Gumley House School FCJ

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Biology (A Level)

A Study of Life’s Complexity

Head of Biology:  Mr C Petrakis

The biology course offers students the opportunity to study a wide range of interesting topics, from the intricate details of cell structure and biochemistry to entire ecosystems.  Animals, plants and micro-organisms are all considered in terms of the workings of their cells, evolution, genetics, behaviour; with consideration of how they can be used to benefit humankind through biotechnology.  Current concerns about human impact on the Earth are examined along with the challenges of maintaining bio-diversity and sustainably managing the environment.


  • Entry Criteria for AQA: A Level Study:
    Grade 6 in GCSE Combined (Trilogy) Science
    Grade 5 in GCSE Mathematics
  • A Level SpecificationAQA
  • Curriculum MapBiology (KS3 to 5)
  • Learning JourneyBiology (KS3 to 5)

What will I be studying on the course?

The course is split into eight sections:

  1. Biological molecules
  2. Cells
  3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  4. Genetic Information, variation and relationships between organisms
  5. Energy transfer in and between organisms
  6. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
  7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  8. The control of gene expression

Sections 1 to 4 are studied in the first year, sections 5 to 8 are studied in the second year.

What will i Be doing in lessons?

We will ensure that you cover all the theory required in the syllabus so that you can prepare for your unit tests with confidence.  In addition, you will have lots of opportunities to develop your practical skills.  Lessons will involve a range of activities including individual and group work, practical investigations, presentations and videos.

How will the course be assessed?

The eight sections are examined in three 2 hour written papers at the end of the second year.

Paper 1 - 91 marks total

  • Any content from topics 1, 2, 3 and 4 (including relevant practical skills).
  • A mixture of short and long answer questions (including 15 marks: extended response question).

Paper 2 - 91 marks total

  • Any content from topics 5,6,7 and 8 (including relevant practical skills).
  • A mixture of short and long answer questions (including 15 marks: comprehension question).

Paper 3 - 
78 marks total

  • Any content from topics 1– 8 (including relevant practical skills).
  • Structured questions (including 15 marks: critical analysis of given experimental data, 25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles).

Practical endorsement
Practical competency will be assessed and reported separately and does not contribute to the final grade.  However, knowledge of the twelve core practicals is essential for success in the written exams.  A range of practical work will be carried out to support you studies beyond the core practicals.

Which other subjects go well with Biology?

You can combine a range of subjects with biology.  Those students that tend to be most successful frequently study chemistry and/or maths.  Other complementary subjects include physics, geography, psychology, physical education.

and After the course?

The range of courses and work opportunities involving biology is vast and includes: veterinary science, medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, sport science, psychology, pharmacy, biotechnology, zoology, marine biology, plant and animal science, cosmetics, forestry, agriculture, environmental science and many others.

Even if you decide not to pursue a biology related career, studying it still develops useful and transferable skills for other careers outside of STEM. You’ll develop research, problem solving and analytical skills, alongside teamwork and communication. universities and employers regard all of these very highly.


  • Methodical approaches
  • Clear and logical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Working independently, yet collaborative within a team
  • Originality
  • Self-appraisal techniques


AQA Biology A Level Student Book - ISBN 978-178- 294-3134  

Summer Preparation Work:
This section will be updated in the summer term of each year

 Frequently asked questions about biology

Q:  Do you have to do Chemistry with Biology?
A:  Although it is not an absolute requirement, those students who study Chemistry and are successful in that subject tend to be the students who achieve the higher grades in A level biology. This is because much of the Biology course looks at the structure and chemistry of biological molecules in order to explain cellular and physiological processes. For example, when studying diabetes you would learn about the biochemistry of sugars and fats as well as the molecular interactions of hormones and cell surface receptors. And this is why A Level Biology is significantly different to GCSE. We would not advise choosing Biology just based solely based on it being your "favourite" science at school!

Q:  What are lessons like?
A:  Lessons focus on key concepts and the associated terms and are frequently supported with practicals. Students' are expected to 're-explain' the science both orally and in writing including through practicing  past paper questions. There are also twelve assessed AQA practicals which enable students to achieve a 'practical endorsement' alongside their final A level grade.

Q:  What grades do I need to get on the course?
A:  We would expect you to have at least grade 6  in science (double or triple award) and critically a grade 6 in maths and English language, along with a strong overall profile. The current A levels require a very high level of level of precision when answering questions, which is why sound literacy is key. They are also more applied with 20% of the questions solely based on maths, including statistics.

Q:  What’s the jump like compared to GCSE?
A:  It is a significant jump; there is more content, more maths and a higher level of precision is required.  You may find the pace is somewhat faster too.  However, during the first half term  we will work with you to acquire and develop the study skills you need to maximise success. Accessing higher grades can only be achieved through working consistently over the two years.

Q:  Is there a lot of homework?
A:  Students are expected to consolidate after each lesson, you will usually be 'quick tested' on the previous lesson at the start of the next.  You should expect to spend 4-5 hours per week studying.  Managing your non-contact time effectively is very important in order to make progress. You should also get into the habit of being proactive and ask your teacher for clarification when you need it.

Hear from the Staff and Students


Careers and Labour Market Information

Please see below for careers and labour market information for Biology - use the refresh buttons to find out about different courses and careers, and use the left and right arrows to view more detailed information: