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Achievement objectives: Biology (Living world)

The biology contextual strand is about living things and how they interact with each other and the environment.

  Progression | Indicators | Context elaborations | NCEA | Qualifications

Achievement objectives: Biology level 6 | level 7 | level 8

The New Zealand Curriculum specifies three sets of achievement objectives for biology:

  • Life processes
  • Ecology
  • Evolution

The curriculum also specifies four sets of achievement objectives for the nature of science strand:

  • Understanding about science
  • Investigating in science
  • Communicating in science
  • Participating and contributing

The focus of the contextual strands is the ideas of science; the focus of the nature of science strand is ideas about science. Scientific literacy is developed through learning in both kinds of ideas.

Progression in biology

Students’ progress in biology is demonstrated by their increasingly sophisticated ability to identify, apply, and reflect on biological concepts, patterns, and processes.

As they progress, students:

  • focus less on how specific groups of organisms carry out their life processes and more on how the diversity of strategies across species enables organisms to occupy differing niches in an ecosystem
  • move from recognising the common life processes to appreciating those life processes at the cell level and then at a homeostatic systems level
  • move from recognising that the environment affects the life processes of organisms, to explaining distribution patterns of organisms in terms of environmental factors and gradients, to applying in novel situations their understanding of the complex interactions that take place between organisms and their environment
  • move from a focus on simple patterns of genetic inheritance to appreciating the mechanisms by which genes express themselves and the ways in which humans use their understanding of biotechnology to manipulate living organisms
  • move from recognising that genetic variation is important in a changing environment to focusing on the processes by which allele frequencies alter in response to environmental changes
  • move from understanding the species concept to focusing on the processes by which new species arise;
  • move from identifying the impact of humans on a specific ecosystem to appreciating how humans can also affect evolutionary processes via genetic manipulation
  • from identifying human impacts on a biological situation to developing a reasoned personal viewpoint based on critical thinking around the ethical, social and biological implications of human activities.


Indicators are examples of the behaviours and capabilities that a teacher might expect to observe in a student who is achieving at the appropriate level. Teachers may wish to add further examples of their own.

Context elaborations

Context elaborations are possible contexts for learning, with a suggestion of how they might be used with the focus achievement objective.

The listed context elaborations are examples only. Teachers can select and use entirely different contexts in response to local situation, community relevance, and students’ interests and needs.

NCEA: What has changed?

  • The achievement standards have been designed to align with the NZC, and reflect the change in direction for science education. Most existing programmes will need to be reshaped to meet the achievement aims for science, and in particular the Nature of Science.
  • The Nature of Science aims and objectives have been embedded and integrated into all standards.
  • The explanatory notes for each standard indicate which science achievement objectives are the focus.
  • Key terms such as investigate, demonstrate understanding and justify are fully explained in the explanatory notes.
  • The additional information/teacher guideline sections of exemplar resources (internal tasks) provide further guidance around how the nature of science is involved, for example, science 1.6A.
  • See assessment for qualifications section for each achievement objective. This suggests possible assessment activities related to each particular achievement objective.

Assessment for qualifications

At the time of publication, achievement standards were in development to align them with The New Zealand Curriculum. Please ensure that you are using the correct version of the standards by going to the NZQA website.

The NZQA subject-specific resources pages are very helpful. From there, you can find all the achievement standards and links to assessment resources, both internal and external.

Learn more:

Aligned level 1 achievement standards were registered for use in 2011 and level 2 for use in 2012; level 3 for use in 2013.

Achievement objectives: Biology (Living world)

Students will:

Level 6

Life processes

  • LW 6-1 Relate key structural features and functions to the life processes of plants, animals, and micro-organisms and investigate environmental factors that affect these processes.


  • LW 6-2 Investigate the impact of natural events and human actions on a New Zealand ecosystem.


  • LW 6-3 Explore patterns in the inheritance of genetically controlled characteristics; Explain the importance of variation within a changing environment.

Level 7

Life processes

  • LW 7-1 Explore the diverse ways in which animals and plants carry out the life processes.


  • LW 7-2 Explore ecological distribution patterns and explain possible causes for these patterns.


  • LW 7-3 Understand that DNA and the environment interact in gene expression.

Ecology and evolution

  • LW 7-4 Explain how the interaction between ecological factors and natural selection leads to genetic changes within populations.

Level 8

Life processes, ecology, and evolution

  • LW 8-1 Understand the relationship between organisms and their environment.
  • LW 8-2 Explore the evolutionary processes that have resulted in the diversity of life on Earth and appreciate the place and impact of humans within these processes.
  • LW 8-3 Understand how humans manipulate the transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next and make informed judgments about the social, ethical, and biological implications relating to this manipulation.

Last updated August 31, 2020