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Life hacks in the lab

Welcome to the world of biology at RIC, where the 21st century brings exciting challenges and opportunities for budding biologists! Here, we dive into the fascinating tasks of boosting ecosystem resilience and using the latest insights from cell theory and cell signalling to deepen our understanding of immunity, perception, coordination, and regulation. 

We also explore the intriguing realms of epigenetic regulation, cell differentiation, and migration in embryo development, aging, and disease. This knowledge opens up amazing possibilities for personalized medicine and novel therapeutic approaches.

At both GCSE and A level, our Biology courses offer an adventurous journey into these captivating fields. Our passionate and expert teachers are dedicated to providing up-to-date and engaging lessons that make the study of biology truly inspiring and guide you carefully towards exam success. 

Exam Specifications

Assessment method

All examinations are written. Length of exams and breakdown of units:

Three written papers on topics 1-8

Paper 1 (2hrs): any content from topics 1-4, including relevant practical skills. 35% of A level 
Paper 2 (2hrs): any content from topics 5-8, including relevant practical skills. 35% of A level. 
Paper 3 (2hrs): any content from topics 1-8, including relevant practical skills. 30% of A level

There is no practical exam in the new syllabus. Practical skills are assessed throughout the course, with 12 required practicals which all students must complete to a pass standard and examined via questions on the written papers.

Course content

1. Biological molecules – water, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and nucleic acids
2. Cells – structure of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, cell membranes, cell recognition and immunity
3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment – gas exchange, digestion and absorption, mass transport in animals and plants
4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms – DNA, genes and chromosomes, protein synthesis, genetic diversity, adaptation, classification and biodiversity
5. Energy transfers in and between organisms – photosynthesis, respiration, energy and ecosystems, nutrient cycles
6. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments – survival and response, the nervous system, muscles, homeostasis and negative feedback
7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems – inheritance, population genetics, evolution and speciation, studying ecosystems
8. The control of gene expression – gene mutations, stem cells and cell differentiation, epigenetics, gene expression and cancer, using genome projects, gene technology


Biology should be taught in progressively greater depth over the course of Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. GCSE outcomes may reflect or build upon subject content which is typically taught at Key Stage 3. There is no expectation that teaching of such content should be repeated during the GCSE course where it has already been covered at an earlier stage. GCSE study in biology provides the foundations for understanding the material world. Scientific understanding is changing our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity, and all students should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. They should be helped to appreciate how the complex and diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of a small number of key ideas relating to the sciences which are both inter-linked, and are of universal application. These key ideas include:

● the use of conceptual models and theories to make sense of the observed diversity of natural phenomena
● the assumption that every effect has one or more cause
● that change is driven by differences between different objects and systems when they interact
● that many such interactions occur over a distance without direct contact
● that science progresses through a cycle of hypothesis, practical experimentation, observation, theory
development and review
● that quantitative analysis is a central element both of many theories and of scientific methods of inquiry.
These key ideas are relevant in different ways and with different emphases in biology, chemistry and physics. Examples of their relevance to biology are given below. The GCSE specification in biology should enable students to:
● develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding of biology
● develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of biology through different types of
scientific enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them
● develop and learn to apply observational, practical, modelling, enquiry and problem-solving skills, both in
the laboratory, in the field and in other learning environments
● develop their ability to evaluate claims based on biology through critical analysis of the methodology,
evidence and conclusions, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Biology should be studied in ways that help students to develop curiosity about the natural world, insight into how science works, and appreciation of its relevance to their everyday lives. The scope and nature of such study should be broad, coherent, practical and satisfying, and thereby encourage students to be inspired, motivated and challenged by the subject and its achievements.


Two exams to be taken at the end of the course Assessment will be focused on AQA’s three criteria:
AO1) Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas, scientific techniques and procedures
AO2) Apply knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas, scientific techniques and procedures
AO3) Analyse information and ideas to: interpret and evaluate; make judgements and draw conclusions; develop and improve experimental procedures.

Curious about Biology?


'Almost like a whale' – Steve Jones

Steve Jones revisits Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species to reveal ties between cancer and the genetics of fish, brewing and inherited disease and the sex lives of crocodiles and the politics of Brazil.

'The Selfish Gene' – Richard Dawkins

Dawkins’ gene's eye view of evolution in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for their replication.

'What is life? With mind and matter and autobiographical sketches' – Erwin Schroinger.

Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is a science classic. Written for the layman, it was one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA.

Online - The world's oldest independent scientific academy, dedicated to promoting excellence in science - The Royal Society of Biology is a single unified voice for biology: advising Government and influencing policy; advancing education and professional development; supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging public interest in the life sciences. The Society represents a diverse membership of individuals, learned societies and other organisations.

Listen - excellent series of podcasts that deals with a wide range of scientific principles, theories, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science. The Life Scientific is a BBC Radio 4 science programme, presented by Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS FInstP, in which each episode is dedicated to the biography and work of one living scientist. The programme consists of an interview between Jim al-Khalili and the featured scientist.