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 Edexcel Level 3 Advanced GCE in Biology B (9BI0) course (https://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-a-levels/biology-b-2015.html)

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 Edexcel Biology B course covers the following topics:

  • Topic 1 – Biological molecules
  • Topic 2 – Cells and viruses
  • Topic 3 – Classification
  • Topic 4 – Exchange and transport
  • Topic 5 – Energy for biological processes
  • Topic 6 – Microbiology and pathogens
  • Topic 7 – Modern genetics
  • Topic 8 – Origins of genetic variation
  • Topic 9 – Control systems
  • Topic 10 - Ecosystems

 

How will I be assessed?

The course is assessed through three written papers taken at the end of two years of study:

Paper 1 – 90 marks, 105 mins (30%) Paper 2 – 90 marks, 105 mins (30%) Paper 3 – 120 marks, 150 mins (40%)
Advanced Biochemistry, Microbiology and Genetics Advanced Physiology, Evolution and Ecology General and Practical Principles in Biology
Topic 1 – Biological molecules

Topic 2 – Cells and viruses

Topic 3 – Classification

Topic 4 – Exchange and transport

Topic 5 – Energy for biological processes

Topic 6 – Microbiology and pathogens

Topic 7 – Modern genetics

Topic 1 – Biological molecules

Topic 2 – Cells and viruses

Topic 3 – Classification

Topic 4 – Exchange and transport

Topic 8 – Origins of genetic variation

Topic 9 – Control systems

Topic 10 - Ecosystems

Topics 1-10, including questions about practical techniques and analysis from the core practical tasks.

 

Core practical tasks:

Core Practicals
1: Investigate a factor affecting the initial rate of an enzyme-controlled reaction.
2: Use of the light microscope, including simple stage and eyepiece micrometres and drawing small numbers of cells from a specialised tissue.
3: Make a temporary squash preparation of a root tip to show stages of mitosis in the meristem under the light microscope.
4: Investigate the effect of sucrose concentrations on pollen tube growth.
5: Investigate the effect of temperature on beetroot membrane permeability.
6: Determine the water potential of plant cells.
7: Dissect an insect to show the structure of the gas exchange system.
8: Investigate factors affecting water uptake by plant shoots using a potometer.
9: Investigate factors affecting the rate of respiration using a respirometer.
10: Investigate the effects of different wavelengths of light on the rate of photosynthesis.
11: Investigate the presence of different chloroplast pigments using chromatography.
12: Investigate the rate of growth of bacteria in liquid culture.
13: Isolate individual species from a mixed culture of bacteria using streak plating.
14: Investigate the effect of gibberellin on the production of amylase in germinating cereals using a starch agar assay.
15: Investigate the effect of different sampling methods on estimates of the size of a population.
16: Investigate the effect of one abiotic factor on the distribution or morphology of one species.

 

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.

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.

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.

Key Textbooks

ISBN: 9781447991144 ISBN: 9781447991151 ISBN: 9781292200255 ISBN: 9781447989967 ISBN: 9781447989936
The textbooks, lab book and the revision guides are loaned to all students by the science department. All books are to be returned to the department in good condition at the end of the course. An optional revision workbook is available online for purchase.

 

Useful Links

Seneca Learning – www.senecalearning.com

Khan Academy - https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology

Gojimo Online Quizzes - www.gojimo.com/

BiologyGuide! – https://biologyguide.app/

A-level Biology Revision Notes https://www.physicsandmathstutor.com/biology-revision/a-level-edexcel-b/

 

Further Reading

Dawkins, R. (1989). The selfish gene. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

 

Goldacre, B. (2008). Bad science. Fourth Estate.