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Syllabus: AQA

1 - Why study Biology?

How can stress, hunger and fear change your genes? What are the chemical reactions of life? What causes animals to evolve, and are we still evolving? How do we target drugs to treat cancer? How do plants communicate with each other, and how do they fight off infections? How do our stem cells know whether to be a brain cell, a muscle cell or a skin cell?

If you love big questions and deep thinking about what life is and how it works, Biology may be for you. GCSE covered ‘what’ happens, but at A-level you will learn how and why.

2 - What will you study?


Unit 1: Biological molecules
Unit 2: Nucleic acids, ATP and water
Unit 3: Cells and organelles
Unit 4: Membranes
Unit 5: Immune systems
Unit 6: Exchange of substances
Unit 7: Mass flow
Unit 8: Protein synthesis
Unit 9: Meiosis
Unit 10: Biodiversity


Unit 11: Respiration
Unit 12: Photosynthesis
Unit 13: Nutrient cycles
Unit 14: Sensing our environment
Unit 15: Nerves and muscles
Unit 16: Homeostasis
Unit 17: Genetics
Unit 18: Population genetics
Unit 19: Succession and evolution
Unit 20: Regulation of genes
Unit 21: DNA technology

3 - How will you be assessed?

Paper 1: Units 1 to 10 (including required practicals) – 2 hours (91 marks)
Paper 2: Units 11 to 21 (including required practicals) – 2 hours (91 marks)
Paper 3: All units (including required practicals) – 2 hours (78 marks*)
*Paper 3 includes a 25-mark synoptic essay

4 - What skills will you develop?

  • Explaining natural phenomena
  • Carrying out repeatable, accurate and valid practical methods
  • Analysing data to draw conclusions
  • Evaluating the strength of scientific evidence and claims
  • Understanding the purpose and methods of statistical testing
  • Applying mathematical models to real world scenarios

5 - What makes a good Biology student?

In order to be great at this course, you must:

  • Love asking good questions, and participate actively and attentively in classroom and peer discussions with gusto.
  • Be curious about understanding life in ever more detail.
  • Be comfortable completing independent study on a weekly basis to cement your knowledge of the course.
  • Be resilient to the challenge of understanding difficult concepts that people have spent their lives earning Nobel Prizes for.
  • Fee confident answering extended questions and essays in depth and with good spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Use independent study time efficiently and be prepared to study for a minimum of 5 hours per week outside of lessons.
  • Be aware of your gaps and weaknesses and tackle these head-on.
  • Carry out practical work independently and safely, understanding why you do each step in the method. Good attendance is essential to pass the CPAC practical requirement. Many universities require a pass for entry requirements.

6 - Where can Biology lead?

  • Academic research
  • Biotechnology and DNA engineering
  • Marine biology
  • Palaeontology
  • Water quality scientist
  • Teacher
  • Pharmacologist
  • Dentistry, Medicine and Veterinary Science
  • Science writer or journalist
  • Genetic counsellor
  • And many other careers

7 - Reading list and preparation

To make the best start to A-level Biology, and prepare for the baseline suitability test of GCSE knowledge, you should revise using Head Start to A-level Biology by CGP (around £5 from Amazon).  

Suggested additional reading:

  • The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
  • The Descent of Man – Steve Jones
  • The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

8 - Stretch and challenge resources

We have prepared booklets for many units that include thousands of high-quality questions, including many deep challenge questions on the course to help you progress to A* and beyond.

Over summer you should focus on the reading list and preparation section which will give you lots of challenge.

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