Physiology of Organisms

Physiology of Organisms is the ideal course for those of you who enjoyed human biology topics from GCSE and A-level such as the circulatory system, and those who enjoy the more medicine-inspired aspects of biology.

Physiology takes a mechanistic approach to understanding body systems, which at times can seem quite different from A-level, but gives you a great holistic view of the body. While not everything can be covered in huge amounts of depth in a single course, IB Physiology adds all the detail you may have been lacking.

Over the first term and beginning of the second you’ll study animal physiology, beginning with the nervous system, then endocrine, muscle, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and metabolic physiology. The remainder of Lent is taken up with plant physiology, including fluid balance, and defence responses. Easter term focusses on biomechanics and sensory physiology.

In Michaelmas term you’ll only have practicals alternate weeks, although there is one every week in Lent term. They typically run from 12-5 with a 1hr lunch 1-2pm. The practicals are always interesting, and the debriefs you get from the previous week are incredibly useful for your understanding (and the exam)!

Even if you haven’t studied any physiology before, the course takes you in without the assumption of prior knowledge (though it’s pretty fast-paced even if you have studied it before). It is a really interesting course and acts as a precursor to a lot of IB Biological subjects. This course is useful for Physiology, Animal Biology and Plant Sciences Part 1B and PDN, Plants and Zoology Part II.

One useful textbook is Animal Physiology by Hill, Wyse & Anderson, other people preferEckert’s Animal Physiology. Either will see you through more than half of 1A Physiology and is also useful for some 1B subjects. If you want a textbook on plants, Plant Physiology by Taiz and Zeiger is good. Normally you can find them in college or departmental libraries, but if you can’t, you can always use the Learning & Research Fund to buy one (

More information can be found at:


The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College