A-level Biology

A-level Biology

A Subject for Life
All living things are made of cells and if you are interested in how cells work and why living organisms are the way they are, then Biology is for you. We were all a single cell once and that cell had to gain energy, grow and reproduce; we share this with all other organisms. The study of Biology is relevant to our lives today and in the future. We are in a world which needs people with the skills that you acquire when you train as a biologist. The knowledge of how DNA works to control cells (gene expression) is fundamental to Biology and impacts on innovative cancer treatments, for instance.
Entry Requirements
A good grounding in Biology is essential – preferably a 6 or 7 at GCSE. The best preparation would be a separate GCSE in Biology rather than Combined Science. You will need to be competent in Mathematics and Chemistry also. You can combine Biology with any subjects but you will find that studying Chemistry may help you in particular. You need to have a good level of English, both written and spoken. You should have a curiosity about the subject and the ability to think for yourself.

Course Content

The specification we follow is the AQA Syllabus. In accordance with College policy, ALL students will be entered for AS, regardless of whether or not they intend to follow the A-level course for the full two years.
AS Level (one year) and Year 1 A-level content:
1. Biological molecules
2. Cells
3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment
4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Year 2 A-level content:
5. Energy transfers in and between organisms
6. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
8. The control of gene expression

Practical Assessment:
There is no internal assessment that leads to marks that contribute towards the AS or A-level grades. Instead, practical work is assessed in the written papers at the end of AS / A-level. A separate ‘endorsement’ of practical work is assessed by teachers which is not graded. A pass will be recorded on a candidate’s exam certificate.


AS Biology exams (after 1 year of study):
Paper 1: any content from topics 1-4 including practical skills 75 marks – of which 65 are short answer, 10 comprehension (1 hour 30 minutes) 50% of AS
Paper 2: any content from topics 1-4 including practical skills 75 marks – of which 65 are short answer, 10 extended response (1 hour 30 minutes) 50% of AS
A-level Biology exams (after 2 years of study):
Paper 1: any content from topics 1-4 including practical skills 91 marks – of which 76 are short and long answer, 15 extended response (2 hours) 35% of A-level
Paper 2: any content from topics 5-8 including practical skills 91 marks – of which 76 are short and long answers, 15 comprehension (2 hours) 35% of A-level
Paper 3: any content from topics 1-8 including practical skills 78 marks – of which 38 are structured, 15 critical analysis of data and 25 an essay (2 hours) 30% of A-level

Where does it lead?

Past students have gone on to study many different degree courses. These include Pharmacy, Medicine, Biomedical Science, Dental Technology, Dentistry, Law, Psychology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Accounting and Finance. The list is very varied and reflects the fact that Biology is a valued A-level that leads to the development of a critical, analytical approach to information by students who can present their conclusions coherently.

Reading List

AQA Biology A LEVEL Year 1 and AS (ISBN: 978-019-835176-4)
AQA Biology A LEVEL Year 2 (ISBN: 978-019-835770-4)
AQA Biology A LEVEL (ISBN: 978-019-835180-1)
All of the above are written by Glen Toole & Susan Toole. Oxford University Press.
Biological Sciences Review.
Philip Allan Updates. (4 issues each year), edited by an expert team at the University of Manchester, leading biologists will stretch and challenge students’ knowledge with:
• Specially written articles on recent research in the biological sciences, central to A-level topics
• Grade-boosting advice from examiners
• Additional online support, with tailored resources to support articles in the magazine
Useful websites:
There are many, the following is a short selection: