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Exam Board: OCR (Biology A)
Students will complete two years of study and will be assessed on their learning across those two years at the end of Year 13. All content, right from the start of Year 12, will be assessed at this time. In addition to the four modules described above, students complete two further modules that stretch the content to higher levels.
Module 1 – Development of Practical Skills in Biology
The content of this module is taught in the context of the biological content of other modules, because practical skills are developed when learning other topics. This module is designed to develop the skills of planning, implementing practical methods, analysis of results and evaluation. Evaluating methods and interpreting results of practical investigations will feature on exam papers; furthermore, practical skills will be assessed by the teacher throughout the course and students receive a pass/fail practical certificate alongside their grade at the end of the course.
Module 2 – Foundations in Biology
This module presents the basic units from which all living organisms are formed: biological molecules and cells. Students learn the chemistry of biological systems and develop their understanding of cells far beyond GCSE level.
Module 3 – Exchange and Transport
In this module, students learn how animals and plants exchange substances with their environment, both chemicals essential for survival and chemicals that need eliminating as wastes. The module also covers the transport systems of animals and plants, including the fascinating study of the human circulatory system.
Module 4 – Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease
Biodiversity refers to the variety of living organisms on our planet and in specific habitats. Students study the importance of biodiversity and how it can be measured, as well as how the millions of species on Earth have evolved from a common ancestor. In the disease section of the module, students learn how communicable diseases are transmitted and how the human body, and indeed plants, can defend themselves against the pathogens that cause them.
Module 5 – Communications, Homeostasis and Energy
Organisms larger than a single cell must develop systems of communication between different body parts if the system is to be maintained in a steady state. This is the importance of the themes of communication and homeostasis in Biology: both are truly vital for survival. Similarly, systems to produce food using sunlight energy and systems to release the energy stored in foods are essential for life on Earth. Thus students learn the biochemistry of photosynthesis and respiration in this module.
Module 6 – Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems
Students explore the role of genes in producing characteristics in living organisms, and how genes can change, appear or disappear over time, leading to the production of new species and, indeed, extinction of species. This module also delves into the incredible array of genetic manipulation techniques now possible, before moving onto the impact of human beings on ecosystems around the globe.
There are three written papers to assess A Level Biology. ‘Biological Processes’ and ‘Biological Diversity’ are each 2 hours 15 minutes, and each account for 37% of the A Level. The former assess modules 1, 2, 3 and 5. The latter assess content in modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. The third exam is called ‘Unified Biology’, and lasts for 1 hour 30 minutes. This accounts for the remaining 26% of the A Level. The practical skills of students are assessed throughout the course, leading to a separate certificate called ‘Practical Endorsement in Biology’ – this is simply pass/fail depending on skills shown throughout the course.
A Level Biology prepares students for a wide range of courses in Higher Education such as: Agriculture, Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Dentistry, Ecology, Food Technology, Forestry, Medicine, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Sports Science, Veterinary Science and many others. The practical skills, experience of data analysis and the ability to express oneself concisely and accurately are useful attributes and help to prepare a young person for a career in a wide variety of fields.