A Level Biology

Recommended Tasks for students applying to study A level Biology in September 2020.

Completing GCSE Science past papers:

When planning to study A level Biology your learning from GCSE Science, and especially Biology, is your foundation to build on for Level 3 study. It is important that you spend time consolidating your understanding of GCSE Science topics before you begin A level Biology in September 2020.

You should invest time in completing a few past papers from the AQA website to remind yourself of your learning from school (http://www.aqa.org.uk/).

For students joining college after completing GCSE Science (Combined Science) Trilogy 8464 and for students joining college after completing separate Science GCSE Biology (8461), Chemistry (8462) and Physics (8463). Remember to complete both Biology and Chemistry past papers during your preparation to return to study.


Keep your past papers in a folder to use at the start of the A level Biology course. I think 3 Biology papers and 1 Chemistry paper would be a good target.


Topics from GCSE Biology to revise for the start of the A level Biology course would include:


Enzyme action, the link below explains how an understanding of enzymes is being used as a solution to how we remove plastic from our environment.



The Mechanisms of diffusion, osmosis and active transport are vital for understanding how substances move into and out of cells. Make sure you can define osmosis and predict how water will move down a concentration gradient if you are given data about concentration of solutions.


Biochemical tests, a good grasp of these is needed for designing investigations during A level study: a revision link is below.



From GCSE Chemistry: an understanding of intermolecular forces/ weak forces between molecules is essential in Biology. For example water moves upwards from roots to leaves because of hydrogen bonds between water molecules. Look at the properties of water using the link below.


TASKS to prepare for the A level Biology course

Topic 1 Biological Molecules
In this first topic you will learn about monomers and polymers. This biochemistry is important because it allows you to understand the structure of vital molecules in cells including DNA, a range of proteins such as antibodies and haemoglobins.


To get ahead you could:


·         Learn to draw the displayed and structural formula of glucose

·         Learn to draw the structural formula of an amino acid

·         Learn to draw the structural formula of a triglyceride


Topic 2 Cells
Topic 2 uses an understanding of biological molecules to look at the structure and function of cells. To get ahead you could:


·         Read about the organelles inside a cell that cannot be viewed using an optical microscope


Required practical 3 uses new learning about osmosis to determine the water potential (water concentration of potatoes tissue)



Maths skills
20% of the score from A level exam papers comes from the direct use of Maths skills to complete calculations.


Biologists have to be able to process data they have collected or be able to understand data displayed by other scientists.


Make sure that you can:

·         Calculate percentage change

·         Use ratios

·         Use standard form

·         Convert between units of length and mass

·         Calculate volumes of shapes such as a sphere

·         Use the equation of a straight line to determine the intercept of the x or y axis

·         Draw a tangent to determine the gradient of a straight line


A good text book for this course is shown below. A digital version of this text book is available to students at the start of their A level Biology course. A paper copy can be a useful supplement to this.

Authors: Glenn Toole, Susan Toole
Publisher: Oxford University Press (including Nelson Thornes)
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-835177-1


A revision guide to accompany this text book is available and can be found for £7-£8 on online websites.


CGP provide a range of books for the AQA A Level Biology course, their books include a ‘head start workbook’. This workbook can be downloaded free of charge to a kindle.




On Twitter you might like to follow:

Dr Helen Scales A marine biologist and writer tweets regularly about life in the ocean, her books and environmental issues. Her tweets often include beautiful underwater photos of fascinating sea life.


Others include suggestions are: @RichardDawkins @ProfRWinston @RoyalSocBio


A good book to read about changes to prevent damage to our planet is:

Mike Berners Lee ‘There is No Planet B’  @MikeBernersLee


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