Advanced Higher Biology

Advanced Higher Biology Course Specification - very useful as a basis for your revision and learning

The Advanced Higher Biology page at the SQA website:  (includes Specimen Past paper) and Marking Scheme for the project:

Course text books:

Past Papers

Online Past Papers at SQA site :
If you have done all those past papers and would still like more to practise then to find which questions from old Advanced Higher Biology Past Papers are relevant and some from Higher Biology are also very useful please click here.
Your Investigation / Project

Click here to see some information about planning your project and some websites where you might find some ideas for project topics

If you wish to read further then this resource might help when planning a Biology project:

And when you are planning or even writing up your investigation, you may like to ask your teacher if they can give you a more detailed outline or marking scheme. This 2019-2020 marking scheme is available online at the SQA website and will give you an idea of what to look for - but maybe see if your teacher has a more up to date version:

Referencing - if you are using the Harvard system of citing a reference in your text then having it in your Bibliography at the end then this website will help you with how to write the correctly- it does it for you!:
also more info on this: and

Some extras just for revision from last year :
Prokaryotes / Eukaryotes
Interesting reference about prokaryotes, autotrophs, bacteria, staining bacteria, cyanobacteria, etc. and their evolution and how they relate to eukaryotes in evolutionary time :  (Not all of this content is in Advanced Higher but you might find it interesting to read anyway)
Prokayotes Link
A nice reminder of groups such as archaea, fungi, bacteria etc. :

The Scale of Cells, Bacteria and Viruses etc.

A nice interactive example - use the slider to change the scale to show the size of various things like cells and viruses.
Spot the size of the prokaryotic bacteria E.coli versus the eukaryotic human cell examples :

Experimental techniques

Model organisms and

Statistics for Advanced Higher Biology
You might find some interesting points in this document :

Working with Micro-organisms / bacteria - advice from Microbiology -

Unit 1 - Cells and Proteins

Topic 1 - Laboratory Techniques for Biologists

2-S Gel electrophoresis - using iso-electric focussing - SDS slab gel - v good explanation:

ELISA - Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay
Lateral flow tests:

Using cells to test blood serum for antibodies against Influenza A virus
This covers the ideas of serial dilution and also tissue culture that come up and also cell culture

Fluorescent Immunohistochemical Staining
Showing cell components in a neurone in tissue culture - the description states : Cortical neuron stained with antibody to neurofilament subunit NF-L in green. In red are neuronal stem cells stained with antibody to alpha-internexin. Image created using antibodies from EnCor Biotechnology Inc.
You can even buy fluorescence staining kits online ! This one shows up the mitochondria as a deep red colour
By GerryShaw [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Topic 2  - Proteins

Nice introduction about the importance of proteins:

Microarray Analysis

b) The Synthesis and Transport of Proteins

This is a very good overall view of the cell and shows Endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi -

Good video about Endoplasmic Reticulum and Golgi Apparatus
c) Protein Structure, Ligand Binding and Conformational Change

Good video from Stanford (2 minutes long)

and another folding video ... (2 minutes long)

Glasgow University - Protein Structure
Some of the protein structures that have been discovered at Glasgow University:

Amino acids side chains at different pHs

Simulation of protein folding
Based on the charges on the side chains of the amino acids shown above, here is a possibility of how these might affect a protein at different pHs....
Revision video about Catalase and an experiment to test it at different pHs (by the way the catalase in humans works best at pH7 yet that found in eg potatoes works best at pH 10 which is bizarre!)

Haemoglobin (a protein)
Find out more about haemoglobin
and importantly this page explains about how haemoglobin works - but just read up until the middle of the first paragraph on "Function of Haemoglobin" !

How pH affects the shape of a protein based on the pKa of the R group on the amino acid - scroll down to near bottom of this page:
Good table of pKa affecting amino acid side chains near bottom of this page: (if you have not done chemistry you will need some help to understand this so please ask !)
This is v good too:

Protein Structures
Some proteins whose structures were determined at Glasgow University !

What is Proteomics ?

Shotgun sequencing

A Kinase structure :

DNA - refrigeration - methylation - and the taste of tomatoes - some research:

Amino acids
Print out - the structure of 20 amino acids

Drinking tea - milk first or last ?!? Proteins !

