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The Best IB Biology Textbooks, Reviewed

Posted by Dora Seigel | Mar 22, 2020 9:54:00 AM

International Baccalaureate (IB)



To achieve success in your IB Biology SL/HL class and on the exam, you need to find the best textbook for your learning style. In this article, I have collected and reviewed a list of the most recent IB Biology Textbooks (2013 or newer), as I don't recommend you studying with any older books, as they may be out of date.


IB Changes Due to COVID-19

As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, May IBs have been cancelled and coursework deadlines have been extended for schools closed due to COVID-19. Stay up to date with the latest information on what this means for IB diplomas, course credit for IB classes, and more with our IB COVID-19 FAQ article.


Who Is This Article For?

This article 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 textbook for five hours of studying, the choice of book becomes less important.

However, if you plan to use the textbook throughout the school year for study help as well as while preparing for the IB Biology exam, you should choose carefully. In this guide, I've divided the books into specific categories to help you make a knowledgeable choice.


The Best IB Biology Textbooks

We're going to divide this into a few categories:

  • Best Overall Textbook: A must have book as a part of your learning process, no matter your skill level or weaknesses.

  • Best Textbook for Average Students: This book provides more in-depth explanations for those who need a little more assistance and struggled to understand the material when it was taught in class.

  • Best Textbook for High Achieving Students: This book has the material to push the high achievers over the top by focusing on how to apply what you have learned in class to the exam, without repeating the details that you have already mastered.

  • Textbook to Avoid: This book lacks certain material you need to succeed in class and on the exam.


Best Overall Textbook: IB Biology Coursebook



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

The IB Biology Course Book is a must have as a part of your learning process, no matter your skill level or weaknesses. Andrew Allott and David Mindorff are the only authors to work directly with the IBO to create their textbook, which means they truly understand what the IBO wants you to understand and what the IBO will ask you on the exam. They're also able to give you the most realistic practice problems that resemble the actual IB Biology papers. This textbook contains:

  • Detailed explanations on each topic in the SL/HL syllabus
  • Practice problems for each topic


  • Developed directly with the IB
  • High-quality in-depth explanations
  • Realistic sample IB Biology questions
  • Organized logically, with practice integrated throughout
  • Inexpensive compared to other new textbooks


  • Does not give clear guidance on how best to customize its content for your needs
  • Doesn't contain study strategies or test strategies
  • Hasn't been updated since 2014


Best Textbook for Average Students: Biology for the IB Diploma



Price: About $64 to buy

Biology for the IB Diploma provides more in-depth explanations for those who need a little more assistance and struggled to understand the material when it was taught in class.

This is textbook is the best for average students because it is the most detailed of all of the IB Biology textbooks, making use of annotated diagrams and pictures to explain complex processes. This book follows the IB Biology Syllabus: chapters are presented in syllabus order. Both Standard Level and Higher Level topics are covered, with Higher Level only topics clearly marked. The text is written in easy to understand language with all key IB Biology terms simply defined, and exam questions integrated throughout.


  • High-quality in-depth explanations
  • Great for visual learners since it makes extensive use of visuals
  • Organized according to the syllabus with IB exam questions integrated.


  • Doesn't contain test strategies or study strategies
  • May be too detailed/feel redundant for high achieving students who have mastered the basics.


Best Textbooks for High-Achieving Students: HL Biology and SL Biology



Price of HL Textbook:New about $85, Used about $29

Price of SL Textbook: New about $70, Used about $48

These textbooks (HL Biology 2nd edition) and (SL Biology 2nd edition) are the most focused on IB exam success. Throughout the textbooks, IB Biology exam questions are provided from real past papers, along with advice for test success and on how to avoid common mistakes. These textbooks follow the organization of the newest IB Biology Syllabus and provide explanations using real-world examples as well as pictures. The accompanying eBook provides additional support with videos, animations, solved problems, and more.


  • Many realistic IB Biology exam practice questions, integrated with each chapter.
  • In-depth online support with additional simulations, videos, and problems explained.
  • Numerous test strategies


  • May not be in-depth enough for some students, since the explanations expect you have some knowledge.
  • Higher Level and Standard Level are separated into 2 books, so if you decide to switch into Higher Level late (after taking a year of IB Biology, which many schools allow), you would have to purchase another book.


Textbook to Avoid: Biology for the IB Diploma Coursebook



Price: New about $58, Used about $46

Description: 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.


  • Missing review of the options, which count for ⅓ of the IB Biology exam.
  • This textbook is too expensive to spend money on when it is missing ⅓ of the material needed to succeed on the IB Biology exam.


Other Free and Paid Study Resources

Find other free IB Biology study resources in our other articles The Best IB Biology Study Guide and Notes for SL/HL and Where to Find IB Biology Past Papers - Free and Official. Also, check out our other article on The Best IB Biology Books, Reviewed to find additional paid study guides for IB Biology SL/HL.


What's Next?

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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