What is covered in the course?
There are 10 modules in this course. AS level students study modules 1–5 and A level students study all modules, outlined below.
Topic 1 Biological molecules
This topic introduces the chemicals of life: the organic and inorganic molecules and ions that are fundamental to the structure and physiology of living organisms. The role of monomers in the synthesis of polymers and how the structure and properties of these relate to their functions are considered.
Topic 2 Cells , Viruses and reproduction
This topic considers the ultrastructure of prokaryotes, eukaryotes and viruses. Details of the types of nuclear division are included and how these are involved in animal and plant reproduction. Microscopy and observational skills are developed through the preparation of stained plant tissue.
Topic 3: Classification and Biodiversity
This topic considers the evidence used in the development of models for the classification of organisms. It also considers the limitations of these models. The topic includes the principles underlying natural selection and how this can lead to speciation.
Topic 4: Exchange and Transport
This topic considers the requirements for transport mechanisms in cells and mass flow systems in organisms. The roles of the components of the mammalian circulatory system and the vascular system in plants are studied. Practical skills are developed through the investigation of factors that affect membrane permeability and water potential of plant tissues.
Topic 5: Energy for Biological Processes
This topic builds on knowledge of carbohydrates and enzymes. It considers the sources of energy in living organisms and how energy transfers take place. Details of the stages in respiration and photosynthesis, the roles of co-enzymes and electrons along with the uses of intermediates are included.
Topic 6: Microbiology and Pathogens
This topic builds on knowledge of prokaryotes, eukaryotes, viruses and transport systems. It considers how some microorganisms act as pathogens. Details of how the human body responds to infection are included.
Topic 7: Modern Genetics
This topic builds on the knowledge of nucleic acids and proteins and how they are involved in gene expression. Knowledge of epigenetics, the use of stem cells and how these are contributing to medical advances are considered.
Topic 8: Origins of Genetic Variation
This topic builds on the knowledge of meiosis and natural selection. It considers the dihybrid inheritance of alleles and genes. The inheritance of unlinked and linked genes is studied.
Topic 9: Control Systems
This topic builds on knowledge of transport mechanisms and considers the processes of chemical and nervous coordination. Details of the role of plant growth substances and hormonal control in mammals are included. Osmoregulation in mammals adapted to dry environments is considered.
Topic 10: Ecosystems
This topic considers the interactions between the organisms and the environment within an ecosystem. It includes details of how biotic and abiotic factors are involved in the development of ecosystems over time. Human influences on ecosystems are also discussed along with the need for conservation.