A TED talk about proteins to watch : - 10 minute talk by Drew Berry,  a Biologist/animator, about graphics and visualisation in Biology - interesting - at 4 mins DNA, at 7 mins mitosis and then kinetochore/microtubules
DNA has a negatively charged backbone due to the phosphates. This means it will attach to positively charged proteins such as histones eg in folding up of DNA into the nucleus. This is an excellent short animation showing this folding with histones and nucleosomes shown :

Experimentally setting up a gel electrophoresis :
Electrophoresis can be used to separate proteins etc.

Isoelectric electrophoresis
can be separated in one direction based on pH gradient and they will settle at their isoelectric point, you can then turn the gel by 90 degrees and separate in that other direction by eg mass, to get a much more accurate determination of the protein

Cytosol vs Cytoplasm
A good explanation of the meanings of these two words :

Actin / Myosin moved as not in the course for 2019 onwards course but click here if want to look at it:

Topic 3 - Membrane Proteins

(a) Movement of Molecules across Membranes

Aquaporin channel - a claymation animation !

Glucose symport
I quite like this explanation of glucose symport and Na/K transporter :

(b) Ion Transport pumps and generation of ion gradients

Sodium Potassium Pump
Animation :

Topic 4 Communication and Signalling

This video reminds us how a particular hormone such as adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) can affect more than one type of cell:

A hydrophobic signalling molecule - lipid soluble so a steroid hormone - can cross the plasma membrane (here is an example aldosterone don't need to memorise the name of this particular hormone - just look at its action in this animation - "Mechanism of Steroid Hormone Action"

Another steroid hormone - a good example related to Course Specification wording animation

G Protein
My file now "membrane-bound-g-protein etc" see also on youtube at: just for an idea of how g proteins work
GPCR - G Protein Coupled receptor

Receptor Tyrosine Kinases

Signal Transduction
I like this video from the Penguin prof ! Only thing to watch for is she talks about lipophillic and lipophobic signal molecules where they either like or hate crossing the fatty or lipid membrane. However in the Advanced Higher course we tend to talk of these the opposite way and talk about hydrophobic or hydrophillic depending on whether they like or hate water.  its worth watching though as the rest is pretty much part of the course. 

Role of Insulin in the body
and a related video on Diabetes Type 2 - Insulin resistance

Glucose levels / Insulin and Diabetes types graphs
Very good graph showing normal / Type 1 Diabetes / Type 2 Diabetes graphs
Glut4 receptor video - start of this talks about this:
Hormones eg ADH - a hydrophilic peptide hormone

Hormones - page 8 of this Hormone information talks about Adrenaline and ADH Including fabulous interactive animation - great teaching resource for Advanced Higher Biology -
and page 6 is about insulin -v good -

Diabetes Insipidus (not in the course now)

(d) Nerve Impulse transmission

(i) Generation of a nerve impulse

Resting Potential /Action Potential in a neuron - Na / K pumps too !
Link to Animation  (v useful to look at)
That animation is also available here - useful as Flash animation online is no longer supported from 2021 so this one should work...

This is excellent re Nerve Impulse (11mins long - last bit is waffle) :

Mr Herbst gives a plain English explanation of nerve impulse:

Neuromuscular junction (Acetylcholine neurotransmitter) :
Synapse animation
Proton pump and ATP synthase

The EYE (ii) Initiation of a nerve impulse in response to an environmental stimulus: the vertebrate eye

Photosystems - Chlorophyll and Photosynthesis (not in course now)
Interesting and useful reference. Did you know that the grana are actually structured similarly to the retina - strangely very similar - but evolved independently - I guess both have the same purpose of capturing maximum light and maybe based on similar proteins - so have evolved similarly:


Would you believe that birds have better vision than humans ? they also have cone cells that detect uv light - read more if you are interested here (not in the course - but then you never know what might come up !) -

Image retained - nice tricks here
Look at the green bird then at the cage - what do you see ?

How the Retina works
This "Crash Course" video is good - remember you don't need to know quite as much about neurons as is covered in this video but its quite interesting and the animation of the retina is nice - if short of time listen from 4 minutes in.

Retina article - Scientific American Magazine
There is nice information about the retina and how it works here - its more information than we need at Adv H

Another video about the rod cells and rhodopsin ..ignore the bit regarding glutamate as we dont need to go that far into the detail
Rods / Cones / Photoreceptors / Rhodopsin (short quiz)

Classic Colour Blind test

Astronomers and Rods/Cones
This is interesting about how astronomers use the rod cells and have a "dark adapted eye":

Coral bleaching and photosynthesis
OK this 3 minute video is really more the content from Higher Biology - but it does talk about photosynthesis and thylakoid membranes - and you get to see a tropical island in this short video ! nice to watch !

