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A-Level Biology

Awarding Body

Course Code

Head of Department


OCR H420 Mrs N Cooke cooke-n@beaconsfieldhigh.bucks.sch.uk

Why study this course?

What skills does it develop?

Studying Biology requires deep and broad thinking skills. During the course students are required to understand abstract ideas that cannot be seen, to explain mechanisms of systems and to make links between multiple areas of the specification. They also learn to focus on detail and to use scientific language appropriately. Students carry out a wide range of practical and mathematical techniques that will equip them for practical studies at University. Biology is fascinating and students really immerse themselves in the content coming out with a true passion for learning more.

What careers might it lead to?

Biology A-level is fantastic when applying for any degree course as it provides evidence of specific thinking skills acquired through study of science. Many of our students go on to study subjects such as medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, natural sciences, biochemistry, physiology, biology, zoology, marine biology, psychology but also degrees such as law.

What level of prior knowledge, attainment and skills are required?

What are the entry requirements?

GCSE/iGCSE Grade 7 or higher in GCSE Biology OR two GCSE Grade 7s (or higher) in Additional Science.

Who would it suit?

The new A-level biology is exceptionally challenging. There is a huge amount of application and Maths as well as a large content. Students are expected to be conscientious and independent learners. Successful students organise their time to read ahead, recap lesson material and complete optional additional activities.

What subjects might it combine with/lead to?

Biology is a diverse subject. It naturally combines well with Chemistry, Physics and maths but also Geography and Psychology. We do however, always get students choosing it as their ‘science’ A-level alongside the full range of subjects such as English, History and Art.

What does the course cover and how is it structured?

Students are taught a range of topics throughout the course by two different subject specialist teachers.

There are 5 main modules (which are subdivided into topics):

  • Foundations in Biology (cells, biological molecules, nucleic acids, enzymes, cell division and diversity)
  • Exchange and transport (exchange surfaces, transport in plants and animals)
  • Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease (communicable disease, immune system, biodiversity, classification, evolution)
  • Communication, Homeostasis and Energy (respiration, photosynthesis, animal and plant responses, hormonal and nervous communication, excretion, homeostasis)
  • Genetics and ecosystems (patterns of inheritance, manipulating genomes, cloning, biotechnology, ecosystems, populations)

How is the course assessed?

What examination modules/papers are there?

Students will sit 3 papers in the summer of year 13:

  • Biological processes 100 marks 2hr15 paper (37%)
  • Biological diversity 100 marks 2hr15 paper    (37%)
  • Unified biology 70 marks 1hr30 paper             (26%)

Pupils must also pass a practical endorsement in 12 skills groups assessed through practical tasks over the 2 years. An important section of this component is covered at a 5 day residential field trip to Slapton Ley in Devon during the autumn of year 13.

How can families help?

What family trips might be useful?

Wellcome Campus (the Sanger institute), Natural History Museum(s), Kew gardens, Biology Society events.

What activities might parents encourage?

Wide reading; journals (e.g biological science), reading list books (e.g the immortal life of Henrietta lacks). Documentaries and science programmes, following scientists/institutes on twitter in areas of interest (e.g royal society of biology, #25genome).