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Biology

Biology

Introduction

A-level Biology explores the theories and principles involved in living systems in all their intricate beauty. You will learn about a wide range of topics, including pathogens and infections, cells, conservation and ecosystems, and course will give you a solid grounding in analytical thinking, writing reports and clear communication – all of which are useful life skills. You will undertake lab and field experiments which underpin the theoretical study; they also hone your teamwork and practical skills.

Biology is always seen as a challenging, academic and rigorous A-level that will impress a lot of universities and employers, therefore a qualification in the biological sciences opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities.

The course is designed for students looking at higher education, in particular degree courses which involve a scientific base, and combines particularly well with A-levels in chemistry, mathematics, geography and psychology.

According to government statistics, obtaining a degree in biological sciences gives you a much greater chance of going into employment or further university study than the average. Nearly 85% of biological science graduates go into employment or further study, compared to an average of around 76% for all graduates.

Course Description

We follow the AQA A-level Biology Course (https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/science/as-and-a-level/biology-7401-7402).

This is a 2 year course which encompasses both biological theory and practical skills, and provides the great depth of understanding necessary to continue to higher education, including carrying out dissections, sampling, and investigating living plants and insects.

The course has been designed to develop the following skills:

  • Using apparatus accurately and safely
  • Producing and recording valid and reliable measurements and observations
  • Presenting and analysing data
  • Research skills
  • Identifying and evaluating resources
  • Clarity of oral and written expression using scientific language
  • Discussion and presentation skills
  • Note taking
  • Problem solving

The AQA Biology course covers the following topics:

  • Topic 1 – Biological molecules
  • Topic 2 – Cells
  • Topic 3 – Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  • Topic 4 – Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  • Topic 5 – Energy transfers in and between organisms
  • Topic 6 – Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
  • Topic 7 – Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • Topic 8 – The control of gene expression

How will I be assessed?

The course is assessed through two AS-level exams at the end of Y12 and three A-level exams at the end of Y13:

AS-Level (Y12)

Paper 1 – 75 marks, 90 mins (50%) Paper 2 – 75 marks, 90 mins (50%)
·         Written exam, covering contents from topics 1-4 including relevant practical skills.

·         65 marks: short answer questions

·         10 marks: comprehension question

·         Written exam, covering contents from topics 1-4 including relevant practical skills.

 

·         65 marks: short answer questions

·         10 marks: comprehension question

 

A-Level (Y13)

Paper 1 – 91 marks, 120 mins (35%) Paper 2 – 91 marks, 120 mins (35%) Paper 3 – 78 marks, 120 mins (30%)
·         Written exam, covering contents from topics 1-4 including relevant practical skills.

·         76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions.

·         15 marks: extended response questions.

·         Written exam, covering contents from topics 5-8 including relevant practical skills.

 

·         76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions.

·         15 marks: comprehension question.

·         Written exam, covering contents from topics 1-8, including relevant practical skills.

 

·         38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques.

·         15 marks: critical analysis of given.

·         25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles.

Core practical tasks:

Core Practicals
1. Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the rate of an enzyme-controlled reaction.
2. Preparation of stained squashes of cells from plant root tips; setup and use of an optical microscope to identify the stages of mitosis in these stained squashes and calculation of a mitotic index.
3. Production of a dilution series of a solute to produce a calibration curve with which to identify the water potential of plant tissue.
4. Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the permeability of cell-surface membranes.
5. Dissection of animal or plant gas exchange or mass transport system or of organ within such a system.
6. Use of aseptic techniques to investigate the effect of antimicrobial substances on microbial growth.
7. Use of chromatography to investigate the pigments isolated from leaves of different plants, e.g. leaves from shade-tolerant and shade intolerant plants or leaves of different colours.
8. Investigation into the effect of a named factor on the rate of dehydrogenase activity in extracts of chloroplasts.
9. Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the rate of respiration of cultures of single-celled organisms
10. Investigation into the effect of an environmental variable on the movement of an animal using either a choice chamber or a maze
11. Production of a dilution series of a glucose solution and use of colorimetric techniques to produce a calibration curve with which to identify the concentration of glucose in an unknown ‘urine’ sample
12. Investigation into the effect of a named environmental factor on the distribution of a given species

 

Methods of Delivery

Students will have 5 hours per week in a specialised laboratory, where the key concepts of the course will be taught. During these lessons, students will also complete core practical tasks which will be internally assessed and endorsed by the Academy.

In addition to lessons, students will be required to complete at least three hours a week of independent study during their non-contact periods in their timetable. This is in addition to the weekly two hours of homework set by teachers.

Future Careers

Biology students have access to a wide range of career paths, not limited to scientific endeavours. The teamwork and analytical skills necessary to succeed in science education can open doors to accountancy, journalism, law, economics and many other careers.

Studying biology demonstrates that you can learn difficult concepts and succeed – qualities that all employers look for in their applicants.

Homework expectations

In addition to lesson time students should spend at least 6 hours per week revising, practising questions, doing extra research and working independently outside of lesson time on their topics.

Resources

Key Textbooks

AQA Biology A Level. Student Book A-Level Biology: AQA Year 1 & 2 Complete
ISBN: 9780198351771 ISBN: 9781789080261
The textbooks and revision guides are loaned to the students by the science department. All books are to be returned to the department in good condition at the end of the course.

 

 Useful Links

 

Further Reading

  • Dawkins, R. (1989). The selfish gene. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Goldacre, B. (2008). Bad science. Fourth Estate.