Overview

Biology is a tremendously varied and enjoyable subject, enabling students to develop valuable knowledge and skills.

The course is designed to provide a grounding and real-life contextualisation of all aspects of Biology including Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Animal and Plant Physiology, Ecology, Molecular Biology and Genetics.

Students develop their biological knowledge through a variety of means: interactive tasks, independent learning, group work and laboratory practicals. There is no compulsory dissection.

What goes well with this course?

  • Chemistry
  • Maths
  • Psychology
  • Geography
  • Physical Education
  • Health & Social Care

Progression

A Biology qualification can lead to a host of opportunities and not just in the medical field. Biotechnology is a fast expanding area that requires enthusiastic Biologists. Our fragile Earth needs scientists to develop new technologies to ensure we can provide for future generations.

Course Content

The course covers a wide range of topics including:

  • Cellular Biology and Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology and Inheritance
  • Biodiversity, Conservation, Evolution
  • Ecology and Ecosystems
  • Infection and Immunity
  • Muscles and the Nervous System

Students are also expected to take part in a mandatory field trip that typically costs in the region of £160 to £180.

Educational Experiences

Course Specific Trips, Visits & Experiences

Biology A Level students have the opportunity to take part in a variety of course related experiences. In recent years, these have included:

  • A field-trip in the second year to Juniper Hall, Dorking.  This provided students with the opportunity to learn sampling techniques in Woodland, Grassland and Fresh Water Ecology
  • The chance to work as a Nuffield Science placement student
  • Visits to Biology in Action, Biology Live and the New Scientist exhibition in London
  • An Animal Encounter experience at Merrist Wood, Guildford

Activities Programme

In addition to course specific experiences, students also have the opportunity to get involved in the College’s Activities Programme.

Work Experience

All students need to gain an experience of the work place during their time at College and for students studying vocational courses it should ideally be linked to one of their subject areas.

Assessment

Biology A Level is assessed through 100% examinations and follows the Pearson Edexcel Biology A (Salters-Nuffield) specification.

Entry Requirements

All students need to have at least five GCSEs at Grade 4 or above (and a satisfactory school reference) in order to be accepted on an A Level/BTEC Level 3 Programme. 

In addition, students should meet the following minimum combination of GCSE grades:  

  • Grade 6 in Maths (Higher Tier), 5 in English Language and 6 in Biology or 6, 6 in Combined Science

Students will enjoy this course and be successful if they:

  • Have a genuine interest in the living world
  • Work hard and maintain a high level of commitment to their studies
  • Have the confidence to develop into independent learners
  • Enjoy researching new ideas and concepts and remembering them to a high level of detail
  • Have excellent written and verbal communication skills

Students should be numerate, good at written and spoken communication and problem-solving and also capable of retaining and using large quantities of biological information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is A Level Biology hard? Is there a big jump from GCSE?

Yes and Yes!

Although a lot of the content will be familiar from GCSE Biology you will study the concepts in greater detail and be asked to analyse, problem solve and apply your knowledge of the biological content to new scenarios.

New biological concepts will be introduced and you will need to be able to integrate these into your existing knowledge of Biology. Alongside the biological theory, skills in experimental and mathematical work will also need to be developed and extended.

You should be prepared to do a lot of work outside lessons. The content is covered much more quickly at A Level and there is A LOT to learn, memorise and understand.

The most successful students are those who learn very quickly, are very organised and develop a confident independent work ethic.

Those students who are genuinely interested in Biology find it easier to make the adjustment as they find the content fascinating and want to learn more about it.

What’s the difference between A Level Biology and BTEC Applied Human Biology?

In both subjects you will study cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and inheritance, about muscles and the nervous system, along with infection and immunity. In Applied Human Biology you will also learn about infectious organisms and health care initiatives. In A Level Biology 25% of the course involves the study of biodiversity, conservation, evolution and the effect of climate change on ecology and ecosystems.

In Applied Human Biology 58% of your mark will be from 2 exams taken over the 2 years with the opportunity to retake. The rest of the grade will be awarded from coursework. A Level Biology is assessed via 100% examination at the end of 2 years.

How much practical work is involved?

There are 18 core practicals that must be covered over the two years.

These are set by the examination board and are designed to develop key practical skills needed for biological sciences. They form part of the Practical Endorsement Qualification which is awarded alongside the A Level qualification.

Certain aspects of these practicals can be examined within the final written examination. Other practical opportunities are incorporated in the course to further develop experimental skills where appropriate.

Although dissection is a useful and valuable skill for a biologist and forms a part of the Practical Endorsement Qualification, it is not compulsory that this has to be performed on animal tissue.

Are there any trips?

In the Upper Sixth year there is a compulsory three-day field trip to study the practical aspects of woodland, grassland and freshwater ecology. This is an essential component of the Practical Endorsement Qualification.

The trip typically costs in the region of £160 to £180. In previous years, groups of students have attended Biology in Action and Biology Live events, as well as the New Scientist Live exhibition in London. For those students with an interest in Zoology and veterinary care, they have taken part in an Animal Encounter Experience at Merrist Wood.

What do students study alongside A Level Biology?

A large number of our students study Chemistry and Maths as they wish to continue their education along the traditional biological sciences route. Some of our students also study Biology alongside Psychology, Geography and Physical Education. A few study other subjects such as Physics, English, History, Languages, Art and BTEC Health and Social Care.

What have past students gone on to study at university?

Our students go onto study a variety of degrees at university such as Anatomy, Animal Behaviour, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biology and the Biological or Biomedical Sciences, Dentistry, Evolutionary Biology, Forensic Anthropology and Science, Genetics, Immunology, Marine Biology and Oceanography, Microbiology, Medicine, Natural Sciences, Nursing and Midwifery, Paramedic Science, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Physiotherapy, Neuroscience, Speech and Language or Occupational Therapy, Sports and Exercise Science, Veterinary Medicine and Nursing, Virology and Zoology.

Our past students have gone on to study a Biology related degree at many Russell Group and Oxbridge universities.

Example destinations include Aberystwyth, Bangor, Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Imperial, Keele, Leeds, Liverpool, Loughborough, Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Queen Mary, Reading, Royal Agricultural College, Royal Veterinary College, Sheffield, Southampton, St George’s Medical School, Surrey, Sussex, UCL, UEA, Warwick and York.

How to Apply

Applications for entry September 2021

Students from partner schools (Reigate, Warwick, de Stafford and Oakwood) should complete an online application under the guidance of their school.

All other applicants should download and return the 2021 application form.

All applications will be considered according to the College’s Admissions Policy.

Please see the Admissions timetable for information about the College’s enrolment process.

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