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.
Use of apparatus and techniques
(a) use of appropriate apparatus to record a range of quantitative measurements (to include mass, time, volume, temperature, length and pH)
(b) use of appropriate instrumentation to record quantitative measurements, such as a colorimeter or potometer
(c) use of laboratory glassware apparatus for a variety of experimental techniques to include serial dilutions
(d) use of a light microscope at high power and low power, including use of a graticule
(e) production of scientific drawings from observations with annotations
(f) use of qualitative reagents to identify biological molecules
(g) separation of biological compounds using thin layer/paper chromatography or electrophoresis
(h) safe and ethical use of organisms to measure: (i) plant or animal responses (ii) physiological functions
(i) use of microbiological aseptic techniques, including the use of agar plates and broth
(j) safe use of instruments for dissection of an animal or plant organ
(k) use of sampling techniques in fieldwork
(l) use of ICT such as computer modelling, or a data logger to collect data, or use of software to process data.
Whilst this may not make a lot of sense to you right now, this point in the specification is something you will cover without even realising. Each practical is designed to teach you various skills that with practice should be quite enjoyable. You do not have to worry about memorising anything for this part of the specification, but it would be good to think about why you are doing this experiment.
Module 2 is called ‘Foundations in biology,’ and I have to say, it is very important to get your head around. You will learn this module at the beginning of your A level and you will need it throughout. The name gives it away, you need to be able to easily recall information from this module and apply it to topics you learn later on in the course.
Living organisms share similarities in their function, biochemistry and their cell structure. This module teaches you the basic structures, so if you are given a question on an animal you are not familiar with, remember this. You have been taught the shared basic cellular structure. Take your time with this module, make sure you have an in depth understanding at the time you are learning it, it will make it a lot easier when you start to learn new topics in greater detail. Ideally, you do not want to be learning this module at the same time as learning the later modules. So if you have just begun year 12, take your time, and really focus on what this module is teaching you. If you have progressed further into the A level course, do not worry, it is not too late, just make sure that you do not overlook this module. By the time you take your exams, it would’ve been a long time since you had been taught the topics. So to avoid forgetting what you have learnt, try to understand as much as possible from the beginning, then keep on recapping. The more times you go over it, the easier it will get.