3.6 Human Evolution

Assessment information


Biology 3.6 (AS) is a Level 3 External worth 4 credits. These 5 credits count towards your University Entrance (UE) literacy credits for Reading and Writing.

You will be assessed in the following ways:

For the official description of this Achievement Standard, please read the document to the left. 

Past NCEA examinations

2020 Exam Paper & Assessment Schedule:


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Walking with Cavemen (BBC Series)

Walking with Cavemen (BBC) Episode 1: First Ancestors

In the first episode, we see Australopithecus afarensis, and focus on their evolved bipedality due to climate change that started in the ocean. The story follows the famous Lucy and her relatives, as they first develop a leadership conflict following the death of the alpha male due to a crocodile attack, and then are attacked by a rival troop. The attack ends with the death of Lucy herself, and her eldest daughter caring for Lucy's now-orphaned baby sibling, as a sign of the developing humanity in these "apemen".

Walking with Cavemen (BBC) Episode 2: Blood Brothers

The second episode leaps forward to a time when Paranthropus boisei, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis co-exist. H. habilis is depicted as an intelligent omnivore that is more adaptable than the herbivorous P. boisei. The two species are contrasted, with H. habilis being "a jack of all trades", while P. boisei are "a master of one" - i.e. they are specialized herbivores while H. habilis are generalized omnivores. Consequently, though P. boisei are able to eat termites, tall grasses and hard acacia pods in difficult times, they will not be able to survive in the future, when at the beginning of the next Ice Age the climate will change, and these plants will be gone for good. H. habilis, on the contrary, have become smart by eating fresh carrion and bone marrow among other things, and evolving a basic social behaviour, which is more firm than that of P. boisei, will continue to survive, until it evolves into Homo ergaster, seen in the next episode, who has developed these traits to a greater extent.

The episode also briefly shows the H. rudolfensis, remarking that although they are taller, they are very similar to the H. habilis.

Walking with Cavemen (BBC) Episode 3: Savage Family

In the third episode, Homo ergaster is depicted as the first creature to master the art of tracking. This was made possible because their diet has grown increasingly more carnivorous, and the nutrients in meat made them even smarter than H. habilis of the previous episode. They also begin to form into tribal societies, with genuine bonds between their men and women, though violence is still occurring. As H. ergaster no longer use their arms to walk or climb trees, the muscles of their chests enable them to issue particular sounds, a primitive language.

The episode later shows H. ergaster spreading into Asia, becoming Homo erectus and encountering the enormous herbivorous ape Gigantopithecus, "the original King Kong".

However, for the next million years, H. ergaster are shown harnessing fire and beginning to break away from their direct dependence on their environment.

Walking with Cavemen (BBC) Episode 4: The Survivors

The fourth episode first shows Homo heidelbergensis in Britain. H. heidelbergensis is depicted as intelligent and sensitive but lacking in the ability to comprehend an afterlife, or anything that isn't in the "here and now".

Next, the episode shows a clan of Homo neanderthalensis, how they lived and hunted, including the mighty mammoth during the last ice age. Finally in Africa we see modern Homo sapiens, who had to become imaginative and inventive to survive a long drought and finally glimpse the cave painters of Europe, who had developed the idea of the afterlife and the supernatural, and are now ready to start human history as it is now known, and to drive the Neanderthals to extinction.