What is Biology?

The subject entails a detailed study of the mechanics of plant and animal life, both in theoretical and practical terms. It studies the physical and chemical structure, function, development and evolution of living organisms. Topics covered include biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, genetics and ecology. There is also a strong practical element to the course, which aids understanding of the theoretical material and contributes to the final grade. The practical skills assessed are those of planning, carrying out experiments and drawing conclusions. Human Biology covers much of the same material, but with a closer focus on issues such as the causes and control of various diseases in homo sapiens, and the interaction of physiological systems across the lifespan of an individual.

How is it studied?

AQA A-Level Biology is taught within the two-year, five-term and one year A-Level programmes.

Biology is a vast subject area, but the AQA A-Level specification covers the following core topic areas:

  • Biological molecules
  • Cells
  • How organisms exchange substances with their environment
  • Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  • Energy transfer within and between organisms
  • How organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
  • Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • The control of gene expression


How is A-Level Biology assessed?

Exam board: AQA 

Unit Modules Weighting Format
Paper 1 Any content from topics 1– 4, including relevant practical skills 35% / 91 marks Written exam: 2 hours


76 marks: a mixture of short- and long-answer questions


15 marks: extended response questions

Paper 2 Topics 5–8, including relevant practical skills 35% / 91 marks Written exam: 2 hours

76 marks: a mixture of short- and long-answer questions


15 marks: comprehension question

Paper 3 Any content from topics 1–8, including relevant practical skills 30% / 78 marks Written exam: 2 hours


38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques


15 marks: critical analysis of given experimental data


25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles


What do I need to study it?

5 GCSEs grade 5 or above including Maths and English or equivalent international qualifications.

For international students who have taken IELTS, we require an overall score of 5.5 with a minimum of 5.5 for each of the reading and writing components.

For international students who have taken IGCSE English (Second Language), we require grade 5 or above.

A minimum of grade 5 in one of GCSE Biology, GCSE Science or IGCSE Double Science or international equivalent.

What should I study with Biology?

Biology combines well with other science subjects (physics, chemistry and psychology) and mathematics.

Questions about the course

Can I take A-Level Biology in one year?

If you have completed at least AS-Level equivalent studies inside or outside of the UK and can clearly demonstrate high ability in biology and academic English, yes.

What careers is Biology relevant to?

Medicine, dentistry, veterinary medical science, pharmacy, physiotherapy. Engineering also includes biomedical and environmental applications.