Aims of the course
- To develop knowledge and understanding of content that is relevant to real world experiences in the area of biological sciences, promoting interest and enthusiasm for the subject
- To develop and demonstrate a deep appreciation of skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods
- To develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem solving skills
- To develop an interest in further study and careers associated with Biology
The A level Biology course has been split into eight units. Units 1-4 are designed to be covered in the first year of A level and also form the content of the AS course. Sections 5-8 are taught in the second year of study.
A brief outline of each unit is given below:
Unit 1: Biological Molecules –the common chemistry shared by all life on Earth, including carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.
Unit 2: Cells – the structure of cells and how this can be studied using microscopy and cell fractionation, how substances are transported between cells and the principles of cell division and recognition by the immune system.
Unit 3: Organisms and Exchange – gas exchange in fish, insects and animals, digestion and absorption, the human circulatory system and mass transport in plants.
Unit 4: Genetic Information and Variation – the structure and function of DNA, protein synthesis, genetic mutations and the process of meiosis, the principles of natural selection, classification and biodiversity.
Unit 5 – Energy Transfers – the processes of photosynthesis and respiration, energy transfer in ecosystems and nutrient cycles.
Unit 6 – Homeostasis – survival and response, receptors in the human nervous system, control of heart rate, nervous impulses and synaptic transmission, skeletal muscles, the control of blood glucose and water levels in the body.
Unit 7: Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems – inheritance, allele frequencies in a population, evolution and speciation, the study of population dynamics.
Unit 8 – The Control of Gene Expression – stem cells, transcription and translation, gene expression and cancer, the human genome project and DNA technologies.
The structure of assessment differs depending on whether students take AS or A level Biology. An outline of the assessment structure for both AS and A level is detailed below:
AS Biology Assessment
Assessment comprises of two written examinations.
Both examination papers include content from Units 1-4, including relevant practical skills students have developed. They both last 1 hour 30 minutes and are both worth 75 marks. Both papers are structured so that 65 marks are awarded in short answer questions and 10 marks are awarded for an extended comprehension question. Each paper accounts for 50% of the AS mark.
A level Biology Assessment
Students will sit three written examination papers, details of which are outlined below.
Paper 1: 2 hours, 91 marks, 35% of A level – examines any content from Units 1-4, including relevant practical skills, with 76 marks awarded for a mixture of short and long answer questions, and 15 marks for extended response questions.
Paper 2: 2 hours, 91 marks, 35% of A level – examines any content from Units 5-8 including relevant practical skills, with 76 marks awarded for a mixture of short and long answer questions, and 15 marks for extended response questions.
Paper 3: 2 hours, 78 marks, 30% of A level – examines content from all units, with 38 marks awarded for structured questions, including practical techniques, 15 marks for critical analysis of given experimental data and 25 marks for one essay from a choice of two titles.
The A level Biology does not involve the completion of any coursework. Instead practical work will be assessed in the written examinations. A separate ‘endorsement’ of practical work will be awarded by teachers. If students pass, this will be reported on their certificate, independent of their AS or A level grade.
Biology is the science of life, and is a rapidly changing subject that is constantly in the news. Studying Biology at A level will give you an appreciation of the diverse influence the subject has over our modern day lives – from developments in medicine to the impact of climate change on biodiversity.
Biology is one of the most popular A level subjects in the UK, and is a great choice for students wishing to pursue careers in the following areas:
- Healthcare – including medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy & pharmacy
- Forensic Science
- Biological research
Even if you do not wish to pursue a Biology-related degree or career, the subject will help you develop transferable skills that are useful in any further education course.