A Level Biology


Explore key concepts in biology and unlock the mysteries of life itself. Connect different areas of biology, as you develop skills, knowledge and understanding of different scientific methods. Build your problem-solving, mathematical and practical skills through engaging topics, including everything from gas exchange, disease and biodiversity to evolution, excretion, genetics, biotechnology and ecosystems.

Why St Mary’s

Supported and inspired by subject-specialist teachers, you will study in our state-of-the-art laboratories, with access to a Chromebook and a selection of carefully curated resources including workbooks, videos, interactive learning tools, text books and revision guides.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

Enabling your transition from GCSE

Before beginning your A Level studies, you will receive a selection of carefully curated websites, podcasts and books that will support your progress in the first few topics covered in Year 12.

We also welcome younger girls to attend a taster day to experience an A Level biology lesson, and to talk to Year 13 students to hear their experience of the course.

Throughout your course, you will have access to regular lunchtime surgeries, to access any further support you may need. We also support students after school and during free lessons. The teaching department also provides key support materials on Cloudbase including past papers, videos, animations and other interactive learning tools.

Course overview

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

A Level

The A Level is split into six teaching modules: Modules 1-4 (as above), 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.


A Level assessment

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

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STEM at St Mary's

At a glance

Entry requirements

GCSE grades (or equivalent)

  • Subject 1: Biology: 6+ or Science Double Award: 77+
  • Subject 2: Mathematics: 6+
  • Subject 3: English Language: 5 (CEFR B2.2)
You will enjoy this course if you...
  • Like practical experiments
  • Have an enquiring mind
  • Can apply mathematical skills
  • Are a problem-solver
  • Have an eye for detail
  • Can manipulate and apply key concepts

What our teachers say...

“By teaching biology, I continue to learn and broaden my understanding and can share my enjoyment of a subject that is fascinating and ever-developing.

As well as inspiring students to learn how their body functions and to explore plants, animals and microorganisms, we see how vital biology is to shaping policy on climate change, health, biodiversity, conservation and other scientific, social and cultural issues.”

“Despite our very recent appearance on the planet, humanity combines arrogance with increasing material demands, even as we become more numerous. Our toughness is a delusion. Have we the intelligence and discipline to vigilantly guard against our tendency to grow without limit?” Lynn Margulis, Biologist and Evolutionary Theorist

Biology opens our eyes to the social, cultural, political and current scientific issues affecting the earth and organisms living on it – equipping us with the information we need to make well-informed decisions for the future. In the coming decades, biologists hold the key to reducing our carbon footprint, to avoiding further destruction of rainforests and to resolving the pollution of our air and waterways. They will also advance medicine, from using stem cells to create organs for transplantation to discovering new therapies to cure genetic diseases and cancer.

Biology develops a core range of transferrable skills and this course will develop your problem-solving, analytical and practical skills.

Biology students from St Mary's go on to study at leading universities, pursuing a range of different courses, including dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, biomedical science, biochemistry, neuroscience and pharmacy.


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