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INSIGHT for parents

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What interests should I have if I want to follow this course?
  • Do you want to learn more about how the human body works or find out how our DNA makes each of us unique?
  • Are you keen to discover more about everyday substances at a molecular level?
  • Do you want to discuss the moral and ethical issues involved in new scientific technology and developments?
  • Do you want to save the planet or an endangered species?
This is the subject for you if you have a genuine interest in the way living organisms work and how they interact with their environment.  The course develops essential biological knowledge and an understanding of key biological concepts.  A level Biology is valued by universities and employers alike, and opens many doors to wide and varied career choices including medicine, dentistry and physiotherapy.
What will I learn about?
Year 1 - Internal Assessments
Module 1 – Development of practical skills in biology
The development of practical skills is a fundamental and integral aspect of the study of any scientific subject. These skills not only enhance learners’ understanding of the subject but also serve as a suitable preparation for the demands of studying Biology at a higher level. 
  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Implementing
  • Evaluation
Module 2 – Foundations in biology
All living organisms have similarities in cellular structure, biochemistry and function. An understanding of these similarities is fundamental to the study of the subject. This module gives learners the opportunity to use microscopy to study the cell structure of a variety of organisms. Biologically important molecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, water and nucleic acids are studied with respect to their structure and function. The structure and mode of action of enzymes in catalysing biochemical reactions is studied. Membranes form barriers within and at the surface of cells. This module also considers the way in which the structure of membranes relates to the different methods by which molecules enter and leave cells and organelles. The division and subsequent specialisation of cells is studied, together with the potential for the therapeutic use of stem cells.
  • Cell structure    
  • Biological molecules
  • Enzymes      
  • Membranes   
  • Cell diversity         
  • Cell division
  • Cellular organisation   
  • Nucleotides and nucleic acids
Module 3 – Exchange and transport
In this module, learners study the structure and function of gas exchange and transport systems in a range of animals and in terrestrial plants
  • Exchange surfaces     
  • Transport in animals 
  • Transport in plants

Module 4 – Biodiversity, evolution and disease

In this module the learners study the biodiversity of organisms; how they are classified and the ways in which biodiversity can be measured. It serves as an introduction to ecology, emphasising practical techniques and an appreciation of the need to maintain biodiversity. The learners also gain an understanding of the variety of organisms that are pathogenic and the way in which plants and animals have evolved defences to deal with disease. The impact of the evolution of pathogens on the treatment of disease is also considered. The relationships between organisms are studied, considering variation, evolution and phylogeny.
  • Communicable diseases, disease prevention and the immune system
  • Biodiversity
  • Classification and evolution
Year 2 - Terminal - External Assessments
Module 5 – Communication, homeostasis and energy
It is important that organisms, both plants and animals are able to respond to stimuli. This is achieved by communication within the body, which may be chemical and/or electrical. Both systems are covered in detail in this module. Communication is also fundamental to homeostasis with control of temperature, blood sugar and blood water potential being studied as examples. In this module, the biochemical pathways of photosynthesis and respiration are considered, with an emphasis on the formation and use of ATP as the source of energy for biochemical processes and synthesis of biological molecules.
  • Communication and homeostasis
  • Excretion as an example of homeostatic control
  • Neuronal communication
  • Hormonal communication
  • Plant and animal responses
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration 

Module 6 – Genetics, evolution and ecosystem

This module covers the role of genes in regulating and controlling cell function and development. Heredity and the mechanisms of evolution and speciation are also covered. Some of the practical techniques used to manipulate DNA such as sequencing and amplification are considered and its therapeutic medical use. The use of microorganisms in biotechnology is also covered. Both of these have associated ethical considerations and it is important that learners develop a balanced understanding of such issues. Learners gain an appreciation of the role of microorganisms in recycling materials within the environment and maintaining balance within ecosystems. The need to conserve environmental resources in a sustainable fashion is considered, whilst appreciating the potential conflict arising from the needs of an increasing human population. Learners also consider the impacts of human activities on the natural environment and biodiversity.

  • Cellular control 
  • Patterns of inheritance
  • Manipulating genomes
  • Cloning and biotechnology
  • Ecosystems
  • Populations and sustainability

How will I be assessed?

Year 1

Paper 1 Breadth in Biology 
This component assesses content from modules 1-4
Section A Multiple choice questions (20 marks)
Section B Structured questions covering theory and practical skills (50 marks) - 1 hour 30 minutes.

Paper 2 Depth in Biology 
This component assesses content from modules 1-4
Structured questions and extended response questions covering theory and practical skills (70 marks) - 1 hour 30 minutes.

Year 2

Paper 1 Biological processes 

This component assesses content from modules 1,2,3 and 5
Section A contains multiple choice questions (15 marks) 
Section B includes short answer question styles (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions (85 marks)
2 hours 15 minutes written paper

Paper 2 Biological diversity 

This component assesses content from modules 1,2,4 and 6
Section A contains multiple choice questions (15 marks) 
Section B includes short answer question styles (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions (85 marks)
2 hours 15 minutes written paper

Paper 3 Unified Biology 

This component assesses content from across all teaching modules 1 to 6. Question styles include short answer (structured questions, problem solving, calculations, practical) and extended response questions

70 marks 1 hour 30 minutes written paper

Practical endorsement in Biology (non-exam assessment)

This non exam assessment component rewards the development of practical competency for Biology and is teacher assessed. Learners complete a minimum of 12 assessed experiments throughout the 2 year course in order to develop core and specific techniques alongside investigate skills. 

What minimum qualifications will I need to start this course?

7 and 6 in Combined Science and 5 in Maths, or 7 and 6 (minimum of 6 in Biology) in Triple Science and 5 in Maths.

What Teaching and Learning methods will be used?

A wide variety of teaching methods will be used, from small group discussions to traditional teacher-led activities. Some parts of the course are taught through supported self-study. We encourage the use of the internet to keep up to date with current developments. You will also learn through practical investigation, including a field study in order to carry out ecological sampling at Cullercoats beach and a workshop at the Centre for Life which allows you to explore Genetic technology.

What can I do when I complete my qualifications?

Biology is a desirable qualification for many of the “caring” professions such as nursing, physiotherapy, and speech therapy. It is also one of the A levels which is acceptable for medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. This is an interesting and stimulating science A level to study and one which is directly relevant to everyday life.

How can I find out more information?

If you have any further questions please contact Mr Hall in the Biology Department.