lauren15c
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I'm having a dilemma in terms of picking which ALevels to do. For so long i've been set on History, English Literature and PE but I've talked to people and researched online and been told that history is really hard. i really loved GCSE History and got 7/A in my mocks and am predicted an A* but i feel as I'm quite dyslexic and you get marked down for spelling mistakes I feel it's not a good idea to take 2 essay subjects. I really like biological side of PE and am thinking of doing that at uni so I'm thinking of doing biology instead of History or English Lit even though they were my favourite at GCSE. Which is better History or English Lit because i love both but I've decided it would probably be better to do one with biology and PE? whats biology like?
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gingerbread10000
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(Original post by lauren15c)
I'm having a dilemma in terms of picking which ALevels to do. For so long i've been set on History, English Literature and PE but I've talked to people and researched online and been told that history is really hard. i really loved GCSE History and got 7/A in my mocks and am predicted an A* but i feel as I'm quite dyslexic and you get marked down for spelling mistakes I feel it's not a good idea to take 2 essay subjects. I really like biological side of PE and am thinking of doing that at uni so I'm thinking of doing biology instead of History or English Lit even though they were my favourite at GCSE. Which is better History or English Lit because i love both but I've decided it would probably be better to do one with biology and PE? whats biology like?
I didn't take either so it I don't have first hand experience, but I had friends who did take them for a level. I think it depends on what interests you more - the level of work (essays etc.) seemed about the same for each of them. English lit is more thought-provoking and seemed to give my friends more mild existential crises haha, but they really enjoyed it because the texts that they were reading were interesting. The people that did history didn't seem quite as excited or engaged with the topics that they were doing, but they did still find it interesting. I would suggest having a look at the syllabus for each subject at the sixth form/college that you will be studying and try to work out which set of topics interest you more. That way you'll be more likely to do research around the subject as well. Good luck!
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Johnnyman2001
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I cannot answer for History, English lit or PE, but I can answer for Biology as a Year 13 student. Please bare in mind we did the AQA qualifications.

Biology is at first, difficult to comprehend. GCSE Biology doesn't help much for the first couple of topics, as you go into much greater detail within each topic to create a solid base of understanding.

There are 8 topics, topic 1 and 2 are the first you will learn and they will be learnt together. Topic 1 concentrates on organic molecules, what is protein? What is lipids? What is sugars? What are they made of? What are their uses? How do you test them?

Topic 1 is like learning a new subject from scratch, there are a lot of words to know, a lot of names to remember but it follows a set formula which you pick up quickly. Because its the foundation, by the time you get to ASs people brush off topic 1 as being easy, concentrating more on topic 3 and 4.

Topic 2 is on cells, which does carry some GCSE elements but again, much more detailed. One example that stuck to me was the cell membrane. In GCSE it doesn't get much, or any attention, but in A-level you learn its structure, and why that structure allows it to function. You also learn the other cell organelles, as well as new ones. Topic 2 is harder than topic 1 in my opinion, because of the naming, but it is also a lot more fascinating. You also learn about how the immune system functions, how HIV replicates, immunity, binary fission, virus replication etc.

Topic 3 and 4 use some understanding from topic 1 and 2 to help you go through the material. As you cover them later, naturally people take more time to revise them for the AS exams.

Topic 3 concentrates on how organisms exchange substances with their environment. Think active transport, osmosis and diffusion. These processes will then be set on examples, such as the lungs with inspiration and expiration in humans, insect breathing, the transpiration stream in plants. You also cover the digestion of proteins, lipids and sugars and how we absorb them, as well as the heart and blood vessels. Like topic 1 there is definitely a lot to learn, but it is also by the far the easiest to make a template for in terms of answers.

Topic 4 covers genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms. What is DNA? What is it made up of? How does DNA replication and protein synthesis occur? What is meiosis and how does variation occur from it? What is phylogeny and taxonomy? How do we measure biodiversity? etc. Topic 4 is a dividing topic. Most people love the DNA aspect, but abhor the phylogeny and taxonomy aspect, but they all relate together. Topic 4 is the most technically challenging at AS in my opinion, but once you get it, you won't forget.

