AS/ A Level Biology

AS/A Level Biology

Biology impacts on the daily lives of everyone, whether it is our health and relationships, the food we eat, the environment around us or in sport or other pastimes. Studying Biology at A Level gives an insight into how we are made and function and how organisms interact with each other and their surroundings. Biology is sometimes seen as a 'soft' subject because we recognise how it affects the way we live. However at A level it requires an enquiring mind, one which is open to being surprised and is often more challenging than expected.

A Level Biology requires students to develop independent learning skills, to develop theories and test hypotheses with less reliance on didactic learning. This develops the student's understanding of the scientific method and prepares them for study at university. The latest specification focusses on the relevance and application of biology and includes cutting-edge topics until recently only taught in universities such as how bacteria share antibiotic resistance, and the uses of DNA technology.

At Bramdean students benefit from small class sizes which provide a much more personal tuition tailored to the students. The course involves practical work both in the laboratory and environmental studies. This includes extracting DNA, culturing bacteria, experiments into photosynthesis, ecology of seashores or woodland, and a vocational option of dissection. The new specification includes six required practical procedures in each year, though we try to extend beyond this minimum.

Course structure: Year 1

Biological Molecules - the structure of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and enzymes as well as DNA and RNA.

Cell Ultrastructure - how the electron microscope reveals plant, animal and bacterial cells in minute detail. Understanding how particles move across cell membranes.

Exchanging Materials - how water and nutrients are transported in plants and gases are exchanged by different organisms. The roles of blood and the heart to transport them around the body and the different groups of white cells to defend us.

Genetics - how cells copy their DNA and how genes produce proteins. How mutations and genetic shuffling at reproduction cause variation and the importance of these in maintaining diversity and the development of new species.

Course structure: Year 2

Energy Transfer - how energy from sunlight is used for photosynthesis and then respiration, passed onto consumers and used in cells to make new chemicals with the aid of the cell’s own ‘power units’.

Responding To Conditions - how organisms use the nervous and hormonal systems to respond to the outside world and control their internal environment.

Evolution And Ecosystems - using advanced genetics we study inheritance and understand how organisms mutate and evolve. We study how populations interact and ecosystems maintain a delicate balance.

Gene Expression - how genes are switched on and off in different cells and at different periods in a lifetime and are involved in cancers. We also study modern DNA technology.

Unlikely previous years, assessment is not modular but by end-of-year exams.

The AS exam is a 1 year course for a stand-alone qualification.

The 2 year course A level exams includes the AS content but at a higher level.

Both courses now include a programme of required practicals during the course - six at AS and 12 at A level, most of which were already part of the Biology course at Bramdean.