Biology is a fascinating subject that allows us to make a real difference to tomorrow’s world by helping us to explore and understand the world we live in today. Our world offers biologists many challenges. Today’s biologists are involved in researching and understanding some of the most controversial advances in human knowledge including the cloning of embryos, designer babies and genetically modified food.
The study of Biology allows pupils to develop a wide-range of transferable skills including:
Data collection, data handling, analytical skills, innovation & creative thinking, critical thinking & drawing conclusions, time management & planning, working accurately and safely both individually and with others, practical and enquiry skills, decision making, communication skills, numeracy and ICT.
As a result of these skills, biologists are versatile and competitive in the job market. Areas where career opportunities exist include: Research, Health Care, Environmental Management and Conservation, Education, Biotechnology, Forensic Science, Business and Industry, Economics, Mathematics, Law, Journalism and Art.
Biology is the study of living organisms. It is concerned with using the latest technologies in studying microbes, classifying organisms and investigating different species and their interactions with each other and the natural environment.
Biologists are also involved in finding solutions to worldwide problems such as:
- global warming;
- the extinction of species;
- AIDS and other epidemic diseases; and
- MRSA and superbugs
- Personalised medicine using genome data
GCSE Biology (Revised)
Exam Board: CCEA (classification code 1010)
GCSE Biology encourages students to develop their curiosity about the living world and provides insight into and experience of how science works. It also inspires, motivates and challenges students, enabling them to engage with biology and apply their skills to real-life contexts in their everyday lives.
It also allows students to develop transferable skills that will benefit them in vocational training and employment. Students learn about cells, living processes, biodiversity, body systems, genetics, microorganisms and health.
Biology is the study of living things, their structure, behaviour and function, and how they grow and reproduce. It also looks at how living things are distributed and how they interact with each other, and the natural environment.
This course prepares students for the study of biology and related courses at GCE AS and A Level. The specification supports the aim of the NI Curriculum to empower young people to achieve their potential and to make informed and responsible decisions throughout their lives as well as its objectives to:
- develop the young person as an individual;
- develop the young person as a contributor to society;
- develop the young person as a contributor to the economy and environment.
The specification aims to encourage students to:
- develop their knowledge and understanding of biology;
- develop the understanding of the effects of biology on society;
- develop an understanding of the importance of scale in biology;
- develop and apply their knowledge and understanding of the nature of science and of the scientific process;
- develop their understanding of the relationships between hypotheses, evidence, theories and explanations;
- develop their awareness of risk and the ability to assess potential risk in the context of potential benefits;
- develop and apply their observational, practical, modelling, enquiry and problem solving skills and understanding in laboratory, field and other learning environments;
- develop their ability to evaluate claims based on science through critical analysis of the methodology, evidence and conclusions both qualitatively and quantitatively; and
- develop their skills in communication, mathematics and the use of technology in scientific contexts.
This specification builds of the skills and capabilities developed through the delivery of the Northern Ireland curriculum at KS3.
The GCSE Biology specification is divided into three units. Unit 1 and 2 each contain prescribed practicals in the specification; students carry out nine practicals over the two years of the course. Students carry out these investigations to develop their skills and knowledge of practical science. Units 1 and 2 are each assessed by a written examination either at Foundation Tier (grades C*-G) or Higher Tier (grades A*-D/E). Unit 3 is an externally assessed Practical skills unit in two parts:
Booklet A has two practicals from the prescribed practical list. A Materials and apparatus list is sent to the schools in December. A copy of Booklet A for each student is sent to schools in January. All students must carry these out by May. They are marked externally.
Booklet B is a timetabled, externally assessed exam taken at the end of Year 12. It consists of questions about planning and carrying out any of the prescribed practicals as well as more general questions about any practical situation that arises from the specification.
GCSE Biology Specification at a Glance:
|Unit 1:Cells, Living Processes and Biodiversity||External written examination.Students answer compulsory structured questions that include short responses, extended writing and calculations.Foundation and Higher Tiers: 1 hour 15 minutes.||35%||Summer from 2018|
|Unit 2:Body Systems, Genetics, Microorganisms and Health||External written examination.Students answer compulsory structured questions that require short responses, extended writing and calculations.Foundation and Higher Tiers: 1 hour 30 mins||40%||Summer from 2019|
|Unit 3: Practical skills||Booklet AStudents carry out two externally marked pre-release practicals in the final year of study.Foundation and HigherTiers: 2 hours||7.5%||Between 1 January and 1 May each year(beginning in 2019)|
|Unit 3: Practical skills||Booklet B External written examination.Students answer compulsory structured questions that include short responses, extended writing and calculations, all set in a practical context.There are two tiers of entryFoundation and Higher Tiers: 1 hour||17.5%||Every Summer(beginning in 2019)|
At least 40 percent of the assessment (based on unit weightings) must be taken at the end of the course as terminal assessment.
