A / AS Level
2 years

What is Biology?

Biology involves the study of a wide range of exciting topics, ranging from molecular biology to the study of ecosystems and from microorganisms to mammals. Biology is often in the news and has many applications in everyday life.
The human genome has been sequenced and we know the complete arrangement of the millions of bases that make up human DNA. In Kenya 57,000 people die every year from AIDS and in South East Asia rainforests are burned to grow oil palms. Biologists are concerned with all these issues. They work in the fields of cell biology, medicine, food production and ecology and the work they do is vital to us all.

Topics include:

Year 1

  • Biological molecules
  • Cells
  • Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  • Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Year 2

  • Energy transfers in and between organisms
  • Organisms respond to changes in thier internal and external environments
  • Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • The control of gene expression

Part of the course will include chemistry and 10% of the course is mathematics. You do not need to follow these subjects at A Level, although a grade B in GCSE maths is required. As there is an essay component to the assessments and lots of new terminology to learn it is important that you have good English skills.

Preparation work will be given to you at enrolment. You need to work through this before the start of term.

Is Biology suitable for me?

Biology is an obvious choice if you are interested in a career in Medicine, Veterinary Science or other health related professions. However, it is also a fascinating subject in its own right and develops scientific, mathematical and literacy skills which are well respected by all University courses.

Students work through packs of notes in lessons. They find the packs very useful as they allow them to listen and give organisation to their work. Practical classes allow you to develop your experimental skills which will be tested in a written exam.

There is a lot of factual knowledge to learn in Biology. Deadlines must be met and revision techniques eg. cards, spider diagrams and mind maps take a great deal of time to produce.

You, therefore, must have the commitment and ability to learn facts prior to using them in novel situations.

At the end of each topic you will have a tests. At each half term an average will be taken of these tests, so that you can see how well you are performing.

How will I learn?

Lessons will involve:

  • working through prepared notes along with the asking and answering of questions
  • preparing posters/powerpoint presentations using laptops and models 
  • practical work which is assessed throughout the course.

Not only will you learn practical skills but you will be able to design and plan experiments and also evaluate the methodology used.

There is a study area very near to the Science laboratories. You will be encouraged to work here, using the computers and books available and to seek help from staff if it is needed.

You need to be organised in your approach to work and be committed to at least five hours extra per week on this subject. This will involve weekly reading of the relevant text book chapters, preparing revision notes, practicing past exam questions and other homework such as writing up practical experiments.

How will I be assessed?

This qualification is linear. Linear means that students will sit all the A-level exams at the end of their A-level course.

In your second year you will have three assessments:

Paper 1: What's assessed?
Any content from topics 1 - 4, including relevant practical skills

  • Assessed
    written exam: 2 hours
    91 marks
    35% of A-level
  • Questions
    76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions
    15 marks: extended response questions

Paper 2: What's assessed?
Any content from topics 5 - 8, including relevant practocal skills

  • Assessed
    written exam: 2 hours
    91 marks
    35% of A-level
  • Questions
    76 marks: a mixture of short and ling answer questions
    15 marks: comprehension question

Paper 3: What's assessed?
Any content from topics 1 - 8, including relevant practical skills

  • Assessed
    written exam: 2 hours
    78 marks
    30% of A-level
  • Questions
    38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques
    15 marks: critical analysis of given experimental data
    25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles


Students who have followed this course have gone on to a wide range of courses and careers. These include, medicine, veterinary science, biology, biochemistry, nursing, physiotherapy, sports science.

Entry requirements

Students studying a 3 or 4 AS level programme should normally have achieved an average GCSE point score of 5.5 or above and at least a grade C in English.

It is essential that you have gained at least grade B in Biology or B/B in Science before starting the course. It is also essential that you have a B in Maths to help you cope with the mathematical elements of the exams.

Students with a point score between 4.5 – 5.5 will normally take a mixture of Subsidiary Diplomas and AS levels. You can check your likely GCSE point score by going to 'Choosing the Right Course' on the website and entering your predicted grades.

Course costs

All students will be expected to provide their own textbooks, stationery, computer discs and calculators (where appropriate).

£30 for textbooks.
£11 per year for resource pack
Optional: approximately £13 for subscription to Biology Science Review, in the region of £20 for an Ecology trip.

If the costs of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, you may wish to read through details of our financial support scheme on our website.

Course code

AQA 7401/7402*

*Subject to change