Neurotransmitter and some medical drugs that affect it


Topic 5 : Protein Control of Cell Division

(a) The cytoskeleton and cell division

Cytoskeleton Revealed
The cell cycle depends on the cytoskeleton = microtubules etc to move the cells:
The Cell cytoskeleton is revealed when red blood cells are placed in hypertonic solution :

Parts of a cell diagram during Mitosis
the words you need to know - why not make your own diagrams - it helps you to learn
This diagram is just a sketch - not meant to be an accurate representation of what these things necessarily look like - its just to help me remember the words !

Control of the Cell Cycle
Cell Cycle Video

DNA - Mitosis - Chromosomes - Cell Cycle - Very good video of Centromeres etc / DNA -

Cell Division -

and this one very good - kinetochores, nucleus etc in Mitosis and Cytokinesis :

If you need to do about Centrosomes, Centrioles and MTOC - microtubule organising centre in the Cell :

A good explanation of the various Cell Cycle Checkpoints - G1 G2 and M

Science Museum discussion about Cell Cycle topics :

Stages of Mitosis Observed in Onion Root by Microscopy

Cells and Mitosis
and a very good link if you want to try this yourself  - including an excellent quiz under "Self Evaluation" :

From Nobel Prize organisation - a control of Cell Cycle game (give it a go if you have lots of time but ignore if you are doing last minute revision !) -

Cyclin - Cyclin Dependent Kinase (CdK)

Cyclins and CdKs feature in this Animation of the Cell Cycle :

Cell Cycle - interactive and includes a lovely animation of renewal of cells at a villi from stem cell etc


Cell Cycle and errors in checkpoint proteins
p53 research:
C. elegans worm - a "model organism" used for genetic and cell research
More about C.elegans - v good info

Oncogenes - Cell Cycle, Cancer, Proto Oncogenes - Tumour Suppressor Genes
This is mostly beyond the scope of Adv Higher but you might find it of interest.
Pages 6 and 7 of this text may be of most use for the new Advanced Higher. There is a dictionary at the end to help you understand it all.

CHECK THIS - might be useful re cells and animation - haven't had time to look at them yet -

Love this animation from University of Dundee - APOPTOSIS

this one is interesting to watch too as it talks about treatment for cancer - but there is much more detail than you need so just watch it and spot those bits you recognise in amongst it all!

Are involved in programmed cell death.
Here is an interesting graphic - just to show the complexity of what has been found by recent research in this area - Caspases, when they don't work, are thought to be one cause of cancer -

Good info about ApoptosisCaspases from WiseGeek -

Apoptosis video - a video of a C. elegans nematode work (a model organism) embryo with a cell undergoing cell death indicated by an arrow

HeLa Cell Line
Henrietta Lacks and her huge contribution to molecular biology, even though she was never asked :

Video - TedxCaltech talkvideo
from a leading biologist / animator - a bit about signalling - a bit about DNA - and some great animations:

p53 Gene
The p53 gene was named molecule of the year” by Science magazine in 1993 after the observations that more than one half of human cancers expressed a mutant p53 raised extensive clinical possibilities - this website is devoted to the story of this gene, written by a researcher who was a young scientist working in the lab that first found the gene:   (you dont need to remember all of this but it gives you a flavour of the amount of research that has been done, including some that was done at the University of Dundee)

Elephants - this is interesting re the p53 gene !,repairing%20the%20damage%20or%20killing%20off%20the%20cell.

African Bush Elephants


UNIT 2 - Organisms and Evolution

1 Field Techniques for biologists

a) Health and Safety

b) Sampling of Wild Organisms

Protected Species in Scotland :

Using a black light to capture and film insects - great little video of unusual moths including the cute Rosy Maple moth at 3mins 30 seconds!

