Introduction to A level biology for OCR students
Whilst this information may be useful to all A level biology candidates, the focus will be on the OCR exam board specification.
As you may have already heard, A level biology is a big step up from GCSE. Do not let that scare you, you just need to get very good at processing large amounts of information, piecing together different topics you learn and get practicing with exam technique! Whilst biology is a lot of learning content, highest achievers would have learnt how to write an exemplar answer for content based questions, as well as having an in depth understanding of the how science works module. The how science works module is not something your school will necessarily go through, it’s something you need to be able to apply it to anything you have learnt.
Module 1 of the OCR specification is called ‘Development of practical skills in biology.’ Module 1 related questions can appear in any exam paper, and so can module 2. Module 2 is called ‘Foundations in Biology,’ you will learn these topics in your first year of A level, but what you learn here will be very applicable to all sorts of topics. It may seem like a lot to learn at first, but as the information will constantly be used throughout your A level, it will seem a lot easier towards the end. Module 3 is called ‘Exchange and transport’ and module 4 is called ‘Biodiversity, evolution and disease,’ these two modules you will learn in your first year of A level. Lastly in your second year you will learn module 5; ‘Communication, homeostasis and energy’ and module 6 ‘Genetics, evolution and ecosystems.’
For assessments, there are 3 exams. Exam 1 is called Biological Processes and consists of module 1,2,3 and 5. The paper has long and short answer questions, worth 100 marks and must be sat within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Paper 2 is called Biological Diversity, again this paper is 100 marks full of long and short answer questions. The time given is also 2 hours 15 minutes. The modules examined in paper 2 are 1,2,4 and 6. In both paper 1 and paper 2 there is a multiple choice section at the beginning, each multiple choice question is 1 mark. Be careful not to waste too much time on these questions, as they can be quite challenging and knowing the right answer it is there can make it more difficult to move on. Some students like to save the multiple choice section until the end to ensure they do not spend too much time on them. The final paper is called Unified Biology, consisting of all 6 modules. The paper is worth 70 marks and is sat within 1 hour and 30 minutes. Therefore the total weighting for each paper is as follows: paper 1- 37% of you’re a level, paper 2- 37%, paper 3- 26%. Additionally, there is the practical endorsement. This is coursework that does not contribute to your final grade, but you must receive a pass.