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Home » Biology Primer

Key Biology Terms

  • Binomial nomenclature:  A classification method to use the genus and species names to name a living organism in Latin, invented by Linnaeus.
  • Cell:  The building unit for all living organisms, performing basic metabolism functions.
  • Autotroph:  Organisms that synthesize their own nutrients.
  • Heterotroph:  organisms that depend on preformed organic molecules from the environment (or another organism) as a source of nutrients/energy
  • Evolution:  Living organisms have descended with modifications from species that lived before them
  • Gene:  Functional pieces of DNA that carry genetic information
  • Homeostasis: All living organisms have the ability to maintain a relatively constant internal environment including water, salt, glucose and pH. 
  • Hypothesis:  Attempt to explain why behavior occurs.
  • Theory:  Explanation of why behavior occurs that is supported by evidence.
  • Species: the smallest group of living organisms that can mate and produce viable, fertile offsprings.
  • Kingdom: the largest group of living organisms that share certain characteristics.  There are only five kingdoms for all living organisms: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia. 
What is a life

Characteristic of a life:

  • Organization: all lives are well organized
  • Energy use: all lives need energy to support
    Reproduction: all lives should be able to reproduce itself
  • Growth: all lives grow and develop.
  • Response to stimuli: all lives can respond to internal or external stimuli
  • Homeostasis: all lives have the ability to maintain a relatively stable internal environment—self-regulation
Branches of Biology
  • Anatomy: Study the structure and organization of lives
  • Biochemistry:  Study the chemical basis of life
  • Biology: The study of life
  • Botany:  Study of the plant lives.
  • Cell Biology:  Study cell structure, cell cycle, cell function etc.
  • Development Biology: Study how an individual organism grow and develop
  • Ecology:  Study a group of organisms interacting with each other and with their environment
  • Evolution: Study how organisms acquire and inherit traits from their ancestors
  • Genetics: Study of the inheritance at various levels (molecular, cellular, individual, population, etc).
  • Histology: Study the thin sections of tissues under a microscope
  • Marine Biology: Study of the lives in ocean
  • Microbiology:  Study microorganisms including virus, bacteria and some simply fungi
  • Molecular Biology:  study how bio-molecules interact with each other, particularly the molecules involved in transmission and translation of genetic information.
  • Physiology: Study of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of living organisms
  • Population genetics:  Study of gene variations and ratios among populations.
  • Taxolomy: Study of classification of all living things
  • Zoology:  Study of animal lives

Basic Theory of Biology

Cell Theory

  • Developed by three German Scientists: Schleiden, Schwann and Virchow
  • Cell is the building unit of all living organisms.
  • All cells come from pre-existing cells
  • All metaboism occur in cells of the body—cells are functional unit for all lives

Theory of Evolution

  • All living organisms have descended with modifications from species that lived before them
  • Natural selection is the driving force for evolution
    • all living organisms struggle for existence
    • All organisms can adapt to their environment
    • Better adapted individuals or species survive and poorly adapted ones extinct—survival of the fittest.

Gene Theory

  • Mainly contributed by Watson and Crick
  • All genetic information is stored in DNA – genes
  • Genes control most, if not every, aspects of an organism
  • The DNA language can be transcribed into RNA language and then translated into protein language for its final function


  • All living organisms have the ability to maintain a relatively constant internal environment
    • water and salt level
    • Blood glucose level
    • Body fluid pH
  • Purpose: to ensure proper function of the body
  • When it fails, a person can be sick or die
Classification of Living Things

All living things are classified into 5 kingdomes:

  • Monera:  single-celled, prokaryotic, Photosynthesis or chemosynthesis
  • Protista:  single-celled or multi-celled; photosynthesis or absorbing nutrition from environment, eukaryotic, usually lives in water, autotroph or heterotroph
  • Fungi:  single-celled or multi-celled; photosynthesis or absorbing nutrition from environment, eukaryotic, heterotroph
  • Plantae:  multi-celled; photosynthesis, autotroph
  • Animalia:  multi-celled; hetertroph, capable of moving around
Scientific Processes

Although there is not one “scientific method,” there are aspects that are common to scientific investigations:

Forming a hypothesis:

  • Observations
  • Questioning
  • Hypothesis formation

Testing a hypothesis:

  • Experimentation
  • Trend recognition

Evaluating a hypothesis:

  • Conclusion formation
  • Communication and validation of results
  • Model formation
  • Re-testing

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