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A Level Biology

What is it about at sixth form level?

A cell is a miniature marvel of organisation that has been many millions of years in the evolutionary making. What is more impressive still is that cells can coalesce into even more complex structures: tissues, organs and ultimately organisms. The average human body contains 37 trillion cells, enough if laid out end to end to reach to the moon and back. Yet the whole operation is controlled by a genetic code of four simple letters and it can be quickly brought to a standstill by a rogue fragment of DNA in the form of a virus. The scope of biology is enormous and it is an exciting time to be studying it. Advances in technology mean that we can sequence and manipulate genomes, and use computer modelling to help us understand complex systems. At the same time, there is still so much to discover.

Building on the material you have learned at GCSE, an A level in Biology will explore the living world from its micro- to its macro-levels and explore it across a wide range of organisms, from fungi and plants to invertebrates and mammals. You will look at the relationship between the structure and function of cells and organisms and how order is maintained. You will develop your understanding of the processes of development by being introduced to evolution at the molecular level. You will also examine cutting-edge bio-technologies and the issues surrounding genetic modification and cloning.

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Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Biology is needed to study the subject at university along with Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science and other related degrees such as Physiotherapy and Ophthalmology. It also prepares you for broader natural sciences courses. By studying Biology, you will develop your understanding of science and the scientific method.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You will need a GCSE in Biology at grade 6 or above. You will also need to be numerate and have good writing skills as, out of the three A level sciences, Biology requires you to write the most.

How is the course assessed?

A level

Students studying for the A level will sit three papers on Modules 1-6 at the end of the second year. Paper 1 (Biological Processes) covers Modules 1, 2, 3 and 5. Paper 2 (Biological Diversity) covers Modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. In both papers, at least 15% of the question paper assessment covers knowledge and understanding of practical skills. 10% of the question paper assessment covers mathematical skills. Paper 3 (Unified Biology) covers Modules 1-6 and contains short answer questions and extended response questions. Papers 1 and 2 are a combination of multiple-choice questions and structured questions, are worth 37% of the A level and last 2 hours 15 minutes each. Paper 3 is worth 26% and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. Practical assessments no longer contribute to the final grade at A Level.

However, students must complete a minimum of 12 practical activities to demonstrate practical competence. Performance is reported separately to the A Level grade and will be marked as either pass or fail.


AS Biology A for OCR
By A. Fullick et al
Published by OUP, ISBN 9780198351917

A Level Biology A for OCR
By A. Fullick et al
Published by OUP, ISBN 9780198351924

A Level Biology A for OCR
By Sue Hocking
Published by Pearson, ISBN 9781447990802

Exam Board and Specification Codes

A level: OCR-A H420

Andrew Stockley
Head of Department

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