Biology is studied as a part of a full time A Level study programme.
You’ll develop your understanding of biological systems and concepts, you will also learn a range of practical and technical skills and start to use specialist techniques and technical equipment. Biology also develops more general skills, which are attractive to employers in all sectors, including: communication, organisational skills; but perhaps mostly your ability to confidently handle masses of diverse data and to draw conclusions from it.
Biology is much in demand from a wide range of employers. Biology students follow careers in universities, clinical research organisations; pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; and the NHS.
The first year in Biology places a great emphasis on knowledge and understanding of key biological terms: breathing, cells, circulation, classification, differentiation, digestion, disease, diversity, enzymes, exchange, genetic code, immunity, molecules, pathogens, reproduction, risk factors, transport systems, variation. The second year modules lead to a full A Level in Biology and the emphasis is on application and analysis of the key concepts learnt on the AS course plus concepts of: co-ordination, ecosystems, energy transfer, gene cloning techniques, gene expression, homeostasis, inheritance, mutations, nutrient cycles, photosynthesis, populations, respiration, selection, speciation.
What is Biology about?
Biology is relevant to every aspect of your life. You don't have to be a brilliant mathematician nor do you have to deal in symbols all the time. You don't even have to learn lots of Latin names any more. You do, however, have to consider that Planet Earth just happens to be the right sized lump of semi-molten rock the right distance from the right sort of star. The Sun, that its temperature, is such that most of the water is liquid, and that it is large enough to hold a gas envelope - the atmosphere. All these factors are prerequisites for 'life'. Biologists study the life that exists on Earth from minute viruses to gigantic Blue Whales. Strange as it may seem, all organisms can be investigated under the same headings, namely: How do they reproduce? How do they get from one place to another? How do they obtain their energy? And, finally, how do they avoid becoming an energy source for other organisms?
An understanding of the principles of Biology allows students to appreciate not only how our bodies work and how diseases stop them working, but also the fragility of life on Earth. In addition a Biologist understands the potential benefits and dangers of Genetic Engineering. Once you grasp the full significance of Biology be prepared to look at the world in a new light because some day a Biologist may change it beyond recognition.
Even the world of business is turning to Biology. Apparently, the behaviour of Ant colonies gives a detailed insight into the activities of large global companies. High finance uses Evolutionary models to predict the movement of share prices. Biology-related activities represent the largest concentration of wealth in the world. The whole drug industry is dependent on Biology. Biologists can tell you whether or not bio fuels reduce CO2 emissions.
Who does the subject suit?
To study Biology you must be prepared to ask difficult questions. You have to reject the bland unscientific statements and sound bites that the media throw at you and be prepared to appreciate all around you from a biological standpoint. It has to be said that you will have to learn a lot of detailed facts and apply them in an intelligent manner. If you are inquisitive about the world, you will love Biology.
What might the subject lead onto?
A considerable number of our ex-students are now practising doctors, vets or dentists; others have gone on to study Marine Biology, Biotechnology, Pathology, Toxicology, Pharmacology and forensics. The top universities and employers are looking for a science at A Level as an indication of analytical skills; so other Biology students choose degree subjects such as Economics and Business Studies. As everyone becomes aware of climate change, there is also a growing interest in degree courses on Environmental Sciences. Biology A Level is an essential entry requirement for all these courses. So if you want to save the planet and/or make money Biology is the key to unlocking your academic and professional potential.
Do I need to have studied the GCSE before?
Yes. It is assumed that most students will have done GCSE Biology before attempting A Level. There are exceptions where students have undertaken double science instead of separates. If a student is serious about succeeding in A Level Biology, they need to have attained a grade A in the additional science GCSE.
Are there grades in specific GCSE subjects I should have achieved?
Minimum of B grade in biology. You will need mathematical skills and other science GCSE subjects are a positive indicator of future potential. A good knowledge of Chemistry and some Physics are actively useful in Biology. Equally Geography is useful in ecology and Economics allows for a mutual exchange of ideas on productivity. You will have to write succinct clear answers and understand complex questions so at least a B grade in English GCSE is required.
What skills should I have?
Biology is the ultimate critical thinking subject. Much of your time will be spent challenging accepted beliefs. You will need to both think about and learn a large body of knowledge. In the first year, you can learn the 'thinking' bits i.e. you learn the processes but in the second year, you may have to derive concepts from first principles. Many of the students say that curiosity is one of the most useful attributes in biology and most of them like the way you get to work things out from proper evidence. You will be required to do some serious learning of names, labels and diagrams. An ability to interpret graphs and experimental evidence are essential. Good literary skills are a bonus in the longer questions but are not essential.
What else should I consider before choosing?
Biology is one of the top 'facilitator subjects' required to enter good courses at outstanding universities. Universities are becoming increasingly aware of this they are looking for biology as an indicator of analytical skill. Many students, after studying with us want to continue with biology at university but their choice of courses may then be limited by lack of Chemistry in their A level portfolio. Biology is a prerequisite for most Medicine and Vet science programmes at university and is particularly important in the growing world of biotechnology and pharmacology.
Anything else I should consider?
Biology is a wide-ranging subject, requiring many different skills including the ability to design and run experiments. Some dexterity and moderate drawing skills. It is also very interesting and we like to discuss its application to all aspects of life.
An A Level in Biology is an essential qualification for those students wishing to study degree courses in Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Biology, Biomedicine, Ecology, Genetics, Microbiology, Physiology and Plant Biology. It is also a useful qualification for a variety of courses and jobs e.g. Nursing, Environmental Studies, Food Research, Medical and General Laboratory Work.