What’s the difference between the old H2 Biology syllabus (Subject code: 9648) and the new revamped H2 Biology syllabus (Subject code: 9744)?

This question could be especially relevant for students who fall into one of the two categories mentioned below.

(1) Students who are retaking their A- level syllabus as a private candidate

These students took their A- levels during their JC days under the old 9648 syllabus, but for various reasons, did not register to re-take their A level examinations with the old 9648 subject code.  Bearing in mind that 2017 was the last year that the old 9648 syllabus is offered for re-takers, this pool of students will increase.

(2) Current students who are using their seniors’ material, or older materials

These students who are re-using old materials will find changes in the materials, with the addition of two new extension topics and the removal of most of the application syllabus.  However, much of the core syllabus in the old 9648 syllabus has been brought forth to the core ideas component of the new 9744 syllabus, as outlined below.


General outline of the 2 syllabi

The H2 syllabus has been revised for the A -level H2 Biology exam in 2017 (and subsequent years) with the updated framework as shown below.


(1) New Syllabus (9744)

New syllabus 9744 (2017) framework

Fig 1: H2 Biology curriculum framework, Syllabus 9744 ( GCE A-level syllabus examined in 2017 (and subsequent years))


The new 9744 syllabus is divided into two parts: Core Ideas and Extension Topics.

  1. Core Ideas

There are 4 Core Ideas:

  1. The Cell and Biomolecules of Life
  2. Genetics and Inheritance
  3. Energy and Equilibrium
  4. Biological Evolution


  1. Extension Topics

There are 2 Extension Topics:

  1. Infectious Diseases
  2. Impact of Climate Change on Animals and Plants


(2) Old syllabus (9648)

The old syllabus bears similarities to the new syllabus, but with the addition of two new topics, infectious diseases and climate change.

Straits Times Report


The H2 Biology framework for the previous syllabus is as shown below.

Old Syllabus 9644 (2016).jpg

Fig 2: H2 Biology curriculum framework, Syllabus 9648 ( GCE A-level syllabus examined in 2016)


The old 9648 syllabus is divided into two parts: the Core syllabus and the Applications syllabus.


  1. The Core syllabus.

There are 7 Core topics:

  1. Cellular Functions
  2. DNA and Genomics
  3. Genetics of Viruses and Bacteria
  4. Organisation and Control of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Genomes
  5. Genetic Basis for Variation
  6. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry
  7. Diversity and Evolution


  1. The Applications syllabus.

There are 2 Applications topics:

  1. Isolating, Cloning and Sequencing DNA
  2. Applications of Molecular and Cell Biology

What’s different? What remains the same?

  1. Material content

Much of the core syllabus in the old syllabus has been brought forward to the core topics in the new syllabus.  There is extensive overlap and much material remains the same.


The 2 extension topics in the new syllabus are entirely new, with no precedent A level questions. A-level questions for these 2 topics will be released only from the 2017 papers onwards and beyond.


  1. Scheme of assessment

Instead of a school-based Science Practical Assessment (SPA), the school-based biology practical component has been replaced by a practical paper in the format of an examinable paper taken nationwide.  This means that when previously school teachers would know which experiments would be tested under the SPA component, students would now have to take the practical component examination-style and all students would take the same practical paper.

The planning question from Paper 3 under the old syllabus has been removed and combined into the practical paper under the new syllabus.


The free-response questions (essay questions) have been reassigned to Paper 3 in the new syllabus, and language marks will be allocated for the quality of written communication.





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