A camera trap being used to record very rare pine martens:

c) Identification and Taxonomy
Three Domains etc

Some model organisms : - important ones we study are E.coli, Arabidopsis thaliana, C. elegans, Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), mice, rats, and zebrafish

but there is also Zebra Fish !
How Zebrafish model organisms are used to study cancer biology -

Fruit fly model organism :

The 3Rs of using animals in research:

Domain Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species

For humans we would be classed as follows:

Domain - this is right at the top - there are 3Domains and Humans would be Eukaryote
Kingdom - Animals
Phylum - Chordates (backbone)
Mammals (fur / produce milk)
Primates (collar bone and grasping fingers)
Hominids (flat faces / 3D vision) 
Homo (upright posture / large brains !)
Sapiens (large forehead / thin skull) 

Animal Kingdom - Plant Kingdom etc - Classification

Here is how humans are classified :

bit of confusion about where algae (which can photosynthesise) are classified :
this is good from Wikipedia :

The largest phylum is arthropods ... followed by .... molluscs ! - lots of mollusc info here:


Platyhelminths :
Chordata - Vertebrates - including sea squirts -

Try the three quiz questions here - spot which animals are the most closely related -

d) Monitoring Populations
using indicator species to classify habitat using British Vegetation Survey

also here is a field guide to woodland types - might be useful if you are doing a project on this but is a bit too detailed really for most of us -

e) Measuring and Recording Animal Behaviour

Mark and Recapture studies
2 Evolution


3 Variation and Sexual reproduction

e) Measuring and Recording Animal Behaviour

3.2 Evolution

a) Drift and Selection

Divergent Evolution - the pentadactyl limb has evolved differently in different species, but each has evolved from a common ancestor:
Homology vertebrates-en
Fitness - and Sexual Selection

Sexual Selection
Some birds are monogamous and mate for life eg these birds from Chester Zoo from Twitter:

but some others take part in "Lekking"

Very good reference here, explaining lekking:

The Black Grouse Lek - quite a good video -

And here is a Lek of Peacocks we saw in a park - well at least here are two male birds trying to get the attentions of the peahens who really do not look that interested !! Listen carefully to hear the noise that the feathers make when they shake them:

Sexual selection leads to diversity in offspring - but here is an interesting case of what can potentially happen - cute California Channel Islands Foxes have an interesting genetic make-up -

Grebes waterbirds courtship dance (with music !)
and watch this ! (again with a little music !)
More Grebes with an explanation by David Attenborough

Fruit Flies During courtship, while chasing the females, you can see Fixed Action Pattern behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster males. The males extend and vibrate their wings, one wing at a time, generating patterned sounds called courtship songs, which are composed of two components, a humming sound called the sine song and a series of tone pulses called the pulse song. Different species have evolved different songs. If the female accepts the male then mating can occur. The male is responding to hormones called pheromones that the female is producing. Another longer video about fruit flies: Fruit Fly video - 6 mins
Honest Signalling - good explanation: Read Article
Honest signalling vs Dishonest signalling - a discussion: Link to Article

Hardy Weinberg Equation This website is just excellent for this:

is the lifetime reproductive success of an evolutionary unit, commonly thought to be the gene.
"Selective Advantage"
If a variant of a trait increases the relative fitness then it provides a "selective advantage" and any genes (alleles) causing that trait should spread through a population then at the expense of other alleles. This is the basis of evolution by natural selection.

b) Rate of Evolution

c) Co-evolution and the Red Queen Hypothesis

Red Queen Theory

Co-evolution - the Honey Badger - Mutualism - Symbiosis

The Honey Guide Bird also interacts with humans ! Link to Article in Science
Co-evolution - there is a fabulous co-evolution story of Monarch butterflies and milkweed. In the photo below is a monarch butterfly on milkweed spotted by my friend in her garden in Ohio in America ! Read more about these fabulous butterflies and milkweed and their migration to Mexico for the winter here - 

3.3 Variation and Sexual Reproduction

a) Costs and Benefits of Sexual and Asexual Reproduction

The two-fold cost of Sexual Reproduction (vs asexual)

Algae and Fungi
have haploid nuclei - who'd have thought it ! so that is why they can reproduce via haploid spores -
To find out which species are classed as Algae and Plants or Fungus and Lichen, you can look at photographs of them in the ARKive website -
Fungi information - some easy facts -

Spores are produced during sexual and asexual reproduction in algae and fungi. They are most often haploid, but can be diploid.

A zoospore is a motile asexual spore that uses a flagellum for locomotion., allowing them to move to a more favourable environment. Created by some algae, bacteria and fungi to propagate themselves.

