Biology today is a hugely important subject. Many newspapers and television programmes are passing comment on GM foods, the latest hopes in medicine for cancer, AIDS or asthma sufferers, organ transplantation, cloning, vaccines, the human genome project, the search for life on Mars, why the dinosaurs disappeared, saving a rare species, bringing a mammoth back to life, diet, rain forests, food scares, holes in the ozone layer, feeding the world. The AS and A level Biology course cannot supply answers to all the questions raised. It does, however, provide a background from which to study them, understand present ideas and hopefully reach an informed viewpoint. A Biology student is able to not only make sense of the information portrayed in the media, but is also in a place to shape the future of the world by further study in any of the above areas.
The course involves a study of the main chemicals in the cell, providing an introduction to biochemistry and emphasising how all life on earth follows a similar pattern. The cell itself is studied in detail and then how cells are specialised to form the different organs in animals and plants. Genetics considers the laws governing inheritance and what we know about the structure of the gene, whilst evolution involves some of the great ideas in biology and provides a unifying principle for the subject. There is slightly more emphasis on animals and human health and disease than on the plant kingdom and this seems to reflect the bias shown by many biology students.
Biology can be studied with almost any other A Level subject and may lead on to many different careers in science, business and the arts, since it always serves as a valuable A level. It is hoped that this course will give students an interest for life, as well as an important qualification to prepare them for a rewarding career in the 21st century.
Biology A is split into six modules: Modules 1 to 4 constitute the stand-alone AS Level qualification; Modules 1 to 6, combined with the Practical Endorsement, constitutes the full A Level.
The modules can be summarised as:
Module 1: Development of Practical Skills – this module underpins the whole of the specification, and covers the practical skills that students should develop throughout the course. The practical skills in this module are likely to be assessed within written examinations and (for A Level only) within the Practical Endorsement.
Module 2: Foundations in Biology – covering concepts required throughout the remaining modules.
Module 3 – Exchange and Transport
Module 4 – Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease
Module 5 – Communications, Homeostasis and Energy (A Level only)
Module 6 – Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems (A Level only).
At AS Level:
AS Papers 1 and 2 are 1hr 30 mins and are short, structured questions, extended answer questions and a multiple choice section.
At A Level:
A Level Paper 1: 2 hours 15 mins with short, structured questions, extended answer questions and a multiple choice section.
A Level Paper 2: 2 hours 15 mins with short, structured questions, extended answer questions and a multiple choice section.
A Level Paper 3: 1 hour 30 mins with short, structured questions and extended response.
The entry requirements for AS biology are:
- Double award: one A and one B grade
- Triple science: an A grade in biology and one B grade from either chemistry or physics