What does it mean to be alive?
How do organisms work?
Biology is the study of life: how living organisms function efficiently and their influence and dependence upon a wider community. Advancements in biological understanding have allowed us to develop technologies that have the potential to improve the quality of life for all. These technologies may be medical such as the diagnostic tools to detect signs of disease or the development of effective treatments. They may be industrial: mass production of medicines or biofuels. They may be agricultural: techniques to increase crop yields to ensure there is enough food for our growing global population. By studying Biology you will develop a broad understanding of the concepts which have led us to where we are now and will develop skills which you will be able to take further as you contribute to the applications of the future.
A-level biology is based on your prior learning at GCSE so you will already have a good understanding of basic biological processes. The aim of the course is to develop both a greater depth of knowledge and the investigative skills. Core topics in year 12 cover biological molecules, cell structure, exchange of substances with the environment and the relationships between organisms in terms of genetic information and variation. Year 13 offers further knowledge on ecosystems and energy transfer in and between organisms, homeostatic mechanisms which allow organisms to respond to their environment, inheritance and evolution and finally applications of genetic technologies in the wider world.
In addition, practical skills form a central part of study. The Practical Endorsement qualification, certified by the exam board in addition to the A-level qualification will demonstrate your competency in practical skills which you have mastered over the two year course.
In preparation for studying A-level biology it is important to have an excellent knowledge, understanding and ability to recall topics from the GCSE course. Strong literacy and numeracy skills are also recommended as these will feature heavily in the examined sections of the course. Having an interest and appreciation of biology in the wider world will help you link individual topics together and visualise the bigger biological picture. You can develop your scientific literacy by watching documentaries and by reading about biological ideas. Maybe you prefer to look at the science pages on the BBC News website or to choose a title which appeals to you from the huge range of popular science books. This background is essential both to anchor and to challenge your understanding – to broaden your view.
As a facilitating subject the biology curriculum provides an excellent foundation for further and higher education in a range of subjects. Biology students will have the opportunity to develop many transferable skills, which are sought after by future employers. These include digital literacy skills, written communication and practical competency. The latter includes skills such as experimental design and the ability to use evidence to draw conclusions logically and concisely. Perhaps most importantly, students will also learn the study skills which will be essential to progress in higher education. In combination with complementing A-levels, Biology offers a platform to study any of the biological sciences at university e.g. Biochemistry, Microbiology, Botany and Zoology, or more applied sciences such as Veterinary Science, Pharmacy, Horticulture, Optometry or Medicine.
In studying Biology you will prepare yourself for a wide choice of careers ranging from research and development, a range of healthcare careers, forensics, intellectual property and patent law and media and journalism amongst them. Biology offers a broad spectrum of study within the subject, allowing you the option to specialise in a variety of subjects in the future. If you are prepared to read widely, ask lots of questions to develop your comprehension and are interested in understanding the living world further then biology will suit you.
"Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction."
– E. O. Wilson