AS/A level specification | OCR H020 and H420

Curriculum Maps and Assessment calendar

During your A level Biology course you will develop an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of a wide range of living organisms, an awareness of their interactions and the intricacies of cellular control. The course will be demanding but highly rewarding as you will be given opportunities to experience cutting edge practical work relevant to medicine, technology and society.

We currently run a popular residential field studies trip at the end of the AS year. We are also able to offer other trips throughout the year and to utilize the skills, experience and technology of professional scientists at the Norwich Research Park and Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital. We also offer opportunities to use cutting edge Biotechnology equipment in year 13 (in conjunction with John Innes Centre, Norwich), so students can carry out genetic experiments that would otherwise not be possible in a school setting.

There are many areas of the syllabus which are relevant for those wishing to study Biology from a human/mammalian perspective. Genetic engineering, genome sequencing and stem cell technology are studied theoretically and practically during the A2 course, providing excellent experience for those wishing to go onto study Biology related courses at university.

Content & Breakdown

Biology A level builds on your GCSE knowledge and quickly progresses to an advanced level of application which requires a significant commitment to homework and a mature approach to study periods. Integral to the course is a wide range of practical work designed to develop understanding and application of key concepts in Biology. You will use a range of laboratory equipment, carry out dissection work and use modelling to understand advanced concepts. Topics cover a wide range of Biology to give a broad and varied experience of the subject. These include Cellular Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Health and Disease, Biochemistry, Genetics, Microbiology, Ecology and Environmental biology.

During the A2 Biology programme you will take part in hands-on, inquiry-based molecular biology practical tasks. You will have the opportunity to explore the steps involved in genetic engineering and transformation and the development of new drugs. You will use research-grade equipment and supplies to provide you with the very best opportunities to study Biology at a higher level once you have completed your Sixth Form studies.


Students completing Biology A-level will now be completely assessed by examination, with coursework/ controlled assessment no longer part of the grading process. This means students will complete three written papers at the end of Year 13 and these will contribute 100% of the final A2 grade.

The examinations will potentially cover all aspects of Biology content covered in both Year 12 and 13, along with practical skills based questions, which used to be present in the controlled assessment tasks. Students will also be required to have a wide range of experience in practical Biology. There will also be an increased mathematical component to exams.

Students must also complete a series of practical tasks throughout the two years. These develop skills which major universities agree are important when potentially studying Biology at A level and beyond. Students will keep a folder of practical work, which will contribute to them achieving a ‘pass’ in the practical endorsement part of the course. However, this does not contribute to the final overall A level grade (as the award is 100% exam based) and is recognised in addition to the grade awarded on the final A level certificate.

Students also have the option of completing an AS Biology award in Year 12 (as in previous years) and this will be assessed by two written exams completed at the end of Year 12. As with the A2 award, there is no longer any controlled assessment so the exams contribute 100% of the final grade awarded. However, the AS no longer contributes to the A2 award and is a separate qualification. Students can then go on and complete the full A2 level qualification in Year 13.

Careers/Further Education

Advanced Level Biology will enable you to enter a wide range of degree courses or career areas.

Forestry, Microbiology, Environmental Studies, Medicine, Physiotherapy, Nursing, Radiography, Pharmacy, Occupational or Speech Therapy, Biochemistry, Marine Biology, Plant Biology, Physiology, Veterinary medicine, Dentistry

For more information contact: Dr B Bestwick