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The Best IB Biology Books: Full Expert Reviews


In IB Biology SL/HL, there are so many topics and so little time. Maximize your study time by using the best study materials and best IB Biology textbooks. In this article, we have collected a list of the best IB Biology books and textbooks for you to use as you prepare for the exam.




2022 IB Exam Changes Due to COVID-19

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the IB has decided to extend the adaptations which were put in place for 2021 to 2022. May 2022 IB assessments will have two routes, exam and non-exam, depending on which your school chooses. Stay up to date with the latest information on what this means for IB diplomas, course credit for IB classes, and more with our our IB COVID-19 FAQ article.


Who Is This Guide For?

This guide is for IB Biology students who are serious about success in the classroom and on the IB Biology SL/HL papers. If you only plan on using the material for 5 hours of studying, the choice of book becomes less important.

However, if you plan to use the book throughout the year for study help and for the IB Biology exam, you should choose your resource carefully. In this guide, we've divided the books into specific categories to help you make a knowledgeable choice.


The Best IB Biology SL/HL Books

We're going to divide the best IB Biology books into a few categories:

  • Best Textbook: A must have book as a part of your learning process, no matter your skill level or weaknesses. If you would like more information on other IB Biology Textbooks, check out our other article.

  • Best Study Resource for Fast Learning Throughout the School Year: The best study material for all students to learn material fast throughout the year and not just to study for the IB exam at the end of the year.

  • Best Study Guide for Average Students: This book provides more in-depth explanations for those who need a little more assistance.

  • Best Study Guide for High Achieving Students: This book has the material to push you over the top, without repeating the details that you have already mastered.

  • Book to Avoid: This book lacks all of the material you need to succeed.


Best Textbook: IB Biology Coursebook



Price: About $30 to rent, $40 to buy

The IB Biology Course Book is the gold standard for IB Biology textbooks. The Oxford University Press is the only company to work directly with the IB to develop their materials, meaning they have a first look at the changing curricula and understand more deeply what the IB wants to test and how. They're also able to write the most realistic practice questions that resemble the real test. Of all books on the list, this is the most standard 'textbook' like book, containing:

  • Full instruction on the complete SL/HL syllabus
  • Practice questions for each topic
  • Instructions on the internal assessment and the extended essay

This will be the foundation of your IB Biology prep, containing a thorough overview.


  • Developed directly with the IB
  • High-quality content
  • Realistic practice problems
  • Organized logically, with practice integrated coherently


  • Like all textbooks, this book is better for thoroughness and less for customized prep. The best way for you to study for IB Biology may not be cover to cover, and this book does not give clear guidance on how best to customize its content for your needs
  • Does not contain study strategies or test strategies
  • Hasn't been updated since 2014


Best Study Resource for Fast Learning: IB Biology Flashcard Study System



Price: About $44

The IB Biology Flashcards are a great way to study for IB Biology because there are so many topics and details to memorize. These flashcards help break the large topics down into small parts so that you can easily commit the details to memory. While this company does not work directly with IB, they use the IB syllabus to ensure they cover all topics on the IB Biology SL and HL exams, making it a great resource.

These flashcards are great to use throughout the year for all of your in-class IB Biology tests since you can just study the cards relating to the topic being tested. While there are no practice problems with these flashcards, they are still a great resource for review. Since essentially all of the IB Biology exam questions simply ask you to relay memorized information (such as asking you to describe Cell Theory), these flashcards provide you with all of the reviews you need to ace the test.


  • Developed using the IB Biology syllabus
  • High-quality content review
  • Breaks down big topics into small manageable parts
  • Organized by topic, making it easy to help you memorize throughout the year, not just for the IB exam


  • Doesn't give guidance on how best to study the flashcards to improve memory retention. We encourage you to use our 'waterfall method'
  • Flashcards only have enough space for light concepts - if you don't know a concept well, you'll have to supplement with a textbook to flesh out your understanding
  • Don't differentiate between SL and HL material


Best Study Guide for the Average Student: Biology for the IB Diploma



Price: About $22

Also published by The Oxford University Press and written by Andrew Allott, the Biology for the IB Diploma study guide complements the IB Biology Course Book mentioned above. This study guide breaks the large concepts from the course book down into manageable sections, with diagrams and illustrations to cement understanding. Additionally, this study guide integrates more IB Biology exam preparation material than the course book to make sure you excel on the IB Biology exam.


  • Developed directly with the IB
  • High-quality content review using diagrams and illustrations
  • Breaks down big topics into small manageable parts
  • Realistic practice problems and exam material
  • Organized logically, with practice integrated coherently
  • Thorough for those who need a little extra help in addition to their textbook / class lectures


  • Like the related course book, this book is better for thoroughness and less for customized prep. The best way for you to study for IB Biology may not be cover to cover, and this book does not give clear guidance on how best to customize its content for your needs


Best Study Guide for High-Achieving Students: Barron's IB Biology



Price: About $20

Barron's IB Biology is usually a solid choice for top students, as they give a very in-depth and complete overview of the course material.

This Barron's IB Biology review book was developed using the IB Biology syllabus material to ensure that students are fully prepared for the IB Biology exam. Unlike a textbook, this study guide focuses more on exam preparation/review than teaching. The book provides readers with an overview of the IB Biology tests/papers, including an explanation of scoring, command terms, study tips and strategies for maximizing scores, and 2 full-length paper 1, 2, and 3 practice exams with fully explained answers.


  • Detailed summary charts
  • High-quality practice exams with detailed answer explanations
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other resources
  • Focused study tips and strategies for the IB Biology exam


  • The material is reviewed in less detail than in other guides
  • The focus is on providing you with the practice tests rather than re-teaching you the material from class
  • This guide is great for the high achieving student, who already understood the class lessons, but is just hoping to lightly review the concepts and take IB Biology practice tests


Book to Avoid: Biology for the IB Diploma Coursebook




Price: About $60

This edition of the IB Biology Coursebook from Cambridge Press was developed using the newest IB Biology syllabus. It covers all of the core topics of the syllabus including some practice questions. However, it does not cover any of the options (Both IB Biology SL and HL have core topics your teacher must cover as well as 2 additional topics - known as the options - because your teacher gets to choose from 4 options - for a more in-depth explanation of the options, read our other article The Complete IB Biology Syllabus: SL and HL). The core topics are tested on Paper 1 and 2 of the IB Biology SL/HL Exam, and the options are tested on Paper 3.


  • Developed using the IB Biology syllabus
  • Focused review of IB Biology core topics including some practice questions


  • Expensive compared to other materials
  • Missing review of the options, which count for ⅓ of the IB Biology exam

This book is too expensive to spend money on when it is missing ⅓ of the material needed to succeed on the IB Biology exam.


Other IB Biology Resources

Find other free IB Biology study resources in our other article The Best IB Biology Study Guide and Notes for SL/HL and Where to Find IB Biology Past Papers - Free and Official.


What's Next?

Learn more about IB Biology in the complete IB Biology syllabus: SL and HL and the best IB Biology study guide and notes for SL/HL.

Trying to figure out what extracurricular you should do? Learn more about participating in Science Olympiad, starting a club, doing volunteer work, and joining Student Government.

Studying for the SAT? Check out our complete guide to the SAT. Taking the SAT in the next month? Check out our guide to cramming.

Not sure where you want to go to college? Check out our guide to finding your target school. Also, figure out your target SAT score or target ACT score.



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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

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