Course content

We offer the OCR Biology A course. The course has units on Human Biology, which includes homeostasis, the immune system, communicable diseases and the circulatory system, Plant Biology which includes transport in plants and cell structure, Ecology which involves a field trip to look at biodiversity and classification and Biochemistry, and looks at nucleotides, DNA and so on. Whilst the course builds on many of the GCSE topic areas, the demands are far greater, especially in terms of the maths, literacy and diagrammatical skills you are expected to use.

What have students who have taken this course in the past progressed to?

Biology A-Level traditionally leads into the study of Medicine and medical research at university. It overlaps a great deal with biochemistry courses. It also leads into ecology and ecology management at university. After university, fairly obviously, many people work in healthcare, as doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and so on. Others might work for the environment agency, or various conservation charities such as the Wildlife Trust and similar.

How will I learn?

The course has a significant practical element. There are a certain number of experiments and investigations which you are required to undertake, as well as many more which are used to help you understand concepts or develop important skills. There is an expectation that you will do a great deal of work as homework so that lesson time can be devoted to clearing up any problems you have encountered in your private or small group study. When students prepare properly in advance, much of your lesson time can then be spent discussing science instead of doing written work.

How will I be assessed?

Content is split into six teaching modules:

  • Module 1 – Development of practical skills in biology
  • Module 2 – Foundations in biology
  • Module 3 – Exchange and transport
  • Module 4 – Biodiversity, evolution and disease
  • Module 5 – Communication, homeostasis and energy
  • Module 6 – Genetics, evolution and ecosystems

At the end of Year 13, you will have three exams. The first paper assesses content from modules 1, 2, 3 and 5. The second paper assesses content from modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. The final paper assesses content from all modules (1 to 6).

Students gain practical skills throughout the course. These are assessed in the written examinations and in the practical endorsement.

How much time should I be expected to spend on assignments, projects, field trips etc.?

You will be expected to do a great deal of work outside of lesson time. Five hours will not be enough for most people to achieve the grades they want. Realistically, you will need to spend at least 7-8 hours working to complete homework, review key concepts introduced in lessons and prepare for upcoming lessons. This, of course, includes your Directed Study time, where you are advised to work with other members of your Biology group, time after school and time at home.

Which awarding body is the course validation by?

OCR. We offer the OCR Biology A course, not the Biology B course, so be careful if you are researching the course online.

Expected prior knowledge

To be do well on this course, you will need a great deal of prior knowledge from GCSE. You will also need to develop a great number of skills in the field, lab and classroom. You will need to be able to use a wide range of mathematical skills. The most important is statistical analysis, which you will need to quickly improve during the course. You will need to be able to interpret very complicated diagrams, and draw clear diagrams of your own. You will need to be very literate so that you concisely explain concepts using both words and the appropriate symbols and diagrams.

Most important of all, you will need to be interested in the Biology that you will be taught, or you simply will not be able to motivate yourself enough to study hard enough.