Asexual reproduction in fungi - you can see a picture of budding in fungi here - ie one yeast splitting into two new identical yeasts

b) Meiosis forms Variable Gametes

Details of Meiosis stages
This is probably more info than you need on this website here, but might help if you are looking for answers about eg what happens at Prophase 1

c) Sex Determination

Fitness - and Sexual Selection

Sex Linked Inheritance

Sex Determination - Y Chromosome etc
Genetics Home Reference Website
This is a fabulous reference for what is on every chromosome and any genetic mutations which can arise - but you can also see which genes are present on the X and Y Chromosomes:

Colour Blind Test - Colour blindness or a problem with colour vision is a sex linked inherited trait - to try the test to see if you vision is affected you can have a look here, although hopefully your optician will have already checked this with you. It is more commonly found in boys due to the XY chromosome vs XX in girls:
X Chromosome inactivation - in tabby cats 

Edmund Beecher Williams and Nettie Maria Stevens - read about these scientists who independently worked out that gender is determined by chromosomes

Wolbachia bacteria being used to infect Aedes aegypti mosquito (which is responsible for spreading Dengue fever and Zika) so that it only produces male offspring and will then be wiped out hopefully

Very interesting about Kakapos - cute green type parrot bird - and how scientists discovered why they can have more girl or boy babies !

4 Sex and behaviour

not sure if this goes here: lekking - bower birds -
no resources yet

Lekking :

Nice video about causes of evolution - a Ted Ed video from Paul Andersen - including sex selection -

5 The Parasite Niche, Transmission and Virulence
- also sections 6, 7 and 8 cover parasites 

Overview of What is Parasitology ?

Transmission and Virulence
A very good easy to read reference:

The parasite Niche and Clostridium Difficile (C. Difficile)
Clostridium difficile is a bacteria which can cause problems when a person has taken antibiotics which have killed the normal bacteria that are found in their intestines. There is then a niche there for Clostridium difficile to exploit and if the bacteria do this they can give off toxins and cause problems for a person or patient - read the first few paragraphs this doctor has written - this will give you an idea about the problems it can cause for patients -

A definition - Obligate Parasite -

Tse Tse fly - Sleeping sickness - Trypanosoma brucei

Malaria parasite animation from HHMI
actually quite a dramatic animation - if you are squeamish don't watch it ! - and horrendous statistics at the end about malaria - we need to try and eradicate this dreadful disease or at least make sure treatment is widely available.

Malaria parasite - info re Plasmodium - there are a few types of Plasmodium that can cause malaria of slightly different types - here they talk of Plasmodium vivax - but there is another deadly one Plasmodium falciparium
Useful information - from Encyclopaedia Britannica
Blood smear phographs of various plasmodium species-

Malaria lifecycle poster -

Toxoplasmosis - altering behaviour in its hosts-

Viruses photographed by Electron Microscope
An electron microscope has to be used to see viruses as they are too small to be seen by a light microscope.

The Scale of Cells, Bacteria and Viruses etc.

A nice interactive example to show the scale of various things like cells and viruses :

Immune Response to Parasites

Non specific Immune Response

Specific Immune Response
Specific cellular defence in mammals involves immune surveillance by white blood cells, clonal selection of T lymphocytes, T lymphocytes targeting immune response and destroying infected cells by inducing apoptosis, phagocytes presenting antigens to lymphocytes, the clonal selection of B lymphocytes, production of specific antibody by B lymphocyte clones, long term survival of some members of T and B lymphocyte clones to act as immunological memory cells.

Immune System


UNIT 3 - Investigative Biology

This reference covers Unit 3 in detail - though may be better to refer to after you have done a bit more reading in this section or are planning your project ...

Diversity Balances Bias - interesting chat here - its always good to mix with people with different opinions or different backgrounds - then you can discuss your hypotheses or ideas and get different perspectives and bounce ideas off each other-

Animal Research - the 3Rs of Animal Research - reducing or avoiding the use of animals in Research - find out more
This is the type of thing happening now that might allow replacement of animals in experiments - people have grown an ear in a laboratory !

Using a microscope to measure cell size:

Analysing Data / Statistics
What is a False Positive Result or a False Negative Result -


I 'm Jen Wilson and I tutor  Chemistry, Biology and Human Biology  at Higher and Advanced Higher  in Scotland.    Tutoring Subjects ...