Curriculum – Biology


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Curriculum – Biology

Why study A Level Biology?

Biology is the study of life! Biology is one of the most fascinating courses you can do! It will give you an insight into how the living world around you works. The study of Biology ranges from learning about the vital molecules which are the building blocks of life, to the structures and functions of cells, tissues and organs and what happens when they go wrong then all the way to learning about the positive and negative interactions between organisms and the study of ecosystems. It is also very exciting because there is constantly new research being produced on topics that are covered and thus relate to the course.

AS Level

Topic 1: Biological Molecules: This topic introduces you to the molecular building blocks of life. You will learn about the structure of fundamental molecules include carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and DNA.

Topic 2: Cells: You will learn about the details of the internal structure of cells and how substances move within and between cells. This provides the foundation to understanding how cell division occurs for growth and how cancer occurs when there are mistakes in this process. Furthermore understanding cells will allow you to be introduced to the concepts involved in cell recognition and the immune system.

Topic 3: Exchanges with the Environment: This topic gives you the opportunity to study the structure and function of the lungs and how gas exchange takes place in humans as well as other animals. You will study the structure of the human heart and the details of the circulatory system in animals and also the transport systems in plants.

Topic 4: Genetics, variation and relationships between organisms: In this unit you will learn about how DNA codes for proteins and the process of protein synthesis. You will study the genetics of reproduction and genetic diversity. There will be an introduction to the process of natural selection, in particular in the context of the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Finally, you will learn about the biodiversity that exists on earth, how this can be studied and how organisms are classified.

A Level

Topic 5: Energy transfers in and between organisms: This unit allows you to learn about the fundamental processes of photosynthesis and respiration. It gives you an insight into the incredible complexity of the metabolic processes which take place in living organisms. You will also study the transfer of energy in food chains as well as the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems.

Topic 6: Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments: In this topic you will learn how neurones transmit information around the body and how muscles work. You will study the mechanisms involved in homeostasis including the regulation of heart rate, blood glucose levels and how the kidneys function. Finally you will study how plants and simple organisms can respond to changes in their external environments to maximise their chances of survival.

Topic 7: Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems: This unit provides an insight into how characteristics are inherited, including the way that genes interact with each other, and how natural selection acts on these characteristics, potentially leading to the development of new species. You will also learn how we can study ecosystems and the changes which take place in ecosystems over time.

Topic 8: The control of gene expression This unit focuses on how organisms regulate gene expression. You will learn about stem cell and their uses as well as studying the foundations of epigenetics, which is a very exciting and relatively new field of biology. Within this unit you will also cover the principals of the genetics of cancer. Finally, you will learn about some of the ways we are now using gene technology.

NCS Biology Enrichment

  • Practical work and dissections will be integrated into lessons whenever possible
  • Bringing Biology to Life: a series of talks which will take place at the NCS by Biology Professors and Lecturers (from universities including UCL, Kings College London, Imperial and Oxford University)
  • The Biology Super Curriculum gives you an opportunity to design and carry out your own research project
  • Opportunity to enter national competitions such as the Biology Olympiad, the Physiological Society Competition
  • Opportunity to do practical work that can lead to gaining CREST Awards
  • Field trip to Wildwoods Trust, Kent
  • Trip to ‘Science Day’ at the Institute of Education (where top scientists present cutting edge research)
  • Opportunity to take part in the Clifton Scientific Trust’s Young Scientists Workshop and go on a trip to a University in Japan or to the University of Cambridge to carry out research with Japanese students

 

Further reading

  1. Carey, The Epigenetics Revolution
  2. Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  3. Goldacre, Bad Science
  4. Hope, Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction
  5. Ridley, Genome
  6. Dawkins, Unravelling Animal Behaviour
  7. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
  8. Sompyrac, How the Immune System Works
  9. Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  10. Lovers, Why do Elephants have Big Ears?

 

Recommended Podcasts

 

  • Naked Scientists
  • The Life Scientific

 

Examination Board: AQA
Students taking the AS level Biology will be expected to sit two papers in year 12. Please note that AS results do not contribute to the full A level qualification. Both exams cover the content for Topics 1-4.

 

Students taking the A level Biology will sit three papers at the end of year 13. Each paper is 2 hours long. The first paper covers the AS content. The second paper covers the A level content. The final paper is a synoptic paper with a focus on practical work.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is to be used as guidance only. The course availability and content is subject to change based on demand and time-tabling.

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