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Admissions 2020/21

We are currently awaiting further advice from the Department for Education about how appeal deadlines may be affected by the current COVID-19 restrictions on schools. In the meantime, we would encourage anyone who still wishes to appeal to do so. Further advice will be provided to all appellants as soon as it is available. All admission appeal forms should be emailed to Please do not bring them into school.


Subject Leader

Mr G Phillips

Advanced Level



Why study Biology?

Saving threatened species, studying microbes, growing organic plants for food, curing diseases? The 21st Century offers many challenges to biologists. Which ones are you interested in? New knowledge in areas such as genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry, the environment and marine sciences have profound effects on human society and the environment which we inhabit. The world moves quickly and in order to move with it and participate fully people need to be ‘in the know’. Studying A Level Biology at Holcombe Grammar School gives you the skills and opportunities to advance human knowledge and understanding in today’s world, in order to make a difference to tomorrow’s.

How will you be assessed?

(Students will sit 3 papers at the end of Year 13)

Paper 1 (2 hours) a written exam (91 marks) – 35% of the A Level

(76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions; 15 marks: extended response questions)

Paper 2 (2 hours) a written exam (91 marks) – 35% of the A Level

(76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions; 15 marks: comprehension questions)

Paper 3 (2 hours) a written exam (78 marks) – 30% of the A Level

(38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques; 15 marks: critical analysis of experimental data; 25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles)

What will you study?  
Unit 1:

Biological Molecules

All Life on Earth shares a common chemistry providing indirect evidence for evolution. However, despite their great variety, the cells of all living organisms contain only a few groups of carbon-based compounds that interact in similar ways. This unit looks at carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids and water and their role in biological systems.
Unit 2:


All Life on Earth is cellular. This unit looks are the dichotomy in cell structure between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. It also focuses on cell organisation and the control of the movement of materials in and out of cells and its role in cell communication.
Unit 3:

Organisms exchange things with their environments

The internal environment of a cell or organism is different from its external environment. The exchange of substances between the internal and external environments takes place at exchange surfaces. This unit focuses on large organisms, where exchange surfaces are associated with mass transport systems that carry substances between the exchange surfaces and the rest of the body and between parts of the body.
Unit 4:

Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Biological diversity (biodiversity) is reflected in the vast number of species of organisms, in the variation of individual characteristics within a single species and in the variation of cell types within a single multicellular organism. This unit looks at the genetic causes of diversity and the relationship between the genome and the environment and the role of mutations in bringing about variation.
Unit 5:

Energy transfers in and between organisms (A Level only)

Life depends on the continuous transfer of energy from producers (photoautotrophs) to consumers (heterotrophs). This unit looks at the energetics and biochemistry of respiration and photosynthesis as well as energy fluxes in ecosystems.
Unit 6:

Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments (A Level only)

This units looks at the role of nervous, hormonal and growth regulator mediated mechanisms for regulating the internal and external environments of organisms with a clear focus on cell to cell communication.
Unit 7:

Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems (A Level only)

The theory of evolution underpins modern Biology. All new species arise from an existing species. This results in different species sharing a common ancestry, as represented in phylogenetic classification. This unit helps you understand how common ancestry can explain the similarities between all living organisms, such as common chemistry (e.g. all proteins made from the same 20 or so amino acids), physiological pathways (e.g. anaerobic respiration), cell structure, and DNA as the genetic material and a ‘universal’ genetic code.
Unit 8:

The control of gene expression

Cells are able to control their metabolic activities by regulating the transcription and translation of their genome. Although the cells within an organism carry the same genetic code, they translate only part of it. In multicellular organisms, this control of translation enables cells to have specialised functions, forming tissues and organs. This unit studies the many factors that control the expression of genes and, thus, the phenotype of organisms. Some are external, environmental factors, others are internal factors. This will give you an appreciation of common ailments resulting from a breakdown of these control mechanisms and the use of DNA technology in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.


What will Biology offer you in the future?

Whether deciding on a career in psychology, medicine, genetics, forensics, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, biochemistry or journalism, a biological qualification gives you many skills and increases your career options so you can adapt to the world changing around you.