The National Extension College
Unlock the secrets of living things and how they interact with the world around them, when you study A level Biology online.
Enjoy discovering the key processes and systems that support life itself – from simple protozoa to the complexity of the human body or a vast ecosystem – with our online A level Biology course.
As you explore topics such as cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, the human genome, biodiversity and forensic biology, you’ll learn how to critically evaluate scientific information and evidence and gain a broader understanding of how biology shapes everyday life.
As part of studying A level Biology online, you’ll apply theory to practice through 18 core practical experiments suitable for completion at home. You can also decide whether you want to also gain a practical skills endorsement alongside the A level course – a requirement for certain university and career routes.
Why study Biology?
Our A level Biology online course explores complex ideas using relevant, engaging topics using high-quality distance learning materials. Alongside subject knowledge, you’ll develop research, problem-solving, organisational and analytical skills – all highly sought by universities and employers.
You’ll have the flexibility to fit study around your lifestyle, learning at your own pace, with access to the support of a specialist personal tutor. Like many NEC students, perhaps you’ll go on to study a science-based subject at university, or use your qualification to support your next career move?
Section 1: Lifestyle, health and risk
- What is cardiovascular disease?
- Who is at risk of cardiovascular disease?
- Risk factors for cardiovascular disease?
- Biochemistry involved in cardiovascular disease?
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
Section 2: Genes and health
- The effects of cystic fibrosis on the lungs
- Why is CF mucus so sticky?
- The roles of proteins and enzymes
- How is the CFTR protein made?
- How is cystic fibrosis inherited?
- Testing for CF
Section 3: Voice of the genome
- Cells and their components
- In the beginning
- From one to many: the cell cycle
- How development is controlled
- Genes and environment
Section 4: Biodiversity and natural resources
- Why are there so many different species?
- How did organisms become so well adapted?
- Classification and speciation
- Plant cells and tissues
- Making use of biodiversity in plants
- On the brink
Section 5: On the wild side
- What is an ecosystem?
- Ecosystems rely on energy transfer
- Global climate change
- Predicting and coping with future climate change
- Adapt or die
- Getting the balance right
Section 6: Infection, immunity and forensics
- Forensic biology
- Cause of death
- The body’s response to infection
- Could the infections have been prevented?
- Are there treatments for AIDS and TB?
Section 7: Run for your life
- Getting moving
- Energy for action
- Peak performance
- Breaking out in a sweat
- Overdoing it
- Improving on nature
Section 8: Grey matter
- The nervous system and nerve impulses
- Reception of stimuli
- The brain
- Visual development and making sense of what we see
- Learning and memory
- Problems with synapses
- Genetic modifications: risks and benefits
You’ll have access to support from a personal tutor. All NEC tutors are subject experts, with experience of supporting online learners.
Meet Donal who is just one of our first-class biology tutors:
“My lifelong fascination with biology has led to a varied and interesting career. I worked at the Natural History Museum on insect taxonomy and the Commonwealth Institute for Biological Control where I studied the control of insect and plant pests using natural enemies. I also worked in government fisheries laboratories in England and Ireland and for ADAS on insects in field margins. In addition to teaching for the NEC I am an associate lecturer at the Open University, mainly in ecology and evolution. Previously, I was a teaching fellow for the OU developing new courses, and subsequently a staff tutor in Cambridge and Birmingham.”
What you need to know
- Edexcel 9BN0
- Online learning with support from a personal tutor
- Complete at your own pace
- Approx. 250-300 hours* plus time for completing assignments
*The specification suggests that 150 hours is needed. You’ll also need time to complete assignments and prepare yourself for exams and some courses like English literature involve a lot of reading. Everyone is different so it’s impossible to say with certainty how long a course will take you, but you should expect to spend longer than 150 hours. Taken across the length of time we recommend, this equates to approximately 4 hours per week. This will increase if you choose to take it over a shorter time frame or may be less if you are retaking a subject and have covered a lot of of the course content.
- 10 assignments (one introductory) – these do not contribute towards your final grade
- 18 core practicals
- Set textbooks – included as a free ebook with your course:
- Salters-Nuffield AS/A level Biology Student Book 1, University of York Science Education Group, Pearson Education, 2015
- Salters-Nuffield A level Biology Student Book 2, University of York Science Education Group, Pearson Education, 2015
- Maths Skills for A level Biology, J Penny, Oxford University Press, 2013
- Internet access
- Computer operating system and browser to support learn@nec
Our course fees are open and honest to help you plan for any additional costs.
Your course fee includes:
- Access to learn@nec
- All the course materials you need to complete the course
- Support from a personal tutor for up to 24 months from your date of enrolment
- Assignment marking
- Marking for one past paper
- Guaranteed exam place
- free e-book version of the essential textbooks
- NEC’s guide to study skills: How to Succeed as an Independent Learner
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar guide
- Time planner to help you plan your study timetable
- Information on how to apply for exams
Your course fee does not cover:
- Exam entry fees
- Additional textbooks
- Equipment for core practicals
- Additional past paper marking
- Revision tutorial
- Optional tutorial
- Additional review
- UCAS service
Exams and assessment
- 33.3% of marks (2 hours)
- 33.3% of marks (2 hours)
- 33.3% of marks (2 hours)
The exams are written, with no practical element, but throughout the exam you will be expected to use your understanding of practical theory – gained through the 18 core practicals within your course – to answer questions.
Non-exam assessment (NEA):
- an additional assessment providing opportunity to gain a practical skills endorsement to demonstrate practical skills as well as knowledge
- separately endorsed and reported as a separate grade
- does not contribute to the result of the A level qualification
- for some university programmes, like medicine, you will need to have the endorsement as well as the A level
Additional support if you're under 18
We know that our younger students often need an extra helping hand with their studies. In our experience, learning online works best when the parents are involved, so when you enrol your child with NEC, you’ll have a unique set of services to help you to support your child.
- Your own log in to learn@nec to access the course so you can view the course materials and other information for yourself.
- Access to your child’s gradebook to help you to monitor progress and provide appropriate and timely intervention and support
- You’ll receive emails and forum posts so that you have all the examination and assessment updates/information provided by the NEC team
- Dedicated Parent Portal Pages and targeted blogs with updates/information/help and advice on many aspects of home education.
- Access to the Kudos career platform for young learners to explore career choices.
Who is this course for?
Our Biology A level course is ideal if you:
- Are keen to build on the knowledge you’ve gained at GCSE level.
- Enjoy working scientifically: making predictions, testing theories and evaluating and communicating your findings.
- Would like to build your observational, investigative and problem-solving skills, to improve your employability.
- Have career aspirations in health, STEM or conservation related fields
- Would like to discover how biology impacts everyday life.
- GCSEs in biology (minimum grade 5 / grade B), chemistry (minimum grade 4 / grade C) and maths (minimum grade 4 / grade C); or an equivalent such as Double or Triple Science (minimum grade 5 / grade B), are recommended
- An ability to read and write in English
- Employers are crying out for candidates with science-based skills – such as enquiry, accuracy, initiative and inventiveness.
- Studying biology or STEM subjects at university.
- A range of rewarding careers in medicine, physiotherapy, nursing, veterinary science, zoology, microbiology, marine biology, pharmacology, forensic science, ecology, conservation and teaching.
Questions and answers
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