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Biology A'Level at Newstead Wood School

Course description

AQA Syllabus

Course content

AS and A2

Units 1 – 4 are studied for AS Level, units 1 – 8 are studied for A2 Level.

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

Further information

Methods of Learning: We use a variety of strategies including individual and group research, practical exercises, presentations (written and oral), group and class discussion, instruction, supported selfstudy. Where appropriate, learning will be enhanced by video material, model-making and visits.

Subject-specific Skills and Concepts:

  • Knowledge and understanding of biological principles
  • Application of biological knowledge to novel contexts
  • Practical techniques and technological applications of modern biology
  • Use of biological knowledge to construct hypotheses, design and carry out investigations, evaluate results and analyse data
  • Coherent communication and interpretation of biological information in prose, by means of tables and graphs, diagrams and drawings
  • Mathematical skills, including statistical analyses

Amount of homework time required per week: A minimum of 3 hours is expected but not more than 5 hours.

The course is designed to develop students as independent learners. Specific tasks are set but the expectation is that students will consolidate and expand on their learning from the classroom.

Significant Dates: All written examinations are taken at the end of the courses. The required practicals and endorsement process takes place during the courses. There are tracking sheets to verify attendance and completion of these tasks.

Entry requirements

Students need at least an A grade in GCSE Biology and preferably an A also in GCSE Chemistry (triple award) or at least AA in GCSE Science (double award). Since 10% of the marks at AS and A2 require mathematical skills at higher level GCSE, an A grade in GCSE Mathematics is an advantage.


AS: 2 written examination papers, each 1 hour 30 minutes long. Both include any content from topics 1 – 4, including relevant practical skills.

A2: 3 written examination papers, each 2 hours long, including any content from topics 1 - 8. Two papers are mainly short and long answer questions. The third paper includes, in addition, a focus on practical techniques, critical analysis of given experimental data and one essay from a choice of two.

Practical skills: There are twelve required practicals for A2 and 6 of these are required for AS. In addition to these requirements there are many more practicals included throughout the course to support the specification. There is no coursework, but, there is an endorsement process for the practical element of the course.

Note that although AS topics are also part of the A2 course, the AS qualification is a standalone one. The AS papers include all types of questions that are in the A Level, but at a lower level. Students will be monitored closely in Year 12 and advice will be given regarding the option to sit the AS exam in the summer.

Future opportunities

You could take this course to complement other advanced level courses that may overlap with Biology or to prepare for the A2 part of an Advanced GCE in Biology, which could lead onto higher education in science related subjects or more general higher education courses. With further training, you could go into a job related to Biology such as a Doctor, Nurse, Science Technician or Marine Biologist. You could also go straight into a job as the AS GCE is a recognised qualification that will help you to develop the basic skills, understanding and knowledge that many employers across lots of industries are looking for.

Post A Level Progression: The A2 syllabus forms an excellent basis for higher education courses in biology and related sciences; it is fundamental for medical and medically-related courses. 

Of the students who completed the A2 Biology course in 2016, 23% have progressed to study Medicine, Dentistry, or Veterinary Science, with a further 40% going into Higher Education to read a biology-related subject (Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Genetics, Natural Sciences, Life Sciences, Marine Biology, Neurosciences, Nursing, Pharmacy and Radiology).

Further information

Extracurricular activities to support the students’ A Level studies include evening lectures by the Linnean Society at Burlington House, Piccadilly. Last year students attended ‘Conservation Crossroads’ and ‘Project Coral’. Many 6th form biologists attend a study day on DNA and Genetics in the autumn term. Lectures have covered topics such as how plants are being used to produce medicines, gene therapy for cystic fibrosis, whether athletes are born or made, and, light and body clocks. We also run a series of in-house Biology Lectures on a range of topics and delivered by experts in their field. Last year’s included: Simon Watt (presenter of Dissections Uncut, Channel 4), Antony Michalski on Paediatric Oncology and Nessa Carey on Epigenetics. Some students also attended a talk by Sadaf Faroqi on The Biology of Appetite at the Wellcome Institute which was recorded for broadcast on Radio 4.

How to apply

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

Last updated date: 03 November 2016
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