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Biology AS/A Level ( AQA ) at Allerton High School

Course description

AS Biology is designed to stimulate the enthusiasm of all students who take it. It emphasises the way in which biologists work and the contributions of biology to society in a way that underpins the biological knowledge gained. It builds upon concepts and skills that have been developed in the new GCSE Science specifications, presenting biology as exciting, relevant and challenging.

No-one can predict the future, but this much is known: this century is the time of the biologist, who will be in the forefront of the most challenging problems. These include understanding the mechanisms of life, insights into memory and learning, the ethics of cloning and genetic engineering, and the rules that help predict the future of our environment.

Biology A Level goes into much more detail than you will have covered at GCSE.  It will give you the skills to make connections and associations with all living things around you.  Being such a broad topic, you're bound to find a specific area of interest, plus it opens the door to a fantastic range of interesting careers.

Course content

Unit 1 - Biological Molecules

  • All life on earth shares a common chemistry.  Thes provides indirect evidence for evolution.
  • Despite their great variety, the cells of all living organisms contain only a few groups of carbon based compounds that interact in similar ways.
  • Carbohydrates are commonly used by cells as respiratory substrates.  They also form structural components in plasma membranes and cell walls.
  • Lipids have many uses, including the bilayer of plasma membranes, certain hormones and as respiratory substrates.
  • Proteins form many cell structures.  They are also important as enzymes, chemical messengers and components of the blood.
  • Nucleic acids carry the genetic code for the production of proteins.  The genetic code is common to viruses and to all living organisms, providing evidence for evolution.
  • The most common component of cells is water; hence our search for life elsewhere in the universe involves a search for liquid water.

Unit 2 - Cells

  • All life on earth exists as cells.  These have basic features in common.
  • Differences between cells are due to the addition of extra features.  This provides indirect evidence for evolution.
  • All cells arise from other cells, by binary fission in prokaryotic cells and by mitosis and meiosis in eukaryotic cells.
  • All cells have a cell-surface membrane and, in addition, eukaryotic cells have internal membranes.
  • The basic structure of these plasma membranes is the same and enables control of the passage of substances across exchange surfaces by passive or active transport.
  • Cell-surface membranes contain embedded proteins.  Some of these are involved in cell signalling - communication between cells.  Others act as antigens, allowing recognition of "self" and "foreign" cells by the immune system.  Interactions between different types of cell are involved in disease, recovery from disease and prevention of symptoms occurring at a later date if exposed to the same antigen, or antigen-bearing pathogen.

Unit 3 - Organisms exchange substances with their environment

  • The internal environment of a cell or organism is different from its external environment.  The exchange of substances between the internal and external environments takes place at exchange surfaces.  To truly enter or leave an organism, most substances must cross cell plasma membranes.
  • In large multicellular organisms, the immediate environment of cells is some form of tissue fluid.  Most cells are too far away from exchange surfaces, and from each other, for simple diffiusion alone to maintain the composition of tissue fluid within a suitable metabolic range.  In large organisms, exchange surfaces are associated with mass transport systems that carry substances between the exchange surfaces and the rest of the body and between parts of the body.
  • Mass transport maintains the final diffusion gradients that bring substances to and from the cell membranes of individual cells.   It also helps to maintain the relatively stable environment that is tissue fluid.

Unit 4 - Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

  • Biological diversity - biodiversity - is reflected in the vast number of species of organisms, in the variation of individudal characteristics within a single species and in the variation of cell types within a single multicellular organism.
  • Differences between species reflect genetic differences.  Differences between individuals within a species could be the result of genetic factors, of environmental factors or a combination of both.
  • A gene is a section of DNA located at a particular site on a DNA molecule, called its locus.  The base sequence of each gene carries the genetic code that determines the sequence of amino acids during protein synthesis.  The genetic code is the same in all organisms, providing indirect evidence for evolution.
  • Genetic diversity within a species can be caused by gene mutation, chromosome mutation or random factors associated with meiosis and fertilisation.  This genetic diversity is acted upon by natural selection, resulting in species becoming better adapted to their environment.
  • Variation within a species can be measured using differences in the base sequence of DNA or in the amino acid sequence of proteins.
  • Biodiversity within a community can be measured using species richness and an index of diversity.


Entry requirements

You should have achieved a minimum of 5 9-4 grades or equivalent at GCSE including English and Grade 6 in Maths. 

If studying Combined Science you must have achieved Grade 6/6 in or at least grade 6 in the Biology examinations.

If studying Separate Sciences at GCSE, Grade 6 in Biology is required.  

If you wish to take both Biology and Chemistry A Level then you need 6/7 or better in those separate subjects at GCSE.  If you have completed Combined Science you require at least 7/7.


Assessment at AS Level

AS Level is assessed through 2 papers at the end of Year 12 or Year 13.

Paper 1

90 minutes, 75 marks, 50% of AS level, 65 marks from short answer questions and 10 marks from a comprehension question.

The questions will cover any content from topics 1-4, including relevant practical skills.

Paper 2

90 minutes, 75 marks, 50% of AS Level, 65 marks from short answer questions and 10 marks from extended response questions.

The questions will cover any content from topics 1-4, including relevant practical skills.

Assessment at A Level

A Level is assessed through 3 papers at the end of Year 13

Paper 1

120 minutes, 91 marks, 35% of A Level, 76 marks from a mixture of short and long answer questions and 15 marks fro extended response questions.

The questions will cover any content from topics 1-4, including relevant practical skills.

Paper 2

120 minutes, 91 marks, 35% of A Level, 76 marks from a mixture of short and long answer questions and 15 marks from a comprehension question.

The questions will cover any content from topics 5-8, including relevant practical skills.

Paper 3

120 minutes, 78 marks, 30% of A Level, 38 marks from structured questions including practical techniques and 15 marks for critical analysis of given experimental data, 25 marks for one essay from a choice of 2 titles.

The questions will cover any content from topics 1-8, including relevant practical skills.

Assessment of Practical Skills

A Level grades will be based only on marks from written exams.  However, 15% of the written papers will include assessment of practical skills such as:

  • Independent thinking.
  • Use and application of scientific methods
  • Numeracy and the application of mathematics to practical contexts.
  • Use of instruments and equipment

Practical competency will be assessed independently.

This will be given as a separately recorded grade, assessed by the teacher.  Students who demonstrate the required standard will recieve a "pass" grade.

The competencies will include:-

1   Following written procedures.

2   Applying investigative approaches and methods when using instruments and equipment.

3   Safely using a range of practical equipment and materials.

4   Making and recording observations.

5   Researching, referencing and reporting findings.

Future opportunities

This course will enable you to enrol on a wide variety of Higher Education courses. Many of our students enjoy the subject so much they eventually choose a biologically related degree course, from Medicine to Sports Science and Physiotherapy to Zoology. Others go on to careers in law, computing, accounting or teaching. All Universities and Higher Education establishments recognise this qualification and are happy to consider students who have shown the commitment required to succeed in Biology at Post-16.

Further information

For further information please contact Mrs Matthews at Allerton High School on 0113 2034770.

How to apply

You can apply for this course through UCAS Progress. Add this course to your favourites so you can start making an application.

Last updated date: 26 October 2018
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Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: 2 Years
  • Number of planned places: 25

Contact details

    • Contact name:
    • Mr B Harding
    • Contact telephone number:
    • 0113 2034770