Are you excited that the sequencing of the human genome means that we now know the complete arrangement of the three thousand million bases that make up human DNA? Are you concerned that the skies of Southeast Asia are dark with smoke as the last Bornean rainforests are burned to grow oil palms? Are you intrigued by the fact that neuroscience is opening the door to our understanding of the human brain in ways like never before?
If so, like many great scientists before you, you will be captivated by the study of biology at A-level.
Biology involves the study of a wide range of exciting topics, from molecular biology to ecosystems, from microorganisms to mammoths. It gives you the opportunity to gain greater understanding of how the living world works, as well as equipping you with a range of useful skills - teaching you to question, make observations, evaluate evidence and problem-solve.
Who is this course for?
Students wishing to study A-level Biology must have a genuine interest in the natural world, and will typically have a B grade in Science A/Core and Additional Science or a B grade in Biology GCSE. Additionally, a good standard of mathematics and English language are needed (generally grades 5 or above).
Lastly, a passion for facts, a good memory and an inquisitive nature are all needed for success at A-level in Biology.
You will sit three two-hour exams with a variety of questioning techniques, including shorter structured questions, critical analysis of given experimental data and longer essay questions.
We will be studying the following modules: cells, organisms exchange substances with their environment, genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms, energy transfers in and between organisms, organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments, genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems, the control of gene expression.
Students may go on to higher education in art or design based courses and then join the world of advertising as graphic designers, get into prop design for the film industry or become architects, sculptors, web designers, to name just a few. There are countless routes to employment in the creative industries.
Others might study this course due to their enjoyment of the subject and as a way to develop their creative and expressive abilities without the intention of getting a job in the fields of art and design as an adult.
However, if going into higher education as an art or design student, it is common to study a foundation course which gives a broad base of experience in the arts prior to deciding on one of the many courses offered by universities. It also allows you to develop your personal portfolio before applying to art school.
Higher education and career opportunities
Biology is one of the most popular A-level subjects in the country, attracting students studying a wide range of other subjects. Many of these students enjoy the subject so much they eventually choose a biologically related degree course. Others go on to careers in law, computing, accounting or teaching. Whatever field you eventually work in, you will find biology a very rewarding and challenging course which will develop many of the skills essential for a successful career. Biology is a great choice of subject for people who want a career in health and clinical professions, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, physiotherapy, pharmacy, optometry, nursing, zoology, marine biology or forensic science.
Articles and Online
Science is an ever-changing field, and so to ensure you have the contextual knowledge to underpin the course we would encourage you to subscribe to periodicals such as New Scientist, National Geographic and The Lancet, for the latest in scientific research.
Books and Documentaries
The BBC has lots of great documentaries, including Life and Planet Earth
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Paabo recounts Paabo’s efforts to genetically define what makes us different from our Neanderthal cousins.
The Double Helix, by James D Watson tells the story of James Watson and Francis Crick’s thrilling experience of identifying the structure of DNA.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert looks at the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting.