A-Level Biology

Biology is a fascinating and ever-changing subject and the 21st century is a particularly exciting time for all those involved in the biological sciences. New developments and technologies are frequently in the news, challenging our understanding of life and our relationship to it. Whether your interest is general or specifically focused on a possible career, Biology A-Level is an excellent, broad-based course, which will enable you to deepen your understanding of a vital area of human endeavour.

In Biology, students follow Edexcel specification A, based on Salters Nuffield A-Level Biology (SNAB). Students wishing to study this subject need to have attained at least a Grade 7 in this subject at GCSE.

The AS Level Course

The following topics will be covered in Year 12:

  • The circulatory system
  • Lifestyle factors and cardiovascular disease
  • Correlation, causation and concept risks to health
  • Structure and function of biological molecules
  • Transport of materials across cell membranes
  • DNA replication and protein synthesis
  • Monohybrid inheritance
  • Cystic fibrosis and gene inheritance
  • Gene therapy: principles and social and ethical issues
  • Development of multicellular organisms
  • Cell structure and cell differentiation
  • Cell division and fertilisation
  • Genotype and environmental influence on phenotype
  • Stem cell research and its implications
  • Taxonomy, biodiversity and natural selection
  • Plant cell structure and transport within plants
  • Traditional and novel uses of plant products
  • Role of zoos and seed banks in the conservation of endangered species

A-Level Biology

The following topics will be studied in Year 13:

  • Photosynthesis
  • Ecosystems, energy transfer and nutrient cycling
  • Evidence for global warming; effects on plants and animals
  • Speciation
  • Analytical techniques in forensics
  • Structure of bacteria and viruses
  • Infectious disease and immunology
  • Hospital practice relating to infection prevention and control
  • Physiological adaptations of animals for exercise
  • Respiration
  • Homeostasis
  • Muscle physiology
  • The nervous system
  • Development of vision and learning
  • Brain structure and function
  • Brain imaging and imbalances in brain chemicals
  • Ethical issues raised by the human genome project and GMOs

Practical skills will be developed and assessed throughout the two years of the course through a series of core practicals. Evidence from all of these core practicals will, in most cases, result in the awarding of “practical competency” at the end of the course.

Assessment of the whole A-Level syllabus at the end of year 13 will involve 3 papers, each 2 hours long, covering material studied throughout years 12 and 13. Practical competency will be awarded at the end of Year 13 based on skills demonstrated in core practicals throughout the course.

Students will confirm whether they will be sitting AS or continuing to A-Level in the first half of Year 12. The AS exams will consist of two papers, each 1 hour 30 mins in length. Half the specification will be assessed in each paper with mathematical and practical skills assessed throughout.


AS Biology is supported by a visit to a conference on Biology in Action at which a number of eminent biologists will speak on their current research.

A-Level Biology is supported by a field trip to Flatford Mill in Suffolk.

Other enrichment activities include:

  • The British Biology Olympiad
  • The Intermediate Biology Olympiad (Year 12)
  • The activities of the Sixth Form Natural Sciences Society which have involved trips to external lectures, Down House, Cambridge University, and visits from past students and outside speakers
  • Medics' Society
  • Research Society

Associated Careers

  • Medicine/Dentistry
  • Vet
  • Research scientist
  • Teacher/lecturer
  • Environmental manager
  • Forensic scientist
  • Science writer
  • Archaeologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Toxicologist
  • Geneticist
  • Environmental health officer