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A Level Biology

What is Biology?

A Level Biology is the study of life at all levels: from chemical processes inside cells to events in whole ecosystems; from bacteria to blue whales; from genes to GMOs. A quick trawl through internet news sites always reveals Biology in the headlines: new medical treatments, cloning, problems with over-fishing, and arguments about stem cell research, new flu strains, environmental change and species extinction.

What is Biology at Blackwater Academy?

A Level Biology is offered as a two-year course. Learning is through a combination of practical and theory lessons guided by enthusiastic, knowledgeable and creative teachers, linked to current topics and research. Detailed feedback is given on homework and assessment tasks.

Teaching of a new A-level specification begins in September 2015. In the first year of this specification you will study four key areas: “Biological molecules”, “Cells”, “Organisms exchange substances with their environment” and “Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms.” Most students will take the AS exams at the end of their first year, even if they plan on completing the full A-level course.

In your second year you will build on this solid foundation of biological knowledge. The four topics you will study are “Energy transfers in and between organisms”, “Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments”, “Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems” and “The control of gene expression”. Over the course of these two years you will be carrying out twelve practical assessments included in the specification, and other experiments which develop the skills required to succeed in the assessments. Your practical skills will earn you a ‘practical endorsement’ from the exam board and will be tested in the written exams.

The A2 course for 2015-2016 will follow the legacy specification: units are ‘Populations and Environment’ and ‘Control in Cells and Organisms’, which build on many of the topics studied at AS level. We offer the opportunity to take two ISAs based on A2 topics, with the better result contributing to the overall A-level grade.



AS Exams

Paper 1          50%          Written exam (1 hr 30 min)

Paper 2          50%          Written exam (1 hr 30 min)


A-level exams

Paper 1            35%                                 Written exam (2 hr)

Paper 2           35%                                 Written exam (2 hr)

Paper 3           30%                                 Written exam (2 hr)


Legacy specification (for A2 students in 2015)A2 Weighting (AS)Format

Unit 1               17% (34%)                     Written exam

Unit 2              23% (46%)                     Written exam

Unit 3              10% (20%)                      Practical assessment

Unit 4             17%                                  Written exam

Unit 5             23%                                  Written exam

Unit 6            10%                                   Practical assessment

What do I need?

Enthusiasm to learn more about the living world and our place in it and an interest in broader and more detailed studies of Biology than you did for GCSE. It is strongly advised that students have GCSE grade B or equivalent in GCSE Biology or Additional Science, or an equivalent qualification

Good subject combinations

A Level Biology is one of the most popular subjects in the UK and is often combined with Physics, Chemistry, Maths and ICT, It also shares some topics with Geography. However students have also studied Biology with subjects as diverse as Economics, History, English, Sociology and Psychology.

After Blackwater Academy

Students taking A Level Biology often go on to study related degree courses, the obvious ones being Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Optometry and Veterinary Science. Other courses include Marine Biology, Zoology, Physiotherapy, Biomedical Sciences, Agricultural Science, Nursing, Embryology and Biometrics. Other areas where Biology is important are food production, pharmacology, conservation, forestry, health and safety, haematology and sports science. Biologists have followed diverse careers such as law, journalism, accounting, teaching and video game design. The skills learned have applications in many areas where experimentation, analysis, evaluation and synthesis are valued.

A-level entry requirements

To study A Levels, your current or pending exam results should be equivalent to or higher than GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) in at least 5 subjects and a minimum level of English equivalent to IELTS 5.0.
At the start of each academic year of study students following an A-Level course without a pass at grade C in GCSE or IGCSE English Language or with an Academic English score below 6.5 overall must join an Academic English training course for the duration of the academic year which will be timetabled alongside A-Level lessons. If your level of English is not sufficient to meet the entry criteria for the A-Level programme, the Blackwater Pre A-Level course is a specially designed programme of up to 3 years duration leading to completion of your A-Level examinations.



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