A-Level Biology

The Study Of Living Organisms

Exam Board and Specification Codes: OCR A H020 and H42

Why Study Biology?

The A-Level Biology course allows students to explore how the body works in depth and discover the secrets which enable humans to survive. It also explores other organisms such as fish, bacteria and insects in detail. Fascinating parts of the course allow students to discover the clever and intricate functions the body undertakes for key processes such as DNA replication, the cardiac cycle and respiration. There is also plenty of scope for practicals, one of the most enthralling being heart dissection, which never fails to impress. The A-Level course in particular involves learning about new research and technology that chimes with advances in scientific research, such as cloning and genetic engineering.

What is Covered by the Course?


The AS-Level course builds on the areas of Biology covered at GCSE and enables students to think about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ rather than just the ‘what’. It also explores new and deeper aspects which are a step up from GCSE but more fascinating for this reason. There are four modules assessed in the course and these include Development of Practical skills in Biology, such as how to evaluate experiments and analyse data mathematically, Foundations in Biology which includes studying the components of living organisms such as their cells and biological molecules, Exchange and Transport in different living organisms, and Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease which enables students to learn about immunity as well as different environments around the world.


A-Level builds on what was taught at AS-Level and explores more aspects of it in greater depth, as well as new areas which are not covered in the AS-Level course. It has three modules: Communication, Homeostasis and Energy which mainly includes the study of nerves and hormones in living organisms; Energy for Biological Molecules which includes the study of photosynthesis and respiration in depth; and Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems which explores areas such as inheritance, genetic engineering and population sustainability. The detailed course elements enable students to explore Biology to a high level and provide a smooth transition to university for those considering pursuing a Biology-related course.

How is it Examined?

AS-Level course – 2 written papers (Breadth in Biology and Depth in Biology).

  • Breadth in Biology comprises multiple-choice questions followed by short and long-answer questions on various areas of the course
  • The Depth in Biology paper examines students’ knowledge and understanding of different areas covered in the course and is more similar to past papers from before the specification changed

A-Level course – 3 written papers (Biological Processes, Biological Diversity and Unified Biology) and 12 assessed practicals.

  • Multiple-choice questions followed by short and long-answer questions
  • 1 written paper is a synoptic examination of the entire AS- and A-Level course

Related University Courses and Careers?

A-Level Biology sets students in good stead for studying various biology-related courses at university, enabling them to pursue a medical career or enter the world of scientific research. Examples of such courses are Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological Engineering, Biotechnology, Pharmacology and Sports Sciences.

Suggested Reading:

A-Level Biology for OCR A (Oxford Publishers) – Fullick, Locke and Bircher