Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

MEDSCI 142 - Biology for Biomedical Science: Organ Systems

15 Points

Semester 2

City, Grafton, Tāmaki


Introduction to human biology with particular emphasis on integrated organ function. The course will deal with: structures and processes associated with the function of the nervous, locomotor, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, renal, endocrine, musculoskeletal and reproductive systems.


This is the primary first-year human biology course at the University of Auckland which prepares students for more advanced study in a wide range of professional programs (including biomedical engineering, biomedical science, food science and nutrition, health sciences, medicinal chemistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, sports science, etc.). It has an enrolment of about 1,250 students (2017). 

MEDSCI 142 is taught by staff in the Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging, Department of Physiology, Discipline of Nutrition and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.


Restriction: HUMANBIO 142

BIOSCI 107 is not a pre-requisite for MEDSCI 142. MEDSCI 142 and BIOSCI 107 are designed to complement each other, and most students do both courses. If your academic record at school (or university) is reasonably strong, and you have disciplined study habits, then you can take MEDSCI 142 with a reasonable chance of success.

Taking biology at school might be helpful, however we understand that human anatomy and physiology is not a key part of the NCEA curriculum. This means most students taking MEDSCI 142 will be learning new content, so you won't really be at a disadvantage. Once the course starts, however, we do move at quite a fast pace. This is necessarily a content-heavy course to prepare students for the rigour of subsequent studies, but if you revise daily and keep up, you will succeed in this course.

Former students have said they find YouTube very useful for general background/overarching 'big picture'. Channels include "Crash Course", "Handwritten Tutorials" and of course "Khan Academy". The topics that are covered in MEDSCI 142 are outlined later in this document.

Course guide

The MEDSCI 142 course guide contains all lecture and laboratory notes required for this course.

A digital (PDF) copy of the course guide will be available on Canvas (the University's Learning Management System) late June 2018. Enrolled students will be notified in due course.

A hard copy of the course guide will be available for collection during the week prior to the commencement of the second semester (tentatively Wed 11, Thur 12 and Fri 13 July 2018). Information about collecting guides will be e-mailed to enrolled students in due course.

Students wishing to do some pre-reading are welcome to access the 2017 course guide from the Philson Library (Grafton Campus); multiple copies are available on Short Loan (2 hours).

Content and format delivery

The course content includes the structure and function of selected human organ systems: 

•       Nervous                         

•       Cardiovascular 

•       Autonomic and Endocrine

•       Reproductive

•      Musculoskeletal                   

•       Respiratory

•       Renal

•       Alimentary


There are 38 lectures in the course, with each organ system occupying 2-8 lectures. Lectures explore the integrated anatomy and physiology of each system. Clinical examples and recent research advances are incorporated where appropriate.

Laboratory (practical) classes

A programme of six, 2.5-hour laboratory sessions accompanies the lectures. There are:

  • Three animal dissection laboratories, covering alimentary, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems;
  • One based on plastinated tissue of the human brain;
  • One involving physiological measurements (ventilation); 
  • One is a mixture of modalities, covering the reproductive systems.  

The laboratories are experiential learning opportunities designed to complement the theoretical concepts introduced in lectures, and to facilitate the achievement of the learning outcomes. 

The lab sessions are assessed using a short test at the end of each session. Marks are awarded for assessments in each of the 6 labs, but only the 5 best lab marks for the semester are included in the 10% of the overall course mark derived from laboratories (see below).   

Achievement of laboratory intended learning outcomes is also assessed in the mid- and end-of semester tests.


10% from short end-of-lab tests (single-best option, multiple-choice questions (MCQs)) 50% from in-course tests:

  • a 1.5-hour mid-semester test (single-best option MCQs) 

  • a 1.5-hour end-of-semester test (single-best option MCQs)

    40% from the 2-hour final exam (single-best option MCQs and short-answer questions / diagrams)


Course grades

It is not in the practice of the Examination Committee in MEDSCI 142 to apply any rounding to marks.  Marks earned from summative assessments directly determine each student’s final mark. 

Final course grades are allocated using the University of Auckland grade boundaries, the minimum thresholds of which are listed in the table below. This means these mark thresholds must be cleared in order for a particular grade to be awarded.

Passing grades                                   


































The percentage of enrolled students who passed the course in 2015 was approximately 75%.

Resources and textbook(s)

Tortora & Derrickson “Principles of Anatomy and Physiology” (13th or 14th editions)

Lecturers assume that every student has access to a copy of the text, but you don't have to buy your own copy. We recommend that you borrow a copy from the University’s many libraries and see first-hand if you find it useful before making your decision.

The print text is available from bookshops for about $230 NZD. The e-text is available here for $65 AUD: http://www.wileydirect.com.au/buy/principles-of-anatomy-and-physiology-14th-edition/ 

This is an excellent textbook. It will be valuable in later years if you intend to continue with biomedical courses. Older editions may be bought second-hand and will be quite satisfactory, but page references given during lectures will refer to the current edition.

For lecture topics which are well-covered in the text, only brief notes and diagrams will be provided in this Course Guide. The lecturer will probably use images of textbook diagrams, and will refer to specific passages in the book which all are examinable. Information in the text and course guide will not be duplicated on Canvas.

2018 Assessment dates

Students are expected to be available to present themselves for in-course assessments during the academic semester. See here for academic dates.

Test 1: Monday 10 September, evening (usually 6:30-8:30pm), City Campus (room allocations TBA)

Test 2: Friday 19 October, evening (usually 6-8pm), City Campus (room allocations TBA)

Please email Angela Tsai if you have any questions / concerns regarding your ability to attend these assessments

Final exam: Final exam dates are determined by the Examinations Office, not by courses. Students must be available for the entire exam period for any semester in which they are enrolled. You should not book any travel during the exam period until after your finalised timetable is published. Examination dates are usually announced by the Examinations Office in week 6 of each semester, but are not finalised until they are officially published on Student Services Online.

Additional information

Detailed information about this course is available on this page

Course Director

Course Coordinator