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The study of Biology is key for a wide range of careers as well as being fascinating in its own right.  It is highly academically demanding and it would normally be expected that candidates have achieved at least Grade B in GCSE Biology before choosing to study the subject at either A level or IB Diploma level.


At AS/A2 level Biology – We study the Edexcel Salters-Nuffield Biology (SNAB) course at Stonyhurst. Link to Edexcel website. This is the modern version of the very long established Nuffield Foundation course and combines traditional practical-based learning through experiments with internet based resources. Students are expected to be hands-on in the laboratory and need to develop sound practical skills.  They each have their own web account on the SNAB site through which they can access materials, submit work and receive instructions from their teachers.

Topics are taught through a case-study structure but include recent updates in biochemistry, physiology and microbiology. Human Biology features quite largely, but ecological studies and plant physiology are also important topics.This provides an excellent context-led approach to the subject with sound content and top quality interactive internet support.  The course also includes a Practical Competency Assessment. This includes 18 core practicals that cover all of the 12 techniques required for the practical competency measure. Knowledge of all Core Practicals can be tested within the exam papers. Students are required to keep a practical portfolio.


At AS assessment is by two 1 hour and 30 minute papers, each covering half of the AS content. Each paper is worth 50% of the total marks.

At A2 assessment is by three 2 hour papers, at the end of a two year course. Each paper is worth 33.3% of the total marks.


IB Diploma
Biology is a Group 4 option, available for study at Standard or Higher level.  Choosing Biology as an IB Unit 4 subject needs especial care, as only Group 4 subjects can be studied.

Standard and Higher Level topics covered include:- Statistics, Cells, The Chemistry of Life, Genetics, Ecology and Evolution, Human Health and Physiology.

Additional Higher Level topics include:- Nucleic acids and proteins, Cell respiration and Photosynthesis, Plant Science, (Additional) Genetics, (Additional) Human Health and Physiology.  There are also a selection of optional topics including Neurobiology and Behaviour, Microbes and Biotechnology from which both Standard and Higher level candidates can select to study in more depth.

Syllabus outline:

Higher Level (240 hours): Internal assessment (individual investigation)- 20%, External assessment- 80%.

Standard Level (150 hours): Internal assessment (individual investigation)- 20%, External assessment- 80%.

Please see the International Baccalaureate website for more details.