed the current syllabus and they have told you about the course; here are some of the differences between what they learned and what you will learn in the new course:

  • The content has been updated to include newer innovations in Biology, such as CRISPR (for HL students), viruses and Covid-19

  • Options have been removed and key ideas from some of the Options have been included in the syllabus while others have been removed completely

  • There are no longer any required practicals, instead key skills and applications to be practiced in the lab are incorporated into different topics throughout the syllabus

  • This means that there is no longer a 3rd exam paper, but only two papers

  • Paper 1 no longer includes only multiple choice questions, but also includes four data-based questions

  • The entire course is organized in a fundamentally different way, rather than topics arranged by branches of Biology the new course interweaves the branches of Biology around the four themes and at four different levels of organization

These are big changes and while I am excited to approach the course from a new angle there are naturally some concerns about what it will be like. As we get closer to teaching the course in the 2023/2024 school year more resources will become available for both students and teachers. I will be doing my best to put together a variety of tools and resources for teachers, the first of which is a poster outlining the four themes and levels of organization of the new IBDP Biology course, you can find it here in my TPT shop. I hope this post was helpful as you begin to familiarize yourself with the new IBDP Biology course as either a teacher, a prospective student or a parent.

Thanks for reading teachers, travelers & curious souls of all kinds.

The Roaming Scientist



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the kind of teacher who is always trying something new, new labs, new Apps, new scaffolds and even new countries to live and teach in. I'm looking forward to share what I learn with you all through my weekly blog posts. 

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