A Level Biology (Revised)
A Level CCEA Specification (Classification code is 1010)
Pupils follow the CCEA Revised GCE Biology Specification. Details can be found at http://www.ccea.org.uk/biology/
Studying GCE Biology gives students a greater understanding of and respect for living organisms. Students acquire and develop skills that are valued in further and higher education, as well as in the workplace. These include analysis, evaluation, problem solving, research and an ability to understand complex processes, along with practical skills such as using a microscope, fieldwork and safely handling apparatus.
Knowledge of biological processes is useful in a wide range of areas, including health, food production, conservation and, increasingly, technology.
This specification aims to encourage students to:
- develop their interest in and enthusiasm for biology, including developing an interest in further study and careers in the subject;
- develop and draw together different areas of knowledge, skills and understanding of different aspects of the subject;
- develop competence and confidence in a number of skills, including independent learning, creative thinking, practical, mathematical and problem-solving;
- carry out practical tasks and present their findings in different formats;
- develop an appreciation and understanding of scientific methods; and
- appreciate how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.
The AS specification builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills developed in GCSE Biology and GCSE Double Award Science. Knowledge, understanding and skills developed in GCSE Mathematics are also relevant. The A2 section of this GCE builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills developed at AS level.
Assessment at A2 includes more question types, more demanding evaluative tasks, extended writing, and synoptic assessment that encourages students to develop their understanding of the subject as a whole, as well as more emphasis on assessment objectives that reflect higher order thinking skills.
The CCEA specification is designed to promote continuity, coherence and progression within the study of Biology. The A Level award provides a basis for the further study, at tertiary level, of Biology and related courses. For those progressing directly into employment, an AS or A Level award is relevant, not only in the fields of science, engineering and medicine, but also to areas of commerce and the public service in which problem-solving and practical skills are valued. The specification helps to provide an understanding of how biological developments affect the environment. The specification also contributes towards an understanding of ethical and cultural issues, thus adding to a full and rounded education.
The full Advanced GCE comprises the AS level (40% studied during Year 13) and the second part of the course, referred to as A2 (60% studied during Year 14).
The table below summarises the structure of the AS and A level courses:
|AS 1: Molecules and Cells||External written examination.1 hour 30 minsStudents answer six to eight structured questions and write an essay.||37.5% of AS15% of A level|
|AS 2: Organisms and Biodiversity||External written examination.1 hour 30 minsStudents answer six to eight structured questions and write an essay.||37.5% of AS15% of A level|
|AS 3: Practical Skills in AS Biology||External written examination assessing practical skills.(1 hour) and internal practical assessment(Teachers mark the assessment, and CCEA moderate the results.)||25% of AS10% of A level|
|A2 1: Physiology, Co-ordination and Control, and Ecosystems||External written examination.2 hours 15 minsStudents answer six to nine structured questions and write an essay.||24% of A level|
|A2 2: Biochemistry, Genetics and Evolutionary Trends||External written examination.2 hours 15 minsStudents answer six to nine structured questions and write an essay.||24% of A level|
|A2 3: Practical Skills in Biology||External written examination assessing practical skills.(1 hour 15 mins) and internal practical assessment.(Teachers mark the assessment, and CCEA moderate the results.)||12% of A level|
Why study Biology?
A biology degree has a natural fit with the science and health sectors allows pupils to develop a wide-range of transferable skills including:
- Data collection, analytical skills, innovation & creative thinking, critical thinking & drawing conclusions, time management & planning, working accurately and safely both individually and with others, practical and enquiry skills, decision making, communication skills, numeracy and ICT.
- As a result of these skills, biologists are versatile and competitive in the job market. Areas where career opportunities exist include: Health Care, Environmental Management and Conservation, Education, Biotechnology, Research, Forensic Science, Business and Industry, Economics, Mathematics, Law, Journalism and Art.
Jobs directly related to your degree include:
- Nature conservation officer
- Stratified medicine
- Marine biology
- Cardiac physiologist
- Healthcare Science
- Medicine /GP/ Doctor/Surgeon
- Stratified Medicine
- Forensic science
- Environmental science
- Biomedical science
- Food science
- Teacher /Higher education lecturer
- Research scientist (life sciences or medical)
- Agricultural technology / soil science
- Veterinary medicine and science
- Health promotion specialist
- Science writer