Biology

Qualification: 
A / AS Level
Duration: 
2 years
Level: 
3

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 never far from the headlines either.
 
The human genome has been sequenced and we know the complete arrangement of the three thousand million bases that make up human DNA. In Kenya 350 people die every day from AIDS and in South East Asia the skies are dark with smoke as the last Bornean 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:

AS Level

  • structure of cells
  • biochemistry
  • heart and lung structure and function
  • how lifestyle can affect human health
  • DNA and cell division.

A Level

  • ecology
  • biochemistry of photosynthesis and respiration
  • evolution
  • how nerves and muscles work
  • genetic engineering and gene therapy.

Part of the course will include chemistry and mathematics. You do not need to follow these subjects at A Level, although a grade B in GCSE maths is recommended. 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. In addition they find the practicals very enjoyable.

However there is a lot of factual knowledge to learn. 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
  • debating ethical issues
  • 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?

Coursework:
Year 1 – 10% of A Level; 20% of AS
Year 2 – 10% of A Level; 20% of A2

In your first year you will have three assessments:

  • a 75 minute paper on ‘Biology and disease’ which accounts for 17% of your A Level marks
  • a 105 minute paper on ‘The variety of living organisms’ which accounts for 23% of your A Level marks
  • the practical assignment which accounts for 10% of your A Level marks

Year two is almost identical:

  • a 90 minute paper on ‘Populations and environment’ which accounts for 17% of your A Level marks
  • a 135 minute paper on ‘Control in cells and organisms’ which accounts for 23% of your A Level marks
  • the practical assignment which accounts for 10% of your A Level marks

Progression

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, law, business and journalism. It is worth noting that some universities now require biology as an entrance requirement for medicine.

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 Maths and/or English. 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.

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 recommended that you have a B in Maths to help you cope with the mathematical elements of the exams.

Course costs

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

Essential: £30 for textbooks.
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 1411/2411