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A level

Biology examines how molecules, cells and organs work, how the diversity of life has come about through evolution and how organisms operate in their environment. There is a focus on applications of biology in medicine, industry and the environment. There is a strong emphasis on the human side of the subject; many examples used to understand biological concepts are taken from human biology, and we also consider what humans gain from our knowledge of biology. You will carry out experiments and other practical work to support theoretical studies.

Course Content

Year 1 course content

Lifestyle, transport, genes and health

You will study the heart and circulation and develop your data analysis skills by looking at research into risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. You will study biomolecules, cell transport, genetics and gene therapy as well as developing skills for presenting an argument on ethical issues in Biology. 

Development, plants and the environment

You will investigate how organisms develop from a single fertilised egg to a whole multicellular organism, including DNA, protein synthesis and epigenetics. You will also study biodiversity, classification, plant transport and plant products.

Year 2 course content

The natural environment and species survival

You will study how atoms and energy flow through ecosystems, photosynthesis, evolution, biological forensics, DNA profiling, infectious diseases and the issues surrounding global warming and climate change.

Energy, exercise and co-ordination

Here you will look at respiration, homeostasis, how muscles work, joints and joint repair, the nervous system, brain structure, visual development, hormones and how the Human Genome Project is helping to find new treatments for brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

General and practical applications in Biology

This paper will assess all of Biology A-level with an emphasis on drawing together concepts from different topics. You will be challenged on your conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods. There will also be a pre-released scientific article which will underpin one section of the paper.

All five topics are examined at the end of Year 2.

Practical Endorsement

Biology is a practical subject, and we place a strong emphasis on developing good practical skills. Over the course of the two years, you will complete a large amount of practical work, and eighteen of these experiments will count towards the practical endorsement.

Is it for me?

You will enjoy and benefit from Biology if you are:

  • fascinated by the way that living organisms function and how they have evolved to do this;
  • are equally happy with a theoretical and a practical approach to your studies;
  • are happy working both individually and in small groups on research projects;
  • would like to investigate practical applications of Biology.

Special features

There is a range of trips organised by the department and visits to the college from external speakers. In 2015-16 these included a Biology Masterclass at the Sainsbury’s Laboratory, running a stall at the Biology Big Day, running a stall at the Cambridge Science Festival, taking part in Young Pharmas, and Girlpower, aimed to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects post-A level.





Entry requirements

At least 7 GCSEs at Grade 4 in a range of subjects including English. You need higher tier Mathematics at minimum Grade 6.  Science and Additional Science at higher tier must be at least 6,6, and if you have studied the Sciences separately, you will need a Grade 6 in at least two, including Biology.  Only Science GCSE courses which have a high proportion of external assessment will normally be considered.

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