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Biology

Head of Department: Mr P R Taylor

Why choose Biology at A Level?

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.

What does the Biology course involve?

The subject content is relevant to real world experience and is therefore interesting to learn. It will inspire students, bring the subject alive, and nurture a passion for Biology whilst laying the ground work for further biological courses, medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

Aims:

- develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of the subject

- develop and demonstrate a deep appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods

- develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem solving skills

- develop student interest in and enthusiasm for the subject

- understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.

AS content

  • Biological molecules
  • - Carbohydrates
  • - Protein/Enzymes
  • - Lipids
  • - Nucleic Acids
  • - DNA replication
  • - Water/Inorganic ions
  • Cells
  • - Cell structure
  • - Eukaryotic/prokaryotic cells
  • - Microscopy
  • - Mitosis
  • - Cell membrane transport
  • - Cell recognition/immune system
  • Organisms exchanging substances with their environment
  • - SA:Vol
  • - Gas exchange
  • - Digestion & absorption
  • - Mass transport/circulatory system
  • Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  • - DNA, genes and chromosomes
  • - DNA synthesis
  • - Genetic diversity/ mutation /  meiosis/ adaptation
  • - Species and taxonomy
  • - Biodiversity/communities
  • - Investigating diversity
  • Energy transfers in/between organisms
  • - Photosynthesis
  • - Respiration
  • - Energy and ecosystems
  • - Nutrient cycles
  • Organisms responding to their environment
  • - Survival & response/ receptors/ control of heart rate
  • - Nervous Co-ordination
  • - Skeletal muscle
  • - Homeostasis/ negative feedback/ control blood water and glucose
  • Genetics, populations, evolution & ecosystems
  • - Inheritance
  • - Populations
  • - Evolution leading to speciation
  • - Populations in ecosystems
  • Control of gene expression
  • - Mutations
  • - Gene expression/cancer
  • - Regulation of transcription and translation
  • - Using genome projects
  • - Recombinant DNA technology
  • - Identification/diagnosis of heritable conditions
  • - Genetic fingerprinting

A level content

The qualifications are linear and decoupled. This means that students can only sit AS examinations at the end of the AS course and the A-level examinations at the end of A-level course. Marks obtained from the AS examinations can no longer be carried over to be part of the A-level qualification. The A-level examination covers work from both years of study:

2.2 AS

Assessments

Paper 1

What's assessed

• Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills

Assessed

• written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

• 75 marks

• 50% of AS

Questions

• 65 marks: short answer questions

• 10 marks: comprehension question

Paper 2

What's assessed

• Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills

Assessed

• written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

• 75 marks

• 50% of AS

Questions

• 65 marks: short answer questions

• 10 marks: extended response questions

2.3 A-level Assessments

Paper 1

What's assessed

 Any content from topic 1– 4, including relevant practical skills

Assessed

• written exam: 2 hours

• 91 marks

• 35% of A-level

Questions

• 76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions

• 15 marks: extended response questions

Paper 2

What's assessed

• Any content from topics 5–8, including relevant practical skills

Assessed

• written exam: 2 hours

• 91 marks

• 35% of A-level

Questions

• 76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions

• 15 marks: comprehension Question

Paper 3

What's assessed

• Any content from topics 1–8, including relevant practical skills

Assessed

• written exam: 2 hours

• 78 marks

• 30% of A-level

Questions

• 38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques

• 15 marks: critical analysis of given experimental data

• 25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles

How will I study Biology?

The members of the Biology Department at Queen Elizabeth’s are all very experienced in the teaching of the subject and any one module will involve a pupil being taught by two of these teachers. This allows students to benefit from teachers being able to teach to their own particular specialisms. The notes to be used by the pupils will be already available in printed form thereby saving a great deal of time in class and allowing more time for explanations and diverse activities such as practicals or videos. There will also be a 4 day residential field trip for the ecology techniques and theory aspects; held at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre. The field trip occurs at the end of the Y12.

 

What qualifications do I need to start the Biology course?

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.

With what other subjects does Biology fit?

The best subject to fit with Biology is undoubtedly Chemistry, partly because of interdependence of certain aspects of Biology (such as Biochemistry) with aspects of Chemistry (principally Organic Chemistry), but also because of the requirements universities have for this subject combination (see below). Physics and Mathematics also have uses with regard to aspects of Biology and there is no doubt that a Maths/Physics background can be exceptionally useful at times for understanding areas of Biology at university and beyond. Geography, too, fits very well with Biology as many parts of the syllabuses are similar. This also applies to Physical Education: not surprisingly it is the areas of Human Physiology and some Biochemistry that are here intertwined such as Ventilation, Respiration and Circulation.

The situation with regard to Medicine is changing rapidly: the traditional situation was that only Chemistry to A Level was an essential requirement, but this is not now necessarily the case at all. Over half of the medical schools now require at least AS Biology whilst retaining the requirement for Chemistry but a growing number now also require A Level Biology with some or no requirement for Chemistry beyond GCSE. The only advice, therefore, for a potential medic to give himself/herself the maximum choice of medical schools is to take both A Level Biology and Chemistry.

Since the advent of AS levels, the situation has changed to a greater or lesser extent for other university courses too, and pupils would be well advised to check in the latest University prospectuses as to what is required for the particular option in which they are interested.

What can I do at University with an A Level in Biology?

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.

How will an A Level in Biology help me in my future life and career?

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.