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What will I study in A Level Biology?

The OCR Biology A specification is followed, providing a smooth transition from GCSE. There are six teaching modules and each module is further divided into key topics. Practical activities are embedded throughout the course and contribute to the achievement of the Practical Endorsement as well as enhancing learners’ understanding of biological theory and practical skills.

Module 1

The development of practical skills is a fundamental and integral aspect of the study of any scientific subject. These skills not only enhance learners’ understanding of the subject but also serve as a suitable preparation for the demands of studying biology at a higher level.

This module relates to the practical skills learners are expected to gain throughout the course, which will be assessed in the written examinations and also through the Practical Endorsement

Module 2

All living organisms have similarities in cellular structure, biochemistry and function. An understanding of these similarities is fundamental to the study of the subject. This module gives learners the opportunity to use microscopy to study the cell structure of a variety of organisms. Biologically important molecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, water and nucleic acids are studied with respect to their structure and function. The structure and mode of action of enzymes in catalysing biochemical reactions is studied. Membranes form barriers within, and at the surface of, cells. This module also considers the way in which the structure of membranes relates to the different methods by which molecules enter and leave cells and organelles. The division and subsequent specialisation of cells is studied, together with the potential for the therapeutic use of stem cells. Learners are expected to apply knowledge, understanding and other skills developed in this module to new situations and/or to solve related problems.

Module 3

In this module, learners study the structure and function of gas exchange and transport systems in a range of animals and in terrestrial plants. The significance of surface area to volume ratio in determining the need for ventilation, gas exchange and transport systems in multicellular organisms is emphasised. The examples of terrestrial green plants and a range of animal phyla are used to illustrate the principle. Learners are expected to apply knowledge, understanding and other skills developed in this module to new situations and/or to solve related problems.

Module 4

In this module the learners study the biodiversity of organisms; how they are classified and the ways in which biodiversity can be measured. It serves as an introduction to ecology, emphasising practical techniques and an appreciation of the need to maintain biodiversity. The learners also gain an understanding of the variety of organisms that are pathogenic and the way in which plants and animals have evolved defences to deal with disease. The impact of the evolution of pathogens on the treatment of disease is also considered. The relationships between organisms are studied, considering variation, evolution and phylogeny. Learners are expected to apply knowledge, understanding and other skills developed in this module to new situations and/or to solve related problems.

Module 5

It is important that organisms, both plants and animals are able to respond to stimuli. This is achieved by communication within the body, which may be chemical and/or electrical. Both systems are covered in detail in this module. Communication is also fundamental to homeostasis with control of temperature, blood sugar and blood water potential being studied as examples. In this module, the biochemical pathways of photosynthesis and respiration are considered, with an emphasis on the formation and use of ATP as the source of energy for biochemical processes and synthesis of biological molecules. Learners are expected to apply knowledge, understanding and other skills developed in this module to new situations and/or to solve related problems.

Module 6

This module covers the role of genes in regulating and controlling cell function and development. Heredity and the mechanisms of evolution and speciation are also covered. Some of the practical techniques used to manipulate DNA such as sequencing and amplification are considered and their therapeutic medical use. The use of microorganisms in biotechnology is also covered. Both of these have associated ethical considerations and it is important that learners develop a balanced understanding of such issues. Learners gain an appreciation of the role of microorganisms in recycling materials within the environment and maintaining balance within ecosystems. The need to conserve environmental resources in a sustainable fashion is considered, whilst appreciating the potential conflict arising from the needs of an increasing human population. Learners will also consider the impacts of human activities on the natural environment and biodiversity. Learners are expected to apply knowledge, understanding and other skills developed in this module to new situations and/or to solve related problems.

Where does A Level Biology lead?

A-Level Biology is very useful for degrees like medicine, veterinary science and biomedical sciences. It also shows universities that you have good practical and analytical skills.