Course specification: OCR A: AS Level H020, A Level H420

Content of AS Level

Module 1 Development of practical skills in Biology

The development of practical skills is a fundamental and integral aspect of the study of this subject. These skills not only enhance learners’ understanding of the subject but also serve as a suitable preparation for the
demands of studying Biology at higher levels.

Practical skills are embedded throughout all sections of this specification. Learners will be required to develop a range of practical skills throughout their course in preparation for the written examinations. The practical skills are assessed in a written examination.

The practical skills developed are those of planning, implementing, analysing and evaluating.

Module 2 Foundations in Biology

This unit covers the study of cellular structure, biological molecules, enzymes, cell division, cell diversity and cellular organisation. It also includes the features and differentiation of stem cells and their potential uses in research and medicine.

Module 3 Exchange and transport

In this unit, students study the structure and function of gas exchange and transport systems in a range of animals and in terrestrial plants.

Module 4 Biodiversity, evolution and disease

Students learn about the biodiversity of organisms; how they are classified and the ways in which biodiversity can be measured. It serves as an introduction to ecology, emphasising practical techniques and an appreciation of the need to maintain biodiversity. Students also gain an understanding of the variety of organisms that are pathogenic and the way in which plants and animals have evolved defences to deal with disease.

The impact of the evolution of pathogens on the treatment of disease is also considered

Content of A Level

The A Level is split into six teaching modules: Modules 1-4, plus modules 5 and 6.

Module 5 Communication, homeostasis and energy

Students explore how organisms respond to changes in their external and internal environment using responses that are controlled and co-ordinated electrically and/ or chemically. Communication is fundamental to homeostasis with the control of temperature, blood sugar and blood water potential being studied as examples. In this module the biochemical pathways of respiration and photosynthesis and the metabolic processes of excretion are also considered.

Module 6 Genetics, evolution and ecosystems

Students study genes and how they control the way cells function. Changes within genes lead to variation and variation produces the raw material for evolution. In this module, some of the practical techniques used to manipulate DNA such as sequencing, amplification and genetic engineering are considered and their therapeutic medical use.

Cloning and the use of microorganisms in biotechnology are also considered. This unit provides an understanding of how ecosystems work and how to manage them for sustainability. It also covers population dynamics and conservation.

Assessment for A Level

  • Paper 1 Biological processes (100 marks, 2 hours and 15 minutes) - 37% of total A Level (assesses content from modules 1, 2, 3, and 5)
  • Paper 2 Biological diversity (100 marks, 2 hours and 15 minutes) – 37% of total A Level (assesses content from modules 1, 2, 4 and 6)
  • Paper 3 Unified Biology (70 marks, 1 hour and 30 minutes) – 26% of total A Level (assesses content from all modules (1 to 6))
  • Practical endorsement in Biology (04) - non exam assessment – requires completion of 12 practicals

Key skills

  • Practical skills
  • An enquiring mind
  • An eye for detail
  • Mathematical skills
  • The ability to manipulate and apply key concepts

Enrichment opportunities

  • Practical experience at Babraham Research Laboratories
  • Links with the University of Cambridge
  • Participate in the Big Biology Day at Hills Road Sixth Form College in October
  • Attend the masterclass series of lectures on feeding the planet at the Sainsbury Laboratory
  • Lectures at Addenbrooke’s Hospital

Higher Education and career prospects

Biology provides support for a wide range of degree courses including Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Natural Sciences, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Neuroscience, Radiology, Dentistry, Nursing, Genetics, Environmental Sciences and related careers.

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