Environmental Science (A Level)

Why Should I Study A Level Environmental Science? 

This subject is for those who have a real interest in contemporary environmental issues and have a good level of interest and skill in science. Environmental Science connects the fields of biology, chemistry, geography, geology, physics, and law by covering aspects of climate, ecology, quarrying, mining, energy conservation, land management and wildlife conservation. 

Environmental Science is a broad discipline and we ensure that you acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to appreciate the socio-economic issues related to environmental issues.

You will study aspects of climate change, biodiversity and environmental management, pollution and control, population dynamics, ecosystems and urbanisation. You will also acquire laboratory and practical analytical skills and have frequent opportunities to practice and apply what you learn on field trips in the UK and abroad.

Fieldwork and practical activities are an integral part of the course, and allows the students to develop their understanding and skills. There are several field trips to Highwoods Country Park, Flatford Mill and other sites in and around Colchester. 

Practical work will involve ecological sampling and using techniques and strategies for data collection and analysis. No previous study is required although a general interest in environmental issues is important. 

Course Content

The first year of the course consists of two units: 

Unit 1: The Living Environment 

Conditions on Earth to sustain life. Life processes. The importance of conservation of life on Earth. Methods used to achieve effective conservation. Ecosystems in the UK and overseas, including coral reefs, Antarctica, oceanic islands and tropical rainforests are used as case studies to understand how these ecosystems work and how they might be managed.

 Unit 2: The Physical Environment 

The atmosphere, important gases, ozone, global warming and climate change. The importance of water and management of water resources. Mineral resources, their formation, mining and processing. Biogeochemical cycles. 

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. 

Unit 3: Energy Resources 

Importance of energy supplies in the development of society. Future problems of energy supply and how these may be resolved are investigated through the study of the energy resources which are available for use. Strategies to ensure future energy supplies. 

Unit 4: Pollution 

The properties of pollutants are considered to explain why some materials or forms of energy cause environmental damage. These issues are developed through the study of a range of atmospheric, aquatic and terrestrial pollutants. The strategies which may be used to minimize releases, treat effluents and manage damage are considered. 

Unit 5: Biological Resources 

Biotic factors that affect food productivity. Manipulation of food species to increase productivity. Agricultural energetics. Environmental impacts of agriculture. Social, economic, political factors affecting production. Strategies to increase the sustainability of agriculture. Aquatic food production systems – fishing, aquaculture. Forest resources and life support services, productivity and biodiversity, deforestation. 

Unit 6: Sustainability 

Feedback mechanisms. Energy, natural resources, carbon footprints. Material cycles and the circular economy.

Minimum Entry Criteria

Standard College entry requirements (as detailed on page 12 of the Prospectus) and a minimum of:


GCSE Mathematics





in either 1st or 2nd grade GCSE Combined Science or a GCSE single subject science





In a predominantly written based GCSE subject (from English Language, English Literature, History, Religious Studies or Sociology)


Please note that GCSE Applied Science or Level 2 BTEC Science qualifications are not acceptable as alternative GCSE science qualifications for A Level Environmental Science.

Core Mathematics (Mathematical Studies) is a very useful complementary course for this subject and is strongly recommended as a further (4th) subject choice for students who are not taking A Level Mathematics or A Level Statistics options.  See the Core Mathematics subject page for further details (page 92 of the Prospectus).

Final Assessment at end of Year 2 

Two 3-hour written exams, each of 120 marks and of 50% of the exam. 

Paper 1: The physical environment, energy resources, pollution, research methods. 

Paper 2: The living environment, biological resources, sustainability, research methods.

 All papers are a combination of short answer, multiple choice and extended writing questions.

What can I do after studying A Level Environmental Science?

This course is multi-disciplinary and would naturally allow progression on to a wide variety of higher education courses or employment opportunities. Environmental Sciences are a growing field and many universities and colleges offer courses in this area, including environmental management. environmental health, ecological science and marine biology. Currently, many former students are studying at the universities of East Anglia, Exeter, Reading, Lancaster, York, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Nottingham and Bangor.