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There are two GCSE Combined Science courses: Trilogy and Synergy. I'm sure you know that the word “trilogy” means “a group of three”. As the name suggests, the Trilogy Combined Science curriculum is structured into three main sections: biology, chemistry and physics. However, you may not have come across the term “synergy”. What does it mean, and how does it relate to your course structure?
First off, what does synergy mean?
Synergy is the combined power of a group of things working together. This power is greater than if the things worked separately.
Synergy is often used in business contexts. Think teamwork! A group of people can achieve more working together than one person can by themselves.
Examples of synergy don't only occur in business. Synergistic relationships exist between living organisms, where their combined effort, or 'teamwork', produces a greater result than if the organisms did not interact.
Mutualistic relationships are positive interactions between different species. Both species perform a “service” for each another that they can't perform by themselves. Mutualism can be thought of as an example of synergy.
Sea Anemones and Clownfish
Animals obtain benefits from living and working together as a group. Thus, group living is a synergistic interaction.
Benefits of Living in Groups
Animals that live in groups often experience altruism and reciprocity.
Altruism is behaviour that benefits other organisms, but not yourself. It is a synergistic interaction because it provides more benefit to the group than if every individual acted selfishly.
Reciprocity is returning an altruistic favour. It's hard to prove in nature, but there are a few examples.
You might be wondering how the concept of synergy relates to the structure of your science GCSE. So synergy is all about working together, right? In this course, you learn the three sciences together. The Synergy course is split into several topics. Each contains components of biology, chemistry, and physics.
Here's an overview of the course structure. Each subtopic has a few questions that summarise their content, and hopefully, get you feeling inquisitive!
This topic provides the physical, chemical, and biological foundations for your course.
States of Matter:
This topic focuses on the internal systems that work together to keep animals and plants alive.
Systems in the Human Body:
This topic examines how human health can be impacted by the natural environment or our own decisions.
Lifestyle and Health:
Radiation and Risk
This topic explores how the natural world has changed over time, including the influence of humans.
The Earth's Atmosphere:
Ecosystems and Biodiversity:
Variation and Evolution:
This topic draws on your understanding of atomic structure and its effects on elements.
The Periodic Table:
This topic investigates the physical laws that govern the world.
Forces and Energy Changes:
Structure and Bonding:
Magnetism and Electromagnetism:
This physics-based topic will help you gain an understanding of the forces behind movement. You'll also learn how the movements of electrons create electric currents.
Forces and Motion:
This topic covers acids and alkalis — what they are, how they react, and how to measure them.
Reactions of Acids:
The pH Scale:
This topic shines a light on chemical reactions and the factors that affect them.
The Reactivity Series
In this topic, you'll get to grips with natural resources, and how we can alter our consumption to provide a sustainable future for our planet.
This final topic doesn't have any facts or concepts to learn. Instead, it teaches you the skills to work like a scientist. You'll learn how to think scientifically, through researching, developing hypotheses and having a keen eye for detail.
Experiments are an important part of science. By the end of this course, you will have acquired the skills and strategies to plan and perform an experiment. After the experiment, you'll know how to analyse and evaluate your results. Get ready to draw some graphs!
Finally, this topic will teach you how to write like a scientist. Using proper vocabulary, units and symbols is important and will be needed in your exams.
1. Andrew Spacey, Altruism: Examples of How Wild Animals Care for Their Own and Others, Owlcation, 2022
2. AQA, GCSE Combined Science: Synergy Specification, 2019
3. Cambridge Dictionary, Synergy, 2022
4. Claudia Rutte, Generalized Reciprocity in Rats, PLoS Biology, 2007
5. Nicholas B. Davies, An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 2012
6. Scott Auerbach, Examples of Synergy in Nature, Sciencing, 2021
Synergy is a variation of the GCSE Combined Science course.
The Synergy course teaches the three sciences altogether, whilst the Trilogy course teaches them separately.
Combined Science: Synergy is worth two GCSEs.
Lots of animals live in groups and obtain benefits (such as improved hunting) from this teamwork.
The synergistic effect in chemistry occurs when combining two chemicals produces a greater effect than the effects of both individual chemicals.
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