Biology (A Level)
Why should I study A Level Biology?
Biology literally means the study of life and if that’s not important, what is? Being such a broad subject, you are bound to find specific areas of interest, plus it opens the door to a fantastic range of interesting careers.
A good number of Biology students will also take the opportunity to join the “Medics” programme and to pursue a related Extended Project qualification in a topic related to their intended career.
There is also an opportunity in the second year to take part in the Biology Olympiad for those students interested in extending their knowledge of Biology beyond the A Level specifications.
On the A Level Biology course there is a trip to Colchester Zoo where students learn about Classification and Biodiversity. At the start of the second year of the Biology course, students go on an ecological field trip to Highwood’s Country Park to investigate the distribution of organisms in the environment.
We have very good links with universities of Essex and Suffolk. Members of their Biology departments come to speak to our Biology students about their research work, as well as Biology related careers and the degree courses. Students interested in continuing on after A Level to study Biology related courses also have the opportunity to attend the University of Essex Conference for A Level Biology Students.
Course Content (AQA)
The first year consists of four topics:
• Biological Molecules – Structure and Biological Significance of Carbohydrates, Proteins, Lipids (Fats/Oils), Nucleic Acids (DNA/RNA) and Water.
• Cells – Structure of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells and their function.
• Organisms exchange substances with their environment – Gas exchange, Digestion and Circulation in
• Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms – Functioning of the Genetic Code.
The second year of the course consists of a further four topics:
• Energy transfers in and between organisms – Photosynthesis, Respiration, Energy flow and Nutrient Cycles.
• Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments – Stimuli and Response, Nervous System, Skeletal System and Homeostasis.
• Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems – Inheritance, Populations, Ecosystems and Evolution.
• The control of gene expression – Mutations, Regulation of Gene Expressions, Cancer, Genome Project, Genetic Engineering, DNA analysis and Genetic fingerprinting.
Progression onto Year 2
Progression to the second year of this A Level course will be dependent on having made satisfactory progress in the first year of the course, including achieving at least an E grade in a formal late spring assessment, as well as the maintenance of a good level of attendance and commitment throughout the year.
You will carry out practical activities including: using microscopes to see cell division, dissection of animal or plant systems, aseptic technique to study microbial growth, investigating activity within cells and investigating animal behaviours.
These practical activities will give you the skills and confidence needed to investigate the way living things behave and work. It will also ensure that if you choose to study a Biology based subject at university, you will have these practical skills.
Assessment for the first year:
Two written assessment papers taken at the end of the first year–content of both papers is drawn from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills.
Final Assessment is at the end of Year 2:
Three written examination papers are taken at the end of the second year.
Minimum Entry Criteria
Standard College entry requirements (as detailed on page 12 of the Prospectus) and a minimum of:
GCSE English Language or English Literature
Both 1st and 2nd grade GCSE Combined Science
if triple science is taken
GCSE Biology (also with a 6 in either GCSE Chemistry or Physics)
Please note that GCSE Applied Science or Level 2 BTEC Science qualifications are not acceptable as alternative GCSE science qualifications for A Level Biology.
Core Mathematics (Mathematical Studies) is a complementary course to this subject and is strongly recommended as a further subject choice if not taking A Level Mathematics or A Level Statistics options. See the Core Mathematics subject page for further details (page 92 of the Prospectus)
What can I do after studying A Level Biology?
The top degree courses taken by students who have an A Level in Biology are: Biology, Biomedicine, Biochemistry, Psychology, Sport and Exercise Science, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Toxicology, Pharmacy, Forensic Science, Zoology and Chemistry.
Studying A Level Biology gives you all sorts of exciting career options, including: doctor, dentist, molecular geneticist, nature conservation officer, pharmacologist, research scientist, vet, science teacher and marine biologist.
Students will need a scientific calculator. Although students will have access to the course textbook via an on-line e-book with associated learning resources, it is highly recommended that students also purchase the CGP AQA A Level Student (Text) Book for each year of the course. These can be purchased via the Biology Department at the start of each year at the greatly discounted price of £10.00 per book.