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Why study A Level Biology at Abbey College Birmingham?
Many students see Biology simply as a stepping-stone to a university career, however at Abbey, students have the opportunity to join a department that is passionate about the subject with teachers who encourage interest across all areas of the discipline.
Biology is the ideal subject for anyone who wishes to develop and sustain an interest in the study of living organisms; to recognise the value and responsible use of Biology in society and to appreciate the significance of Biology in personal, social, environmental, economic and technological contexts.
Biology is the study of the evolution, structure and functioning of living organisms and their relationships with one another and with their environment. The course will allow students to develop an essential knowledge and understanding of biological facts, concepts and principles, together with an appreciation of their significance, and the skills needed for their use in new and changing situations.
At AS: Building on the knowledge gained at GCSE, students learn about how diseases are caused, the ways in which certain diseases affect different systems in the body, and how our immune system responds to an infection. They then study DNA and the genetic code, and how this leads to the huge diversity of life on Earth. They learn how cells reproduce, how they are organised for their particular functions, and how different types of cell work together in the exchange of substances between an organism and its environment. To make sense of the diversity in living things, students learn about classification and the modern principles on which relationships between organisms are established - and some of the problems which still occur in this process!
Towards the end of the course, students carry out two practical investigations (ISAs) which are assessed internally, with the better of the two results being counted; the exam contributes 20% of the total marks for the AS qualification (10% of the whole A-level if they carry on to A2). Also, the theme of applying scientific principles in real and everyday contexts runs through the whole course; students will learn to apply their understanding to solving problems relating to actual events.
The specification is delivered in a dynamic and exciting atmosphere where students are encouraged to develop an understanding of scientific method through class practical and extended individual investigations, and the role Biology plays in modern society. Practical work is an important part of the course, and ICT is used extensively and creatively to enhance learning.
At A2: Students who are studying the advanced units will encounter topics and principles in far more depth than the AS course. Key topics include how populations of organisms are affected by their environment, respiration, photosynthesis, ecology including the transfer of energy and essential nutrients from one organism to another, and the ways in which genes are involved in passing characteristics from one generation to the next. Some of the work is done through field studies in local areas, and lab skills will be developed through some more advanced and challenging experiments using sophisticated equipment. ICT features prominently for recording data, running simulations and exploring various concepts in depth.
Nervous coordination, movement and the control of conditions in the human body, how complex proteins can be assembled accurately from simple materials and some modern developments in DNA technology complete the course. There is a greater emphasis on the links between different topics, and this is assessed by synoptic essay in the final exam. As in the AS course, practical skills are assessed by ISAs, contributing 10% of the total A-level score.
Practical Skills Developed
To assess the validity of biological information, experiments, inferences and statements.
To devise and plan experimental and investigative activities, selecting appropriate techniques.
To make observations and measurements with appropriate precision and record these methodically.
To interpret, explain, evaluate and communicate the results of their experimental activities.
Biology as a Qualification
Apart from Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary medicine, subjects that our Biology students have gone on to study include Anatomy, Biomedical science, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Sports science, Zoology - literally an A to Z of careers! In addition, many students who are planning to study an arts subject at university, but who feel that their education would be broadened by the inclusion of a science, find studying Biology an interesting and a rewarding experience.
Teachers: Mark Stock (Head of Department), David Birch, Farzana Pervez.
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