A / AS Level
2 years

What is Biology?

Biology is the study of living organisms; it covers a wide range of exciting topics, from molecular biology right up to the study of whole ecosystems. Biology is often in the news and has many applications in everyday life. For example, the human genome has been sequenced and we now know the arrangement of the millions of bases that make up human DNA. There are now more than 2,000 genetic tests for human conditions. These tests enable patients to learn their genetic risks for disease and also help healthcare professionals to diagnose disease. Based on a deeper understanding of disease at the genomic level, in the future we will see a whole new generation of new targeted treatments, many of which will be drugs that are much more effective and cause fewer side effects than those available today.  Another major issue that will affect future generations is that the human population is rapidly increasing. The impact that this will have on the environment and how scientists can increase food production by intensive farming and genetic engineering will also be studied.

Topics include:
Year 1

1. Biological molecules

2. Cells

3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment

4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Year 2 (A-level only) 

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

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.

How will I learn?

In Biology, you will be taught by experienced, specialist staff. The Biology department was graded as outstanding in the last OFSTED inspection. 

Students work through interactive packs of notes in lessons. They find the packs very useful as having pre-printed notes allows them to concentrate more in class, the packs help students to organise their work better and the questions within the packs allows students to apply their new knowledge to exam-style questions. Regular practical classes allow students to develop laboratory skills which will be assessed (leading to a practical endorsement) and  experimental knowledge will be tested within the written exams.

Students who are applying for competitive courses such as oxbridge, medicine, veterinary science and dentistry have a dedicated staff mentor who will guide them through all stages of the application process from admission tests, through to personal statements and then to  mock interviews.

Extra “Interested and enthusiastic” sessions are offered to those students who wish to go beyond the subjects taught within the A-level specification.  Students are encouraged to enter the Biology Olympiad and other competitions throughout the year. Some of our students have taken part in the Microverse Research project as part of the citizen science initiative organised by the Natural History Museum.

Many extracurricular trips are run each year and this year included visits to the University of Southampton, Reading and Portsmouth where students had the opportunity to perform experiments in the University laboratories. Other 2015 trips included attending the “Biology in Action” lectures at the Institute of Education in London, and attending interactive workshops run by the Royal College of Pathologists and Anaesthetists. Every two years a marine ecology field trip is taken abroad in the summer to give students the opportunity to learn to scuba dive and take part in ecological research under the guidance of University staff; in July 2015 our students took part in a marine biology expedition in Greece.

All of the Biology staff are experienced extended project supervisors and Biology is a very popular subject area within which students choose their research projects. Those students who have interviews at University find the research skills they gain from the extended project invaluable.

There is a lot of factual knowledge to learn in Biology. Students need to develop their revision techniques from GCSE to cope with this and they are given regular end of topic tests to ensure that they are learning the material as they progress through the course and that they have understood what is taught.  There is a comprehensive support system for any students that find the step-up from GCSE challenging.  Extra lessons take place each week to target those students who need a little extra help. There is also an extensively used peer mentoring system in place.  The open door policy ensures that any student needing extra support can drop in to see their teacher when they are free.  Students are encouraged to work in the science study area near to the teaching laboratories.

Students need to be organised in their approach to independent 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

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

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

To achieve a Practical Endorsement you will undertake a range of experiments to display your competency in:

  • Following procedures
  • Applying an investigative approach when using instruments and equipment
  • Working safely
  • Making and recording observations
  • Researching, referencing and reporting


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.

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.

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 and calculators (where appropriate).

£18 per year for written resources and electronic book

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