Universities value learners who have a thorough understanding of key concepts in biology, an in-depth knowledge of biology’s most important themes and strong practical skills. Cambridge International AS and A Level Biology helps learners develop the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for successful university study.
Our learners also develop lifelong skills of scientific enquiry, confidence in technology, and communication and teamwork skills.
The key concepts on which this syllabus is built are set out below. These key concepts can help teachers think about how to approach each syllabus topic in order to encourage learners to make links between topics and develop a deep overall understanding of the subject. The teaching support package gives teachers guidance on integrating the key concepts into their teaching. See page 8 for more information on our teacher support.
As a teacher, you will refer to these concepts again and again to help unify the subject and make sense of it. If mastered, learners can use the concepts to solve problems or to understand unfamiliar subject-related material.
- Cells as the units of life A cell is the basic unit of life and all organisms are composed of one or more cells. There are two fundamental types of cell: prokaryotic and eukaryotic.
- Biochemical processes Cells are dynamic: biochemistry and molecular biology help to explain how and why cells function as they do.
- DNA, the molecule of heredity Cells contain the molecule of heredity, DNA. Heredity is based on the inheritance of genes.
- Natural selection Natural selection is the major mechanism to explain the theory of evolution.
- Organisms in their environment All organisms interact with their biotic and abiotic environment.
- Observation and experiment The different fields of biology are intertwined and cannot be studied in isolation: observation and enquiry, experimentation and fieldwork are fundamental to biology.
Candidates for Advanced Subsidiary (AS) certification take Papers 1, 2 and 3 (either Advanced Practical Skills 1 or Advanced Practical Skills 2) in a single examination series.
Candidates who, having received AS certification, wish to continue their studies to the full Advanced Level qualification may carry their AS marks forward and take Papers 4 and 5 in the examination series in which they require certification.
Candidates taking the full Advanced Level qualification at the end of the course take all five papers in a single examination series.
- Candidates may only enter for the papers in the combinations indicated above.
- Candidates may not enter for single papers either on the first occasion or for resit purposes.
All components will be externally assessed.
Combining this with other syllabuses
Candidates can combine this syllabus in an examination series with any other Cambridge syllabus, except syllabuses with the same title at the same level.