Hints and tips - 5 minute read
Andri Achilleos - Biology Subject Advisor
The pandemic has made teaching and learning more challenging than ever. It is expected that this will impact GCSE students moving to their A Level courses.
Even before the pandemic students and teachers referred to the ‘jump’ from GCSE to A Level Biology as demanding and challenging. Now with the missed teaching hours, lack of interaction with teachers and cancellation of the exams, students will need even more support with their progression to KS5.
This blog suggests some useful resources to support your students’ transition into their A Level course.
Some students who choose A Level Biology struggle with the maths skills expected. Our maths for biology web pages are there to support students, with tutorials for every maths skill needed. Students can use these resources independently, and check their knowledge and understanding using the quizzes.
Students moving from GCSE to A Level need to understand that cell division is part of a cycle rather than a separate process. There is a great increase in the level of detail needed for each stage of cell division, as well as knowledge of practical skills. GCSE students must develop and use a more technical vocabulary.
This can be challenging for some students. Especially learners who have not had the opportunity to develop these skills at GCSE due to the pandemic.
Our transition guide can be used as a revision on cell division, and will help students to progress. It includes a number of activities and teacher instructions as well as a checkpoint task to help reinforce the content.
Even though Year 11 exams have been cancelled, students can use our GCSE candidate exemplar resources to revise topics and develop their exam skills for Year 12. Our A Level candidate exemplars will give them an idea of how they will be examined at the end of the course.
Those are available on the assessment part of the qualification pages, under ‘Candidate exemplars.’
Likewise our GCSE exam hints for students can be used to identify the common mistakes and misconceptions seen in exams at the end of the GCSE course. This, together with our GCSE Biology specification checklist, should help students identify areas they need to review.
The Amoeba Sisters channel on YouTube has a series of videos on different biology topics. These videos come with handouts for students to check their understanding.
There is also a review video covering all the major concepts in GCSE Biology. This can be used to reinforce students’ GCSE knowledge before moving to A Level. It can also help students identify areas they need to re-study and remind them of the correct use of scientific language.
Students can use National Geographic videos to refresh their knowledge of fundamental science in some biology topics, when introduced with the equivalent A Level content. This list shows links to the relevant A Level Biology specification sections:
The Biology library on the Khan academy website has several videos, articles and practice questions for students to use. There’s an excellent ‘Introduction to biology’ section, with videos on the scientific method along with the importance of water in life. Both topics are essential for the start of A Level.
There’s also a Crash Course Biology section that includes videos covering the major topics in biology. These can be used as a recap of some of the basic topics and to introduce new ones for A Level. However, do be aware that some of the videos go beyond basic GCSE knowledge and even A Level specification.
If you have any comments or questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call on 01223 553998 or tweet @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates to receive information about resources and support.
Andri Achilleos was a teacher for ten years before joining OCR in January 2019 as the subject advisor for A Level Biology. She studied Biology at University of Bristol and completed an MA in Science Education at University of York. She has taught in Birmingham as Teacher in charge of Biology, as well as an international school in Europe. During her teaching career she has taken on various roles within the department and has also been an examiner for different exam boards.