As you expect, A Level biology is not vastly different to GCSE biology, usually it just features more detail than you’ve previously covered the content. This means that you spend a lot of time just developing your understanding of things you already covered briefly at GCSE. All exam boards will cover a very similar specification because they’re standardised, so this post should hopefully be applicable regardless of which one you’re studying.
1. Wide range of topics
Like at GCSE, the course covers a range of different topics which at least touch on most areas of biology. This is everything from the individual biological molecules, to cells, organs or even whole ecosystems. The huge range of topics makes it easy to find something you enjoy within the course. A lot of the content also overlaps, such as looking at lipids and later on the cell membrane, so you learn how to link key parts of biology together in a simple way. Most simple concepts like protein structure will come up over and over again throughout the course in various different forms.
The topics specified on the AQA course are:
- Biological molecules
- Substances exchanges with an environment
- Genetic information
- Energy transfers in and between organisms
- Organisms respond to changes in their environments
- Genetics, evolution and ecosystems
- The control of gene expression
This will be pretty similar for all exam boards but check out your own specification for the exact topics you’ll study.
2. Vital experimental skills
The required practical aspect of the course also teaches you vital experimental skills as well. You get the opportunity to use equipment like microscopes and centrifuges (if your school has one that isn’t broken like ours) and you learn how to use them to get results that actually support what you’re learning. The procedures you use may even come up on the exam (depending on your exam board), so learning skills like reading off of a slide graticule are as important as the actual course content itself.
3. Not starting at square one
Like we said, you go over the majority of the things you learn at GCSE, such as exactly why enzymes denature or the exact process of DNA replication. For us this was a huge positive when we started A Levels because you are not starting at square one like in other subjects. We also enjoy this because it’s satisfying to finally completely understand all of the concepts that you just scratch the surface of at GCSE.
A Level biology covers a wide range of content in extreme detail, from things you already know to concepts you may have never even heard of before. You get a good introduction to some of the main areas of biology, meaning that you can see which ones interested you the most and if you want to continue with them after A Levels and into higher education.