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Biology A level at Esher College

Course description

The course is designed to engage and inspire students by showing how an understanding of many contemporary issues requires a grasp of fundamental biological ideas. It will help you appreciate how society makes decisions about biology-related issues and how biology contributes to the success of the economy and society.

You will use your knowledge and understanding to present scientific ideas and arguments, both in writing and orally. You will develop a wide range of laboratory experimental skills including microscope use, microbiology techniques, DNA manipulation, analysis and interpretation of data, and evaluation of methodology and data. You will discuss ethical issues relating to applications of biology in society.

Course content

In the first year, the topics are ‘Lifestyle, health and risk’, ‘Genes and health’, ‘The voice of the genome’ and ‘Biodiversity and natural resources’. Through these topics you will learn about biological molecules, cell structure, DNA, genetics, the circulatory system, heart disease, diet, the use of plants, and biodiversity. There is an emphasis on practical work in the laboratory. You will also spend half your lessons in an IT room as interactive computer-based learning plays an important role in the delivery of the course.

In the second year, the topics are ‘On the wild side’, ‘Immunity, infection and forensics’, ‘Run for your life’ and ‘Grey matter’. Through these topics you will learn about ecology, evolution, diseases such as HIV and TB, muscles, control in plants and mammals, and brain disorders and their treatment. As in the first year, there are many opportunities for discussing ethical issues such as the implications of the Human Genome Project, GM organisms and the use of drugs in sport.

Entry requirements

The minimum entry requirement for study at Esher College is 5 GCSEs at A* - C (or 9 – 4 in Maths and English).  We encourage students to aim significantly higher than this to ensure that study programmes are successfully completed.

To succeed with A Level Biology you need to be good at learning and remembering a large body of scientific theory and knowledge, and at applying it under exam conditions to solve problems you will not have seen before. This is why a minimum of B grades in the relevant GCSEs and a strong track record of exam success in GCSEs are needed.

A level Biology is a strongly theory based course that is assessed by exams and builds directly on GCSE work in Biology, Chemistry and Maths. National evidence suggests it is difficult to succeed unless you have an appropriate base of knowledge and a good track-record of success in exam based courses at GCSE. In addition to the College’s general entry criteria, you will need to achieve a minimum of BB in GCSE Science and Additional Science (or BB in GCSE Biology and Chemistry) together with a grade 4 in GCSE Maths (Higher Level). Applied Science or Additional Applied Science or non-GCSE Science qualifications are not suitable as preparation for A Level study.

If you do not have a grade 4 in either GCSE English Language or Maths and you qualify to follow a study programme at the College, you will be required to retake one or both of these subjects in your first year.  A lack of GCSE English Language at grade 4 will significantly restrict study programme options.


All assessments for A Level will take place at the end of the course. There will be three 2 hour papers. For the third paper students will be required to read a scientific article in advance of the exam and answer questions on this. Questions in this exam will be synoptic, with answers drawing on two or more topics. In all three exam papers, questions involving the use of mathematical skills within Biology will contribute to 10% of the assessment.

Throughout the course you will carry out 18 'core' practicals. There will be questions on these in the exams. In all three exam papers, questions involving the use of mathematical skills within Biology will contribute to 10% of the assessment. 

Future opportunities

Biological Science, Sports Science, Sports Rehabilitation, Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Agriculture.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Esher College directly.

Last updated date: 12 October 2016
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