A Level Biology


What is it about at sixth-form level? 

Biology involves the study of a wide range of exciting topics, ranging from molecular Biology to the study of ecosystems and from microorganisms to mammoths. 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.

Biology is one of the most popular A level subjects in the country, attracting students studying a wide range of other subjects. Many of these students enjoy the subject so much they eventually choose a Biology-related degree course. Others go on to careers in law, computing, accounting or teaching. So, whatever field you will eventually work in, you will find Biology a very rewarding and challenging course.

Lower sixth

Module 1 – Development of practical skills in Biology: Practical skills assessed in a written examination; Practical skills assessed in the practical endorsement. Module 2 – Foundations in Biology: Cell structure; Biological molecules; Nucleotides and nucleic acids; Enzymes; Biological membranes; Cell division, cell diversity and cellular organisation. Module 3 – Exchange and transport: Exchange surfaces; Transport in animals; Transport in plants. Module 4 – Biodiversity, evolution and disease: Communicable diseases, disease prevention and the immune system; Biodiversity; Classification and evolution.

Upper sixth

At upper-sixth level, students are required to build upon the knowledge, understanding and skills gained in the lower sixth with greater depth of study. Students continue to be given close technical instruction and supervision, but they are required to adopt a more independent approach. Encouragement is given to original and experimental ideas.

Why study it and what skills does it develop? 

Biology A level students will develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of the subject and how they relate to each other; develop and demonstrate a deep appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods; develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem solving skills; develop their interest in and enthusiasm for the subject, including developing an interest in further study and careers associated with the subject; understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

 You will need to have obtained 5 GCSEs at A*-C including a C grade at English. You will need to have gained a grade B or above in Biology GCSE, a Double Science GCSE or their equivalent. Students should also have gained a B or better at GCSE Maths.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

Breadth in Biology (AS Component 01) is split into two sections of compulsory questions and assesses content from all teaching modules, 1 to 4. It includes multiple choice, short answer (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions. Depth in Biology (AS Component 02) assesses content from across all teaching modules, 1 to 4 with compulsory questions. Question styles include short answer (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions, including those marked using Level of Response mark schemes. AS Component 01 and AS Component 02 will be sat at the end of the AS year, with each paper contributing 50% towards the stand-alone AS qualification, but will not contribute towards the overall A level.

A level

Biological processes (Component 01) assesses content from teaching modules 1, 2, 3 and 5. Biological diversity (Component 02) assesses content from teaching modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. Both include multiple choice, short answer (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions. Unified Biology (Component 03) assesses content from across all teaching modules 1 to 6. Question styles include short answer and extended response questions. Practical endorsement in Biology (Component 04) is a separately reported non-exam assessment component which rewards the development of practical skills. Students may work in groups but must be able to demonstrate and let teachers record independent evidence of their competency. The activities will take place throughout the lower sixth and upper sixth.


A Level Biology A for OCR Student Book
By A. Fullick, J. Locke, P. Bircher
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0-19-835192-4

A Level Biology A for OCR Year 1 and AS Student Book
By A. Fullick, J. Locke, P. Bircher
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0-19-835191-7

A Level Biology for OCR Year 2 Student Book
By A. Fullick, J. Locke, P. Bircher
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0-19-835764-3


Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR-A H020, A level: OCR-A H420



Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Warwick University (Chemistry)

“I have definitely made the right decision to come to MPW - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at MPW is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Nottingham University (Philosophy)

As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at MPW proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at MPW I can emphatically say that going to MPW was the best decision I ever made. 


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”