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Biology A Level at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School

Course description

The aim of the course is to develop a scientific curiosity and logical approach to answering problems. It does this via one’s natural interest in how the human body functions and how we fit into the world around us. One learns about everything from the Biochemistry of living things up to the Ecological aspects of how all organisms fit together within the Earth community. As a result of studying Biology to A Level, one learns how to be analytical, critical and logical; one’s scientific interest is partly sated and definitely stimulated. Consequently, Biology makes an interesting and useful addition to any subject combination for any potential career.

Course content

AS UNIT 1: BIOLOGY AND DISEASE

  • How digestive and gas exchange systems may be affected by communicable and non-communicable diseases.
  • How a knowledge of basic biology allows us to understand the symptoms of disease and interpret data relating to risk factors.
  • Written Paper: 1 hour 15mins (33% of AS marks/ 16% A2 marks).
UNIT 2: THE VARIETY OF LIVING ORGANISMS
  • The influence of genetic and environmental factors on intraspecific variation.
  • How the variety of life is reflected in similarities and differences in its biochemical basis and cellular organisation.
  • How size and metabolic rate affect an organism’s requirements and give rise to adaptations.
  • Written paper: 1 hour 45 mins (46% of AS marks/23% of A2 marks).
UNIT 3: PRACTICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE SKILLS
  • Practical work in the contexts of Units 1 and 2.
  • Assessment of implementing skills on practical work as a whole.
  • Internal Assessment: Practical session and written paper (20% of AS marks/10% of A2 marks).
UNIT 4: POPULATIONS AND ENVIRONMENT
  • How living organisms form ecosystems through which energy is transferred and chemical elements cycled.
  • How human activity affects ecological balance in a variety of ways.
  • How genetic variation and isolation may lead to the formation of new species.
  • Written paper: 1 hour 30 minutes (16% of A Level marks).
UNIT 5: CONTROL IN CELLS AND IN ORGANISMS
  • Stimulus and responses- the biology of the nervous and endocrine systems.
  • Homeostasis and the maintenance of a constant internal environment.
  • Genes and genetic expression.
  • Written paper: 2 hours 15 minutes (23% of total A Level marks).
UNIT 6: PRACTICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE SKILLS
  • Practical work in the contexts of Units 4 and 5.
  • Assessment of implementing skills on practical work as a whole.
  • Internal Assessment: Practical session and written paper (10% of A Level marks).

Entry requirements

In addition to the general requirement for five grade Bs, a student will need these to include at least a B in Biology or in both Science and Additional Science at GCSE. Experience, and national data, has taught us that the success rate of a GCSE grade C candidate is low. Anyone planning to study Medicine, Veterinary Science or Law (among others) which require A grades at A Level, will have to have a minimum of an A and preferably an A* in Science subjects at GCSE.

Assessment

There will be two pieces of practical assessment (ISAs), one for AS and one for A2, to be performed under teacher supervision and examination in the laboratory. These assessments follow a very similar style to those already carried out by biology and science students at GCSE. The written work will be examined in semi-modular form allowing the opportunity to re-sit modules if required, but primarily allowing pupils to be examined on less material at a time and thereby decreasing the amount to be remembered on any one occasion: consequently this also requires somewhat less time that needs be devoted to revision.

Pupils presently take four modules, two being examined in Y12 and two in Y13.

Module 1 and Module 2 are both now sat in June of Y12. The AS practical examination will be sat at the end of the Lent term after sufficient practical preparation during the first two terms.

Module 4 and Module 5 are both now sat in June of Y13. Again the A2 practical exam will be sat at the end of the Lent term. Resits for Module 1 and 2 are also sat in June of Y13.

Future opportunities

There is a very wide range of careers available to a person possessing A Level or a degree in a Biology-related subject. Such courses include the pure sciences of Botany, Zoology, Biology, Physiology, Genetics and Biochemistry but also an ever-increasingly long list of applied sciences such as Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Sports Science, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Soil Science, Ecology, Microbiology, Nursing, Brewing, Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Ophthalmology, Horticulture, Food Science, Genetic Engineering and Gene Therapy.

With regard to a career, then as shown above there is a tremendous range of possibilities derived from an A Level in Biology. In all of these, an understanding of related matters outside one’s own (and possibly narrow) professional perspective can bring matters into clearer understanding and help in solving problems caused by restricted viewpoint. It is necessary for Biochemists to have an idea as to the effects of certain chemicals in an Ecological setting and for Physiotherapists to understand the fundamentals of Biology if they are to be successful in their careers.

Even if a pupil does not follow a Biology-related course at university, then there can be few subjects for which the relevance of an A Level in the subject can be more obvious. An understanding of the human body and its functioning (and particularly ‘malfunctioning’), of the place and effect of humans in the global community, knowledge of the requirements and methods of plant growth and reproduction, a basic understanding of genetics and many other parts of the Biology syllabus are of untold usefulness. It is always reassuring to understand what is happening to the body under certain conditions, particularly illness. It helps in diagnosing disorders of oneself or one’s family and hence in obtaining appropriate and speedy medical service.

In conclusion, there are dozens of careers available to a Biologist, many benefits to normal everyday life and the subject itself is interesting, stimulating and challenging. It goes very well with a good number of other subjects and is never misplaced in any combination.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School directly.

Last updated date: 13 July 2015

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