I won't go too deep into topic 5,6,7,8 as they really rely on AS to be able to fully understand.

Topic 5 is about energy transfer (think photosynthesis, respiration, food chains, but again A LOT more detail. Photosynthesis and respiration will mess you up)

Topic 6 is about how organisms respond to changes in internal and external environments (remember how plants responded to light with auxin? Yeah, that plus with insects, including how we change our blood pressure, blood sugar, send signals through neurons, control muscles and a large dose on how kidneys work)

Topic 7 is about genetics, populations, evolutions and ecosystems (remember quadrats? Do you remember about species competition, inheritance, Punnett squares and that dude who played around with wrinkly and smooth peas? Yeah, me neither until I did this topic and it hurt me)

Topic 8 is the control of gene expression (how DNA expression changes, what are the natural ways the body controls expression as well as ways smart humans have managed to copy it with big brain technology to use it for DNA tests or to produce insulin from bacteria)

Now, regarding dyslexia, our teacher has said that spelling mistakes aren't something to worry majorly about. As long as the examiner understands what you are conveying, you will get marks. Biology is not an English exam. Getting a couple of letters wrong in the word 'respiration' will not put you down. However, there are a few key terms you cannot afford to spell wrong, because in those cases it can change the entire meaning. For example, 'meiosis' and 'mitosis' misspelling either could suggest the other, changing what you convey drastically. Another can be 'chiasma' and 'chiasmata' which are two technical terms meaning different things. There is plenty to read, which may make things difficult for you, but I'm sure you will have your own ways to slim down content and revise effectively. On the whole, dyslexia should not impede your ability to learn biology, and should not put you at a disadvantage.

Biology is not something you can walk through easily. Without revision, you'll get Cs or Ds. The mark scheme is cruel, practice must be put into effect. Not saying key words can lose you a mark. You must also keep up to date, you don't want to be that one person who didn't look at muscles with their different zones and bands who now doesn't comprehend anything the teacher is saying. It is very easy to be left behind, so be vigilant.

You also get plenty of required practicals, this will include drawing up conclusions, making graphs and researching external information, all relating to work you are learning.

Biology also requires some mathematical ability. Don't get me wrong, its not hard. I had a 6 in maths at GCSE and found the maths to be fine. You will meet statistical testing (however they will always give you the equations, its not like GCSE physics!) as well as basic conversion of units, or percentages or occasionally, simple algebra. More often or not, people lose marks on maths questions not because the maths is difficult, but because they failed to include vital information. Always read the question carefully! (RTQ!)

Biology is now pushing more towards application than knowledge. This requires you to fully comprehend concepts, and to be able to apply them to different scenarios. So just being a fountain of knowledge is only part of it, you got to twist your brain.

In A2, the third paper has an essay worth 25 marks, and makes up a significant chunk of the marks on the paper. The essays are general questions, but require precise answering as well as good essay writing. Keep that in mind, if you decide to choose biology.

You will also have outdoor excursions, more so than in the other sciences. This is mostly to see how the composition of a beach overtime, or to measure species diversity. Its a nice little benefit in my opinion.

Overall, biology is hard. Work needs to be put in to fully comprehend some ideas, but it is more often than not extremely interesting. Of course, it's all up to you. I hope I made your decision slightly easier by giving you my take on the subject.
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lauren15c
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(Original post by Johnnyman2001)
I cannot answer for History, English lit or PE, but I can answer for Biology as a Year 13 student. Please bare in mind we did the AQA qualifications.

Biology is at first, difficult to comprehend. GCSE Biology doesn't help much for the first couple of topics, as you go into much greater detail within each topic to create a solid base of understanding.

There are 8 topics, topic 1 and 2 are the first you will learn and they will be learnt together. Topic 1 concentrates on organic molecules, what is protein? What is lipids? What is sugars? What are they made of? What are their uses? How do you test them?

