A LEVEL BIOLOGY

Awarding Body:EduqasCourse Duration:1/2 Years

Course Content

In addition to helping you understand many fascinating aspects of life processes and living things, this course places considerable emphasis on practical experimentation and the interpretation of data. It covers the main human body systems and compares them to a range of other organisms, frequently considering things from an evolutionary perspective. It also explores applied topics such as genetic engineering and the use of stem cells.

In the first term, we study cell structure, as revealed by the electron microscope, and the way in which molecules interact with cell membranes. We experiment with the action of enzymes and explore the structure of the other main biological molecules.

After Christmas, we investigate a range of body systems including, the heart and circulation, lungs and ventilation and the human digestive system. We also look at kidney functioning and nerves.

There are 3 different, 4 week long, options which complete the year, giving you the chance to study further ‘Immunology and Disease’, ‘Human musculoskeletal anatomy’ or ‘Neurobiology and behaviour’. Eduqas is the only exam board that provides options in its course. We ask you to nominate an option when you enrol in September so that you can be put in a class with others of similar interests.

There is also the alternative of enrolling on a one year AS course which has an identical first term content, allowing you to switch between the two at Christmas if you so desire.

The second year of the A level course includes the biochemistry of respiration and photosynthesis, human and plant reproduction and global population issues. We cover the main sampling techniques used in ecology and also look at genetics and microbiology. A variety of applications of biotechnology are included, such as gene therapy and DNA fingerprinting.

Methods of Teaching

The Biology department was graded outstanding (grade 1) by OFSTED at the last inspection and our highly supportive drop-in workshop was cited as an example of good practice.

The course is delivered using a wide range of teaching styles. There is experimental work virtually every week and lessons also include group work, discussions, short talks and poster / powerpoint presentations by students. Key facts and concepts are delivered by written notes, interactive hand outs, videos, practical demonstrations and extensive use of ICT. You will be expected to read from texts and use the college’s intranet/emails.

In addition to timetabled lessons, workshops are provided every day, when teaching staff and student mentors are available to give one to one assistance. A biology research group and an extension group meet weekly for students who are interested in biology beyond the A level curriculum. We often invite experts to give lunchtime talks and seminars. Recent talks have included auditory physiology, bio-engineering and a debate on medical ethics. A highly active student led activity for ‘future medics’ runs weekly.

You may wish to take up optional extra courses that we run in Large Animal Handling and Human Anatomy and Physiology. There is a link to Southampton University for laboratory work at a post-graduate level, which can be associated with an extended project in the U6 year. The college is the hub for Cambridge University’s HE Plus programme, for which we organise evening lectures and practical sessions, again in liaison with Southampton University.

Students are encouraged to enter for the Intermediate and National Biology Olympiad. Students make it through to the national finals most years and 3 have represented the UK internationally. The success of our students in gaining such an impressive number of A* grades (20% in 2017), places in medical school (50 in 2016), Olympiad medals (20 in 2016) and more, is largely due to their enthusiastic uptake of these opportunities.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

The A level is assessed in June of the second year via 3 written 2 hour exams. These are mainly short-answer papers with an essay comprising the last question. The papers contain questions which test students’ knowledge of experimental work and mathematical skills in Biology. Practical work is also monitored during the course and a student’s ability will receive endorsement, although this will not contribute towards the grade.

Financial Implications

We anticipate that you will need to buy a £20 textbook at the start of each year, and an additional photocopying charge will be made to cover the cost of providing booklets of support material (£20 for two years). Some second hand texts will be available from Student Services who also administer a Student Support Fund for those who have difficulty meeting course costs

There are college trips available, run jointly with the Environmental Studies Department and, in recent years, students have visited Belize, Kenya, Madagascar and Guyana.

Where Could It Take Me?

This course can lead to careers in an enormous variety of areas including medicine, dentistry, midwifery, nursing, radiography, physiotherapy, pharmacy and other biomedical and healthcare vocations. It can also provide the foundation for the many purely scientific branches of the biological sciences, such as physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology or more applied fields such as environmental science, food technology, agriculture, ecology, horticulture or forensics. It provides an excellent basis for many sports related degrees and is an essential entry requirement for veterinary medicine or marine biology.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English and one of the following combinations:

  • If you are studying separate sciences you are required to achieve GCSE grades 6, 6 and 5 (any order) in Biology, one other science and Maths
  • If you are studying Combined Science you are required to achieve GCSE grades 6, 6 and 5 (any order) in Combined Science and Maths

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