Biology involves the study of the cell, genetics, food, ecology, human and plant physiology and anatomy. The Leaving Certificate course is quite long and requires the completion of 22 mandatory practicals. The course demands constant study and a good memory but students can do well if they are prepared to work hard. The ability to draw outline diagrams is desirable and fluency in communicating in written form is essential. It forms a knowledge base for hundreds of careers ranging from Beautician to Biotechnology. It is advisable to take Biology if you are considering a career in Nursing. It is necessary for students who wish to take Biology as an elective for Home Economics Teacher Training, in St. Angela’s College, Sligo and a requirement for Dental Hygiene Courses.

Students are provided with the knowledge, skills and understanding to pursue further education, training and employment in biology-related fields, and to make judgements on contemporary issues in biology and science that impact on their daily lives and on society. The syllabus consists of approximately 70% biological knowledge, understanding and skills; the remaining 30% deals with the technological, political, social and economic aspects of biology. The syllabus introduced in 2002 has been developed in response to current knowledge and application of biology. Account has been taken of the need to include contemporary biological technologies such as DNA profiling and genetic screening. It aims to create in students an awareness of the application of biological knowledge to modern society and to develop an ability to make informed evaluations about contemporary biological issues.

The course covers a wide range of topics, including cell structure and diversity, metabolism, genetics and human and flowering plant anatomy and physiology. The general principles of ecology are studied, and one particular ecosystem is examined in detail. An ecology field trip is arranged in 5th Year. Particular emphasis is placed on the practical aspects of biology, and there are a number of mandatory activities that each student must carry out for themselves.

What type of student might Biology suit?

Students who enjoyed science in the Junior Certificate might wish to consider studying biology at Senior Cycle. The course is a continuation of what was studied at Junior Cycle but in more detail. It is particularly suited to students who have scored highly in the Naturalist and Investigative areas in their interest test.

 Associated Careers?

The types of courses and careers where the study of Biology at second level might be helpful would include the following; Agriculture, Biology Teaching, Animal Breeder, Animal Nursing, Ambulance Driver, Biochemist, Biologist, Catering, Chiropody, Conservation Work, Dentist, Dietician, Farmer, Food Science, Doctor, Health Inspector, Horticulturist, Laboratory Technician, Marine Biologist, Microbiologist, Nursing, Pharmacist, Physiotherapist, Psychologist, Science Teacher, Speech Therapist, Veterinary Surgeon, Zoologist.

 Third Level Entry Requirements

It is counted as a science subject in any course which has a science subject as a requirement.

 Subject Content

The course is divided into three units

  • Unit 1 The study of life (ecology and food science)
  • Unit 2 The Cell (Genetics, photosynthesis, respiration and enzymes)
  • Unit 3 The organism (a study of body systems, plant biology and microbiology)

There are 22 mandatory practical activities. Three of these are examined each year, two of which have to be answered. A laboratory record of these activities has to be kept and available for inspection by The Department of Education and Skills. An ecology portfolio has also to be completed. As of yet no marks are awarded for the laboratory notebook or the portfolio. There is a strong emphasis on social and applied aspects e.g. when studying the breathing system a breathing disorder is studied.

Exam Structure

The examination at Higher and Ordinary Level is three hours duration. The exam paper is divided into three units.

  • Section A – Six short questions (answer five) 100 marks.
  • Section B – Three questions on practical activities (answer two) 60 marks.
  • Section C – Six long questions (answer four) 240 marks.
 Final Comments
  • It is recommended that a student taking Leaving Certificate Biology has a good
    understanding of Junior Science at Higher Level.
  • Each student must have an aptitude and interest for laboratory work.
  • A considerable amount of learning and study is necessary to do well in this subject.