By choosing to study A-Level Biology, you will not only develop knowledge of Biology, but you will also understand how the many different subjects of biology relate to each other. You will also develop practical and analytical skills. A-Level Biology has a strong emphasis on ‘How Science Works’ and if you choose to study A-Level Biology you will observe that this theme runs throughout the awards.
A-Level Biology will also allow you to explore the role that Biology plays within society and the economy. You will also be able to appreciate how society makes decisions about scientific issues and consider social and ethical implications in biology.
A specific arrangement of units is required for certification, made up of three AS-Level units and three A2 level units. You will usually study six units and the majority of assessment for A-Level Biology is by exam. There is also a significant amount of practical assessment in the exams.
Over the course, you will undergo at least 360 guided learning hours over a two-year period. These guided learning hours are levels set by the government on how much time the tutor at your sixth form or college has to be present to give guidance (such as lectures, tutorials etc.) towards your award.
The AS-Level Biology award contains three AS units and is available as a standalone award.
- AQA AS-Level Biology
The first unit, Biology and Disease will develop your knowledge of body systems and disease can affect these. The variety of living organisms unit will build on knowledge from the first unit. It also covers genetics, variety of life and classifications. The Investigative and Practical Skills in AS Biology will allow you to carry out a range of experiments to assess your knowledge of the first two AS units.
- Edexcel AS-Level Biology
The Lifestyle, Transport, Genes and Health unit will develop your knowledge of various biological molecules, including, lipids, carbohydrates, DNA, RNA and proteins. You will also explore cell membranes and the role that these play in cellular transport. The unit also covers inheritance, gene mutations and gene therapy. The second unit, Development, Plants and the Environment looks in detail at eukaryotic, prokaryotic and plant cell structure and function. You will also explore natural selection and classifications. Practical Biology and Research Skills includes a research report and practical assessments.
- WJEC AS-Level Biology
Basic Biochemistry and Organisation will allow you to understand biochemistry and structures that are fundamental to the functioning of living organisms. The Biodiversity and Physiology of Body Systems unit will allow you to explore how organisms have adapted through evolutionary processes. You will also explore biodiversity. The AS Practical assessment unit is based on the content of the other two AS units.
- CCEA AS-Level Biology
The unit Molecules and Cells explores molecules, cells, tissues, organs, enzymes and DNA Technology.
The second unit, Organisms and Biodiversity explores transport and exchange in plants and animals, adaptation and biodiversity. The Assessment of Practical Skills in AS Biology unit will allow you to apply your AS knowledge to assessment tasks.
- OCR AS-Level Biology
The first unit, Cells, Exchange and Transport will introduce you to detailed knowledge of the cell, including its structure, membrane, organisation and division. You will also explore exchange and transport in both animals and plants and breathing. In Molecules, Biodiversity, Food and Health you will explore biological molecules in detail, including enzymes and nucleic acids. You will also explore, evolution, biodiversity and food and health. The Practical Skills in Biology 1 will allow you to use your knowledge from the other AS units in the laboratory.
- University of Cambridge International Examinations AS-Level Biology
The AS-Level will allow you to develop an overview of key biological concepts, including cells, their membranes and division, molecules, genetic control, infectious disease, immunity and ecology.
The A2 Biology is the equivalent of the second year of study of A-Level Biology. This is not a separate award. The A2 –Level Biology with the AS-Level Biology makes up the A-Level Biology. The A2-Level Biology will further develop your knowledge from AS-Level Biology.
- AQA A2 Biology
The Populations and Environment unit explores ecology, ecosystems and sustainability of resources. The Control in Cells and Organisms unit explores control mechanisms, such as the nervous system and hormones. You will also explore how these mechanisms can break down and cause disease. The Investigative and Practical Skills in A2 Biology unit allows you to demonstrate your knowledge practically.
- Edexcel A2 Biology
The Natural Environment and Species Survival unit will allow you to develop knowledge of photosynthesis, energy transfer, global warming and nutrient recycling. You will also explore bacterial and viral structures, DNA profiling and immunology. Energy, Exercise and Coordination covers body processes in detail, including circulation, respiration, nervous system and brain structure and development. The unit Practical Biology and investigative skills will explore your practical and reporting skills.
- WJEC A2 Biology
The first A2 unit, Metabolism, Microbiology and Homeostasis will allow you to study energy supply in organisms, basic microbiology, homeostasis, adaptation and the nervous system. The second unit, Environment, Genetics and Evolution offers the opportunity to study variation, evolution, genetics and ecosystems and human impact upon the environment. The final unit, A2 Practical assessment, will allow you to demonstrate your skills of not just your A2 units, but also the AS units.
- OCR A2 Biology
The first unit, Communication, Homeostasis and Energy will allow you to explore homeostasis and communication, including the influence of hormones and nerves on these. You will also explore excretion, photosynthesis and respiration. The second unit, Control, Genomes and Environment will develop your knowledge around cellular control, meiosis and variation. You will also explore gene technologies and biotechnology in plants and animals. You learn how plants and animals respond to their environment, ecosystems and sustainability. The final unit, Practical Skills in Biology 2 is an assessed practical unit.
- CCEA A2 Biology
The Physiology and Ecosystems unit explores coordination and control in animals and plants, homeostasis, immunity and ecosystems. The Biochemistry, Genetics and Evolutionary Trends looks in detail at DNA, genetics and genetic technology, inheritance and taxonomies. It also covers respiration and photosynthesis. Assessment of Investigational and Practical Skills in Biology will allow you to demonstrate your A2 knowledge in a practical investigation.
- University of Cambridge International Examinations A2 Biology
This covers energy and respiration, photosynthesis, regulation and control, inherited change and selection and evolution. You will learn about biodiversity and conservation, gene technology, biotechnology, crop plants and reproduction.
A-Level Biology Exam Board Information
- The AQA A-Level Biology specification is available on the AQA website.
- The specification for the WJEC AS and A-Level Biology is available here.
- The AS-Level and A-Level Biology specification for CCEA is available on their website.
- The AS and A-Level Biology specification for Edexcel is available from their website.
- The specification for the OCR AS and A-Level Biology is available here.
- University of Cambridge International Examinations A-Level Biology specification is available on their website.
Most people choose A-Level Biology so that they can study Biology or Biology-based subjects such as Biochemistry, Microbiology, Genetics, Molecular Biology or Biomedical Sciences at university. A-Level Biology may be a requirement if you want to apply for Medicine, Veterinary Sciences, Physiotherapy or Pharmacy. A-Level Biology may also be required for other health and medical professions, such as Optometry, Dentistry and Nursing.
You may also find A-Level Biology helpful if you are wishing to study subjects such as Zoology, Nutrition, or environment-based subjects such as Ecology. You may also choose to study A-Level Biology so that you can work as a technician in a laboratory or in industry. By studying A-Level Biology, it will also demonstrate that you have a variety of practical and problem-solving skills.
Other Useful Information
- Edexcel past papers and exemplar materials are available on their website.
- AQA past papers for A-Level Biology and a student guide are available on the website.
- Past papers and a student guide are available on the CCEA website.
- OCR past papers are available on their website.
- University of Cambridge International Examinations A-Level Biology question papers are available here.
- BiologyMad.com has a variety of resources aimed at AQA A-Level Biology but any A-Level student should find the site helpful.
- Again, this site focuses on the AQA A-Level Biology but there are useful resources available.
- There are other AS and A2 Biology resources, including videos, available here.