Year 12
Year 12

VCE Biology Units 3 & 4

Biology is the study of living things from familiar, complex multicellular organisms that live in the many different habitats of our biosphere to single celled micro-organisms that live in seemingly inhospitable conditions. It is a study of the dynamic relationships between living things, and their environment and the challenges of survival. All living things have many structural and functional characteristics in common, which can be used to classify and group organisms.

Modern biology draws on biochemistry, neuroscience, genetics, evolutionary biology, behavioural science, and cell and molecular biology. It connects with physics, chemistry, earth and space sciences in exploring the nature of past and present life, and the possibility of life forms beyond our planet.

Students develop knowledge of bioscience and skills of science inquiry and the values and attributes that will help them to consider issues and implications associated with the application of biological techniques and technologies.


There is no prerequisite for entry to Unit 3. Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4.

Unit 3: Signatures of life

In this unit students investigate the significant role of proteins in cell functioning. They explore how technological advances have provided improved knowledge and understanding of the roles proteins play in cell functions. The study of the structure and function of DNA and RNA leads students to investigate the diversity of proteins. Specific examples of the applications of molecular biology are included. Homeostasis, signalling molecules and signal transduction are included in a study of coordination and regulation. Immune responses, disorders of immune response and acquired immunity are investigated. Applications of molecular biology are explored.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and evaluate evidence from practical investigations related to biochemical processes.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe and explain coordination and regulation of an organism’s immune responses to antigens at the molecular level.

Unit 4: Continuity and change

In this unit students focus on molecular genetics and investigate individual units of inheritance and the genomes of individuals and species. A study of asexually reproducing and sexually reproducing organisms is included. Students undertake practical investigations that involve the manipulation of DNA and inheritance traits. Students investigate changes to species and the process of natural selection. The interaction between human, cultural and technological evolutions and impact on the evolutionary process is studied. Students consider the bioethical issues associated with the application of particular gene technologies.

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse evidence for the molecular basis of heredity, and patterns of inheritance.

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and evaluate evidence for evolutionary change and evolutionary relationships, and describe mechanisms for change including the effect of human intervention on evolutionary processes.


Satisfactory Completion

Demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit.

Levels of Achievement

Units 3 and 4

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4. In Biology the student’s level of achievement will be determined by school-assessed coursework, a mid-year examination and an end-of-year examination. Percentage contributions to the study score in Biology are as follows:

  • Unit 3 School-Assessed Coursework: 17 per cent
  • Unit 4 School-Assessed Coursework: 17 per cent
  • End-of-year examination: 66 per cent

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