VCE Study design

Take a look at the VCE Study Design for Unit 1 Biology Area of Study 2.

Our VCE Educational Incursions are specifically designed to guide students through the curriculum and provide real life examples of the models, systems and topics that the design cover.

Unit 1: How do living things stay alive?

In this unit students are introduced to some of the challenges to an organism in sustaining

life. Students examine the cell as the structural and functional unit of life, from the single

celled to the multicellular organism, and the requirements for sustaining cellular processes

in terms of inputs and outputs. They analyse types of adaptations that enhance the

organism’s survival in a particular environment and consider the role homeostatic

mechanisms play in maintaining the internal environment. Students investigate how

a diverse group of organisms form a living interconnected community that is adapted

to, and utilises, the abiotic resources of its habitat. The role of a keystone species in

maintaining the structure of an ecosystem is explored. Students consider how the planet’s

biodiversity is classified and the factors that affect the growth of a population. A student

practical investigation related to the survival of an organism or species is undertaken in

Area of Study 3. The investigation draws on content from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2.


Area of Study 2

How do living systems sustain life?

In this area of study students examine the structural, physiological and behavioural adaptations of a range of organisms that enable them to survive in a particular habitat and to maintain a viable population size over time. Students consider the distinction between the external and internal environment of an organism and examine how homeostatic mechanisms maintain the internal environment within a narrow range of values for factors including temperature, blood glucose and water balance. They explore the importance and implications of organising and maintaining biodiversity and examine the nature of an ecosystem in terms of the network of relationships within a community of diverse organisms. Students identify a keystone species, explore an organism’s relationship to its habitat and evaluate the impact of abiotic factors on the distribution and abundance of organisms within the community. Factors affecting population size and growth are analysed.


Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able explain how various adaptations enhance the survival of an individual organism, investigate the relationships between organisms that form a living community and their habitat, and analyse the impacts of factors that affect population growth.


Key knowledge

Survival through adaptations and regulation

  • the structural, physiological and behavioural adaptations that enhance an organism’s survival and enable life to exist in a wide range of environments

  • successful adaptations as models for biomimicry to solve human challenges

  • how regulation of factors is needed to maintain a relatively constant internal environment, explained by the stimulus-response model and the use of homeostatic mechanisms including feedback loops

  • factors regulated by homeostatic mechanisms in humans, including temperature, blood glucose and water balance

Organising biodiversity

  • classification of biodiversity, past and present, into taxonomic groups based on shared morphological and molecular characteristics, and naming using binomial nomenclature

  • strategies for managing Earth’s biodiversity to support the conservation of species and as a reservoir for the bioprospecting of new food sources and medicinal drugs.

Relationships between organisms within an ecosystem

  • the beneficial, harmful and benign relationships between species including amensalism, commensalism, mutualism, parasitism and predation

  • interdependencies between species as represented by food webs, including impact of changes to keystone species

  • the distribution, density and size of a population of a particular species within an ecosystem and the impacts of factors including available resources, predation, competition, disease, chance environmental events, births, deaths and migration.

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