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.
Module 1: Development of practical skills in biology
Please note: Text in bold is what the OCR A level biology specification requires an understanding of.
The development of practical skills is a fundamental and integral aspect of the study of any scientific subject. These skills not only enhance learners’ understanding of the subject but also serve as a suitable preparation for the demands of studying biology at a higher level.
If you wish to take on biology as a degree, or any other science related degree, what you will learn in this module will be very useful. If not, it is still useful, it gives you the opportunity to practice a variety of skills, such as organisation, time management, communication, and analytical skills. Many students find that their theoretical understanding improves following practical work.
Practical skills are embedded throughout all the content of this specification. Learners will be required to develop a range of practical skills throughout their course in preparation for the written examinations.
Therefore you can be asked any questions regarding practical work, so make sure to pay attention when you are completing a practical! Your school may not give you any notes on practical work, so you may want to jot down what you did. Examiners will not expect you to remember all the details, and you will not need to do a step by step explanation, but you will need to have a general understanding as to why you may use a certain experiment. If you miss an experiment as you were absent from school, make sure to catch up, perhaps watch a video demonstrating the practical on YouTube. The specification will clearly identify which practical’s you should do so these will later be discussed. If you are not familiar with a practical in an exam question, do not worry. The question should tell you everything important that you need to know, if not, you should be able to apply what you have learnt elsewhere.
Learners should be able to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and understanding of:
Experimental design, including to solve problems set in a practical context. Including selection of suitable apparatus, equipment and techniques for the proposed experiment. Learners should be able to apply scientific knowledge based on the context of the specification to the practical context.
Identification of variables that must be controlled, where appropriate
Evaluation that an experimental method is appropriate to meet the expected outcomes
Experimental design will be covered throughout each practical. There are 3 types of variables: dependent, independent and control. Dependent variables are those variables that are effected by another variable. The independent variables are those that affect our dependent variables when we change them, for example time. Control variables are variables which will have an effect on our results, we therefore need to control them to make it a fair test. For example, a common control variable is sex. There are variations between men and women. So if we wanted to test the change in hormone levels against time in women, our dependent variable would be hormone levels. Our independent variable is time and our control variable is being female. Usually there will be multiple control variables.