A-level Biology

Biology is the study of life and living organisms, and is for those that have a fascination in how living things work.. This ranges from the biochemistry of a single cell to the functioning of whole organ systems, and from the structure and characteristics of unicellular organisms to the complexity of a whole ecosystem.

A-level Biology encompasses all these aspects, as well as the many and varied links between them. It is a subject that develops a wide variety of skills, including numerate and analytical approaches. You will develop your ability to solve problems, as well as discussing and explaining scientific concepts in detail. In addition, it will prepare you for a range of courses in the biological sciences, including Medicine, and the academic rigour of the course, as well as the skills it develops, make it useful preparation for a wide range of further undergraduate disciplines.

Course content L6

  • Cell structure
  • Biological molecules
  • Nucleotides and nucleic acids
  • Enzymes
  • Biological membranes
  • Cell division, cell diversity and cellular organisation
  • Exchange surfaces
  • Transport in animals
  • Transport in plants
  • Communicable diseases
  • Disease prevention and the immune system
  • Biodiversity
  • Classification and evolution

Course content U6

  • Communication and homeostasis
  • Excretion as an example of homeostatic control
  • Neuronal communication
  • Hormonal communication
  • Plant and animal responses
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration
  • Cellular control
  • Patterns of inheritance
  • Manipulating genomes
  • Cloning and biotechnology
  • Ecosystems
  • Populations and sustainability

Examination arrangements

The course is assessed in three written papers sat in Trinity term of Upper Sixth, and a Practical Endorsement that is assessed throughout the course and reported separately from the final A-level grade. The written papers are:

  • Biological Processes: 37% of A-Level; 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Biological Diversity: 37% of A-Level; 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Unified Biology: 26% of A-Level; 1 hour 30 minutes

All papers include synoptic assessment and questions relating to practical skills.

All essential preparation materials, including the ‘Head Start to A-level Biology’ guide will be given to pupils at induction.

Use the summer as a time to extend your knowledge in Biology and find out a bit more about topics that particularly interest you – choose material from either/both lists!

Further Inspiration

Further inspiration – books
Attenborough, David The Zooquest Expeditions
Burnett, Dean The Idiot Brain
Bryson, Bill A Short History of Nearly Everything
Carey, Nessa The Epigenetics Revolution
Colinvaux, Paul Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare
Cox, Bryan The Wonders of Life
Cytowic, Richard The Man Who Tasted Shapes
Dawkins, Richard The Ancestor’s Tale
Edwards, Nick In Stitches
Enders, Giulia Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ
Godfrey-Smith, Peter Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life
Goldacre, Ben Bad Science
Bad Pharma
Haddon, Mark The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Harari, Yuval Noah Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Jones, Steve Y: the descent of man
Lane, Nick Power, Sex and Suicide
Luria, Aleksander The Mind of a Mnemonist
McGowan, Christopher Diatoms to Dinosaurs
Nesse, Randolph Why We Get Sick
Parker, Andrew Seven Deadly Colours
Pross, Addy What is Life: How Chemistry becomes Biology
Ridley, Matt Genome
Roberts, Alice The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being
Ryan, Frank Virolution
Sacks, Oliver The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
Skloot, Rebecca The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Sykes, Brian The Seven Daughters of Eve
Wolpert, Lewis How We Live and Why We Die
Further inspiration – other sources
Podcasts The Life Scientific
Inside Science
More or Less
The Infinite Monkey Cage
Putting Science to Work
Costing the Earth
Recordings TED Talks
Places Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Pitt Rivers Museum
Museum of the History of Science
Oxford Botanic Garden
Harcourt Arboretum
Wytham Woods