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Biology A Level *Fees payable* at Brentwood School

Course description

What is Biology?

Biology, put simply, is the study of life. The diversity of life on this planet never fails to surprise even the best-travelled observer. Under the microscope, the most innocuous-looking glass slide reveals a world of micro-organisms. The need for informed opinions about the natural world has never been greater.

Turn on the TV any night of the week and you will find a wealth of inspiring documentaries bringing the natural world to your sitting room. We study this amazing world day in, day out; with us, you will learn fascinating facts about it that we so often take for granted.

Biology offers students the academic satisfaction of problem-solving within a real life framework that they find both enjoyable and inspiring.

At Brentwood, we have a hands-on approach to the teaching of Biology. Our facilities are excellent allowing all our students to participate fully in practical techniques. We emphasise investigative skills and fieldwork: we like to teach in context. On their residential field course, the Sixth Formers learn about ecology in the field, rather than in a classroom.

We also seek to ignite students' interest in the natural world and to inspire them to study the subject beyond the classroom, or to a higher level. Our Biology teachers have a broad range of specialist interests: from complex biochemistry, to the psychological basis of human behaviour. We encourage our students and support their interests, wherever they may lead them.

In addition to subject-specific knowledge of biological systems and concepts ranging from Cellular Respiration to Evolution, you will develop a range of practical and technical skills and leant how to use specialist techniques and technical equipment. You will also develop more general skills including:

  • Communication skills - through report writing and presentations
  • Team working skills - through group projects;
  • Organisational skills
  • Ability to confidently handle diverse data and to draw conclusions
  • Problem-solving, project and time management skills
  • Analytical skills. 

The OCR A Level Biology (A). The course is linear (run over 2 years), and examined at the end of the two years. There will be no retakes available.

In the Lower Sixth students will be taught the content of modules 2, 3 and 4. In the Upper Sixth students will be taught modules 5 and 6.

Module 1 will be taught throughout both years of the course.

Content Overview

Content is split into six teaching modules:

  • Module 1- Development of practical skills in biology
  • Module 2- Foundations in biology
  • Module 3 - Exchange and transport
  • Module 4 - Biodiversity, evolution and disease
  • Module 5- Communication, homeostasis and energy
  • Module 6- Genetics, evolution and ecosystems. The first exam paper  will assess content from modules 1, 2 3 and 5. The second exam paper will assess content from modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. The third exam paper will assess content from all modules (1 to 6). 

Course content

Course Specific Objectives

 The course aims to encourage students to:

  • Develop their interest in and enthusiasm for biology, including developing an interest in further study and careers in biology
  • Appreciate how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society
  • Develop and demonstrate a deeper appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of How Science Works
  • Develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of biology and how they relate to each other.

How the course is taught

You will be taught by two teachers in both the L6th and U6th years. There will be a balance between practical work and theory. The theoretical part of the course will cover all the main biological themes begun at GCSE, but will place considerable emphasis on the applications of biology in the modem world, particularly in the areas of genetic manipulation and human health and disease. In addition there will be a considerable emphasis on mathematical statistics throughout the course. The practical work will aim to develop your practical skills and scientific write- ups.


Subject teachers set tasks according to an agreed work programme which helps students to manage their time.

Students studying A-level Biology can expect 4-5 hours of homework a fortnight.

Students are expected to keep up to date; the sequential nature of much of the course will cause intense difficulties for students who allow themselves to fall behind.

Preparatory Work

Students are provided with introductory material to study before embarking on the course. This is handed in at the very first lesson for assessment

Entry requirements

A minimum of an A grade in Biology Triple Science or an AA grade in Double Science Award, a B grade in Mathematics.


  • Biological processes (01) 100 marks 2 hour 15 minutes written paper  37% of total A-Level
  • Biological diversity (02) 100 marks 2 hour 15 minutes written paper 37% of total
  • A-Level
  • Unified biology (03) 70 marks 1 hour 30 minutes written paper 26% of total A-Level
  • Practical endorsement in biology (04) (non-exam assessment)
  • Reported on a separate certificate (does not contribute to final grade) 


External Assessment

You will be assessed by 3 examination papers with the following weighting:

  • Paper 1 Biological processes which comprises a2 hour 15 minutes written paper worth 100 marks and forms 37% of the total A Level.
  • Paper 2 Biological diversity (02) which comprises a 2 hour 15 minutes written paper worth100 marks and forms 37% of the total A-Level.
  • Paper 3: Unified biology (03) which comprises a 1 hour 30 minutes written paper worth 70 marks and forms 26% of total A Level.

Practical endorsement in biology (04* a non-exam assessment.  This is reported on a separate certificate and does not contribute to the final grade. 

Future opportunities

Studying Biology at A Level opens you to a wide range of opportunities in Higher Education. The degree pathways listed below are just some of the choices of our recent A Level Biology students

  • Biology
  • Dentistry
  • Human Biology
  • Marine Biology
  • Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Natural Sciences
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Sports and Exercise Science
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Zoology.

Careers for Biology graduates

 As Biology provides many transferable skills there are a wide range of career opportunities open to graduates in Biology or similar degree disciplines including the more familiar Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Sciences as well as Bioengineering, Environmental Consultancy and Geoengineering.

Over 85% of Biology (or similar degree discipline) graduates find employment or go into further post-graduate study'.  In a survey by the consumer company 'Which?' on graduate starting salaries, Biology related degrees provided five of the top eight including the top three (1. Medicine 2. Dentistry 3. Botany)2.

Further information

you will have the opportunity to go on a field trip to Dale Fort, Pembrokeshire. Not only is Dale Fort the sunniest place in Wales (averaging 1800 hours of sunshine a year) but it provides an opportunity to study marine flora and fauna on superb seashores that provide a stark contrast in diversity and distribution that is near unrivalled in the world. Our Sixth Form students have the opportunity to complete skills and visit some unique ecological sites.

Other smaller field trips run throughout your two years in the Sixth Form.

Below are just some of the trips we have taken in the past 5 years:

  • Trip to Colchester Zoo to study primate behaviour
  • Trip to UCL, London for A-level and IB Biologists
  •  Trip to the Sanger institute, Cambridge to study research on genomics
  • Trip to the Science Festival, to study A Level specific topics. 

Not only do we provide a variety of field trips but we also offer the opportunity for our Sixth Form students to enter the Biological Society's British Biology Olympiad. The British Biology Olympiad challenges and stimulates students with an interest in Biology to expand and extend their talents.

In offering a wider syllabus than A  Level, it allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and to be suitably rewarded and publicly recognised by the award of medals, certificates and other prizes. In addition to encouraging and rewarding pupils in their studies the BBO provides a means of selecting a team to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad. 

Our Sixth Form students have the opportunity to join the student-led Brentwood Biology Society that meets weekly and aims to stretch students beyond the A Level syllabi by such means as student presentations, TED talks and discussions and guest speakers.

In the Michaelmas term, the department celebrates Biology week, whereby the Sixth Form students have the opportunity to do unique dissections and other practical experiments. These range from a whole rat dissection to extracting and displaying your own DNA.

To help our students prepare for the rigours of university we have the Science Study Centre, where our Sixth Form students will find an environment that provides them with subject-specific resources as well as a quiet area for independent study.


  1.  (2014) Prospects
  2.  (2012) Which?

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Brentwood School directly.

Last updated date: 20 December 2016

Key information