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 learn a wide range of subject content that focuses around some key concepts including: cells as units of life, biochemical processes, DNA as a molecule of heredity, natural selection, organisms in their environments and observation and experiments. The CIE course is split over two years with summative assessments at the end of each academic year.
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?
The course has two sets of exams. The first set will be completed at the end of the AS year and consist of a multiple choice paper, a structured paper and a practical skills paper. These papers will count towards 50% of the A level. Then in the second year of study a second set of papers is completed consisting of a structured paper and a practical skills paper. These also count towards 50% of the A level.
The course is structured with optional additional exam sittings of the AS papers in October and June of the A2 year of study. This allows students to improve their grades and boost attainment in the AS papers so potentially allowing them to improve their overall A level grade.
Cambridge International AS & A level Biology course book
By Mary Jones et al
Published by Cambridge University Press
Exam Board and Specification Codes
Head of Department
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