What you will study
Topic 1: Lifestyle, Health and Risk
This topic covers the functioning of the circulatory system and the importance of diet and lifestyle choices to health with particular reference to cardiovascular disease. Structure and function of carbohydrates and lipids are also detailed alongside the concept of risk.
Topic 2: Genes and Health
This topic uses the context of the genetic disease cystic fibrosis to cover areas including the properties and transport of materials across cell membranes, DNA structure and replication, protein synthesis, enzymes and monohybrid inheritance.
Topic 3: Voice of the Genome
This topic follows the development of multicellular organisms from single cells to complex individuals. Cell ultrastructure, division and differentiation are all studied, as well as the role of the genotype, epigenetics and the effect of the environment on phenotype.
Topic 4: Biodiversity and Natural Resources
Why are there so many different species ? How do we identify, classify and name all the species ? How has all this diversity come about through natural selection ? How can we conserve the biodiversity of life on Earth ?
Topic 5: On the Wild Side
This topic looks at how ecosystems work, looking at the process of photosynthesis and covering ideas about climate change – the evidence and effects as well as how species may evolve by natural selection in a changing environment.
Topic 6: Immunity, Infection and Forensics
This topic looks at forensic processes and how DNA profiling can be used. Structure of bacteria and viruses is studied alongside the infectious diseases they can cause and how the body combats these infections.
Topic 7: Run for Your Life
This topic is centred on the physiological adaptations that enable animals to undertake strenuous exercise. It covers the processes of respiration, muscle contraction and homeostasis.
Topic 8: Grey Matter
This topic covers the nervous system, brain structure and function and the development of vision and learning.
How you will be assessed
Paper 1: Two hour written paper (33.3% of A level)
Topics 1-4, 5 and 6, multiple choice, short answer and extended responses
Paper 2: Two hour written paper (33.35 of A level)
Topics 1-4, 7 and 8, multiple choice, short answer and extended responses
Paper 3: Two hour written paper (33.3% of A level)
All topics, multiple choice, short answer, extended response, pre-release article questions.
Science Practical Endorsement
Core practical work must be completed. Students must demonstrate competency against set practical skills. This does not contribute to the overall grade but is recorded on the A level certificate.
Why choose biology?
Biology is the study of life and involves learning about a wide range of interesting topics, from molecular biology to whole ecosystems and across the diversity of life from microorganisms to elephants. It is a challenging subject that is relevant to every aspect of life and is one of the most dynamic fields of study. An understanding of the principles of biology allows you to appreciate not only how our bodies work and how diseases stop them working but also the fragility of life on Earth, from origins to extinction and all the interactions in between. It is a demanding subject at A level, although if you are inquisitive about the world around you, you will thrive when studying biology.
The A level course builds on learning at GCSE so students should have achieved at least a grade 6(B) in GCSE Biology or 66 (BB) in GCSE Combined Science. A good GCSE in chemistry is also an advantage. The increased mathematical component of the new A level syllabus means it is also an advantage to have a good GCSE in mathematics.
Related subjects in the Sixth Form
Biology A level can be combined with a variety of other subjects. It is an advantage to be studying another science, in particular chemistry. Other complementary subjects are mathematics, physics, geography, psychology and physical education.
Where could it lead?
Biology is one of the top facilitator subjects required to enter good courses at the top universities across a range of subject areas. A level biology and beyond can take you in almost any direction and to anywhere in the world – potential scientific career areas include medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, science journalism, pharmacy, conservation, research science, the food industry, forensics, sports science, zoology, marine biology and nursing among many others.
Further important information
The Edexcel Salters-Nuffield course uses a context in each topic to explore the different biological principles, linking them together for a bigger picture of biology as a subject. The course is firmly based around practical work (which will contribute to the science practical endorsement) including laboratory-based experiments and field work. There is also increased mathematical content in the new syllabus for which extra support will be offered. A minimum of five hours per week of work outside the classroom is necessary. Prep will be set weekly but it is the expectation that students complete further independent learning to consolidate their understanding – they should read, study and revise on their own using class notes, textbooks and the SNAB online website for the course. They are also expected to seek help from staff with any issues.