AQA GCSE Biology

Revision Notes

1.1.6 Required Practical: Microscopy

Using a Light Microscope

  • Aim: To use a light microscope to observe, draw and label a selection of plant and animal cells, including a magnification scale
  • You will:
    • Use a light microscope to make observations of biological specimens and produce labelled scientific drawings
    • Include a magnification scale


Preparing a microscope slide

  • Specimens must be prepared on a microscope slide to be observed under a light microscope
  • This must be done carefully to avoid damaging any biological specimen
  • The most common specimens to observe under a light microscope are cheek cells (animal cells) and onion cells (plant cells)
  • Stains are used to highlight structures within cells – methylene blue is used to stain cheek cells, iodine for onion cells


RP Microscopy: Preparing a Slide, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Care must be taken to avoid smudging the glass slide or trapping air bubbles under the coverslip

Using a microscope

  • Understanding the main features of a light microscope is essential if you are to use it correctly
  • Always hold the microscope by the arm when moving it around the lab, and always start your observation with the lowest-powered objective lens

RP Microscopy: Using a Microscope, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Light microscopes have a lens in the eyepiece which is fixed and two or three objective lenses of different powers

Biological drawings

  • Producing biological drawings of what you see under the microscope is a key skill
  • The key is not to try to be too artistic with your drawings – they are supposed to be scientific so make sure you follow the rules

RP Microscopy: Biological Drawings, downloadable IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Biological drawings should be as large as possible – aim to take up at least half of the space available on the page with your drawings

Author: Jenna

Jenna studied at Cardiff University before training to become a science teacher at the University of Bath specialising in Biology (although she loves teaching all three sciences at GCSE level!). Teaching is her passion, and with 10 years experience teaching across a wide range of specifications – from GCSE and A Level Biology in the UK to IGCSE and IB Biology internationally – she knows what is required to pass those Biology exams.

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