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VCE Science

Biology Unit 2: How is Continuity of Life Maintained?


Year 10 Biology and Applied Science or Chemistry.

Students are advised to complete Biology Unit 1 before undertaking Biology Unit 2.


Course Description

This unit focusses on cell reproduction and the transmission of biological information from generation to generation. Students learn that all cells are derived from pre-existing cells through the cell cycle. They examine the process of DNA replication and compare cell division in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. Students explore the mechanisms of asexual and sexual reproductive strategies, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of reproduction. The role of stem cells in the differentiation, growth, repair and replacement of cells in humans is examined, and their potential use in medical therapies is considered.

Students use chromosome theory and terminology from classical genetics to explain the inheritance of characteristics, analyse patterns of inheritance, interpret pedigree charts and predict outcomes of genetic crosses. They explore the relationship between genes, the environment and the regulation of genes in giving rise to phenotypes. They consider the role of genetic knowledge in decision making about the inheritance of autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive and sex-linked genetic conditions. In this context the uses of genetic screening and its social and ethical issues are examined.

Students also undertake a student-directed research investigation into, and communication of, an issue related to genetics and/or reproductive science.

Areas of Study

How Does Reproduction Maintain the Continuity of Life?

Students consider the need for the cells of multicellular organisms to multiply for growth, repair and replacement. They examine the main events of the cell cycle in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Students become familiar with the key events in the phases of the cell cycle, and focus on the importance of the processes involved in a cell’s preparation for cell division. Students investigate and use visualisations and modelling to describe the characteristics of each of the phases in mitosis. Cytokinesis is explained for both plant and animal cells. Students describe the production of gametes in sexual reproduction through the key events in meiosis and explain the differences between asexual and sexual reproduction in terms of the genetic makeup of daughter cells. Students consider the role and nature of stem cells, their differentiation and the consequences for human prenatal development and their potential use to treat injury and disease.

How is Inheritance Explained?

Students build on their understanding of the nature of genes and the use of genetic language to read and interpret patterns of inheritance and predict outcomes of genetic crosses. They gain an understanding that a characteristic or trait can be due solely to one gene and its alleles, or due to many genes acting together, or is the outcome of genes interacting with external environmental or epigenetic factors. Students apply their genetic knowledge to consider the social and ethical implications of genetic applications in society including genetic screening and decision making regarding the inheritance of autosomal and sex-linked conditions.

Investigation of an Issue

The increasing uses and applications of genetics knowledge and reproductive science in society both provide benefits for individuals and populations and raise social, economic, legal and ethical questions. Human cloning, genetic modification of organisms, the use of forensic DNA databanks, assisted reproductive technologies and prenatal and predictive genetic testing challenge social and ethical norms. In this area of study students apply and extend their knowledge and skills developed in Areas of Study 1 and/or 2 to investigate an issue involving reproduction and/or inheritance. They communicate the findings of their investigation and explain the biological concepts, identify different opinions, outline the legal, social and ethical implications for the individual and/or species and justify their conclusions. Material for the investigation can be gathered from laboratory work, computer simulations and modelling, literature searches, global databases and interviews with experts.


Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)
Compare the advantages and disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction, explain how changes within the cell cycle may have an impact on cellular or tissue system function and identify the role of stem cells in cell growth and cell differentiation and in medical therapies.

Tasks are selected by the teacher from the following:

  • A report of a fieldwork activity.
  • Annotations of a practical work folio of activities or investigations.
  • A bioinformatics exercise.
  • Media response.
  • Data analysis.
  • Problem solving involving biological concepts, skills and/or issues.
  • A reflective learning journal/blog related to selected activities or in response to an issue.
  • A test comprising multiple choice and/or short answer and/or extended response.
Apply an understanding of genetics to describe patterns of inheritance, analyse pedigree charts, predict outcomes of genetic crosses and identify the implications of the uses of genetic screening and decision making related to inheritance.​
Investigate and communicate a substantiated response to a question related to an issue in genetics and/or reproductive science. The assessment task includes a report on an investigation into genetics and/or reproductive science using an appropriate format, for example, digital presentation, oral communication or written report.

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: