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What is Biology?

The subject entails a detailed study of the mechanics of plant and animal life, both in theoretical and practical terms. It studies the physical and chemical structure, function, development and evolution of living organisms. Topics covered include biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, genetics and ecology. There is also a strong practical element to the course, which aids understanding of the theoretical material and contributes to the final grade. The practical skills assessed are those of planning, carrying out experiments and drawing conclusions. Human Biology covers much of the same material, but with a closer focus on issues such as the causes and control of various diseases in homo sapiens, and the interaction of physiological systems across the lifespan of an individual.

How is it studied?

Biology is a vast subject area, but the A Level syllabus covers the following core topic areas:

  • Biological molecules
  • Cells
  • How organisms exchange substances with their environment
  • Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  • Energy transfer within and between organisms
  • How organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
  • Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • The control of gene expression

How is A Level Biology assessed?

As Level

 

Unit Modules Weighting Format
Paper 1 Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills 50% / 75 marks Written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

65 marks: short-answer questions

10 marks: comprehension question

Paper 2 Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills 50% / 75 marks Written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

65 marks: short-answer questions

10 marks: extended response questions

 

A level

Unit Modules Weighting Format
Paper 1 Any content from topics 1– 4, including relevant practical skills 35% / 91 marks Written exam: 2 hours

 

76 marks: a mixture of short- and long-answer questions

 

15 marks: extended response questions

Paper 2 Topics 5–8, including relevant practical skills 35% / 91 marks Written exam: 2 hours

76 marks: a mixture of short- and long-answer questions

 

15 marks: comprehension question

Paper 3 Any content from topics 1–8, including relevant practical skills 30% / 78 marks Written exam: 2 hours

 

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

 

Exam Board: AQA (preferred), OCR, and other exam boards possible

What do I need to study it?

A good grade in GCSE Biology or Double Science.

What should I study with Biology?

Biology combines well with other science subjects – particularly Chemistry and Psychology – and with Geography and Environmental Science.

What can I do with A Level Biology?

Studying biology can help you enter a wide range of careers. Science and research careers include forensic science, biochemistry and botany. In the field of medicine and healthcare you may want to become a nurse, doctor or pharmacist. If agriculture is what interests you, biology may help to start a career in farming or ecology.