Biology A Level

A Level | AQA

Discover the processes at the heart of every living organism, from the smallest Biological molecules to entire ecosystems.

The Department offers the AQA Biology specification. Students study the core concepts of Biology which include:

  • The structure and function of biological molecules
  • Cell structure and replication
  • How organisms exchange substances with their environment (including gas exchange, transport and nutrition)
  • Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms.​

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Students also study 4 further components which are separated into:

  • Energy Transfers in and between organisms (photosynthesis and respiration)
  • Organisms response to the internal and external environment (the nervous system and homeostasis)
  • Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • The control of gene expression including genetic engineering. 

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12 compulsory practicals are completed towards the practical endorsement. Other practical work will be carried out where appropriate to support the biological theory.  

 

This course is for you if you want to know the answers to these questions - Do saturated fats cause heart disease? Why do some cells become cancerous? How closely related are we to chimpanzees? Why do fish die out of water? How do pacemakers work? Why can cows exist on a diet of grass and we can’t? Why are some people lactose intolerant? That’s just the first year! In year two; Why are antibiotics ineffective against flu? How do painkillers work? What does DNA actually do? How can infertility arise? Is cloning acceptable? Can gene therapy cure diseases? How does the kidney work?

Course details

What are the entry requirements?

A minimum of five GCSE subjects at Grade 4 or above plus two grade 6s in Science (if separate sciences taken a grade 6 in Biology and Chemistry) plus Maths at grade 6 or above.

How will I be assessed?

The A level is assessed through 3 exam papers at the end of the course. These will consist of a mixture of short and extended answer questions, including one 25 mark essay. Practical skills are assessed separately throughout the course by teachers, leading to the awarding of a separate Practical Endorsement.

What extra work can I do?

Wide reading is essential and is encouraged, as is the use of a wide range of other media (television, radio, and internet) to broaden and enrich student’s knowledge. There are many excellent Science programmes in the media, for example Inside Science on BBC radio, or the various Plant Earth and Blue Planet series. Whether your interest is in the large scale wonders of the natural world or the exciting prospects offered by new gene technologies, there will be a popular programme or podcast for you.

What skills will I learn?

You will learn how to understand complex biological processes and apply this knowledge to new situations. You will develop your ability to draw conclusions based on experimental data, and assess how reliable these conclusions are.

Through the course you will also develop your practical skills, and by the end of the A level you should feel confident in selecting equipment, designing a method and collecting your own data during an investigation. You will be able to process results, analyse data and critically assess your findings using statistical tests.

Students will also learn how to become effective independent learners, using a wide range of resources and techniques to secure their knowledge and test their own understanding. Whilst independence is an important skill to develop, group work and effective collaboration are fostered within the department.

What is the department like?

The Biology Department is housed in 4 well-equipped laboratories and is resourced with a wide range of modern apparatus, texts and reference resources. Enthusiastic specialist teachers within the department present material in an engaging and enjoyable way.

The Biology course follows a carefully structured scheme of work building on understanding and developing knowledge throughout the course. There is a variety of different support options, be that drop-in workshops, targeted sessions or booking in with teachers for 1 to 1 explanations, this support enables students to seek help when they are faced with challenging content or stretch students aiming high with extension.

There are opportunities for practical work including fieldwork within the course and when an opportunity arises students are able to participate in specialist lectures both on and off-site.

Progression

What are the progression routes for this qualification?

Studying Biology opens up a wide range of opportunities after College. Many of our students continue their study of a Biological discipline at University, and the range of courses available is enormous. Some students who want to take the subject further will follow the more traditional route of studying Medicine, Veterinary Science or Natural Sciences, but Biology A level can also allow students to go and study Genetics, Zoology, Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology, Botany, Nursing, and Midwifery to name but a few! 

We have had students go on to study all of the above courses and more.  And while a large proportion of our students do progress to University, a Biology A level can also be used to access apprenticeships and trainee schemes (trainee Paramedic, for example).

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