Topic 1 is like learning a new subject from scratch, there are a lot of words to know, a lot of names to remember but it follows a set formula which you pick up quickly. Because its the foundation, by the time you get to ASs people brush off topic 1 as being easy, concentrating more on topic 3 and 4.

Topic 2 is on cells, which does carry some GCSE elements but again, much more detailed. One example that stuck to me was the cell membrane. In GCSE it doesn't get much, or any attention, but in A-level you learn its structure, and why that structure allows it to function. You also learn the other cell organelles, as well as new ones. Topic 2 is harder than topic 1 in my opinion, because of the naming, but it is also a lot more fascinating. You also learn about how the immune system functions, how HIV replicates, immunity, binary fission, virus replication etc.

Topic 3 and 4 use some understanding from topic 1 and 2 to help you go through the material. As you cover them later, naturally people take more time to revise them for the AS exams.

Topic 3 concentrates on how organisms exchange substances with their environment. Think active transport, osmosis and diffusion. These processes will then be set on examples, such as the lungs with inspiration and expiration in humans, insect breathing, the transpiration stream in plants. You also cover the digestion of proteins, lipids and sugars and how we absorb them, as well as the heart and blood vessels. Like topic 1 there is definitely a lot to learn, but it is also by the far the easiest to make a template for in terms of answers.

Topic 4 covers genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms. What is DNA? What is it made up of? How does DNA replication and protein synthesis occur? What is meiosis and how does variation occur from it? What is phylogeny and taxonomy? How do we measure biodiversity? etc. Topic 4 is a dividing topic. Most people love the DNA aspect, but abhor the phylogeny and taxonomy aspect, but they all relate together. Topic 4 is the most technically challenging at AS in my opinion, but once you get it, you won't forget.

I won't go too deep into topic 5,6,7,8 as they really rely on AS to be able to fully understand.

Topic 5 is about energy transfer (think photosynthesis, respiration, food chains, but again A LOT more detail. Photosynthesis and respiration will mess you up)

Topic 6 is about how organisms respond to changes in internal and external environments (remember how plants responded to light with auxin? Yeah, that plus with insects, including how we change our blood pressure, blood sugar, send signals through neurons, control muscles and a large dose on how kidneys work)

Topic 7 is about genetics, populations, evolutions and ecosystems (remember quadrats? Do you remember about species competition, inheritance, Punnett squares and that dude who played around with wrinkly and smooth peas? Yeah, me neither until I did this topic and it hurt me)

Topic 8 is the control of gene expression (how DNA expression changes, what are the natural ways the body controls expression as well as ways smart humans have managed to copy it with big brain technology to use it for DNA tests or to produce insulin from bacteria)

Now, regarding dyslexia, our teacher has said that spelling mistakes aren't something to worry majorly about. As long as the examiner understands what you are conveying, you will get marks. Biology is not an English exam. Getting a couple of letters wrong in the word 'respiration' will not put you down. However, there are a few key terms you cannot afford to spell wrong, because in those cases it can change the entire meaning. For example, 'meiosis' and 'mitosis' misspelling either could suggest the other, changing what you convey drastically. Another can be 'chiasma' and 'chiasmata' which are two technical terms meaning different things. There is plenty to read, which may make things difficult for you, but I'm sure you will have your own ways to slim down content and revise effectively. On the whole, dyslexia should not impede your ability to learn biology, and should not put you at a disadvantage.

Biology is not something you can walk through easily. Without revision, you'll get Cs or Ds. The mark scheme is cruel, practice must be put into effect. Not saying key words can lose you a mark. You must also keep up to date, you don't want to be that one person who didn't look at muscles with their different zones and bands who now doesn't comprehend anything the teacher is saying. It is very easy to be left behind, so be vigilant.

You also get plenty of required practicals, this will include drawing up conclusions, making graphs and researching external information, all relating to work you are learning.

Biology also requires some mathematical ability. Don't get me wrong, its not hard. I had a 6 in maths at GCSE and found the maths to be fine. You will meet statistical testing (however they will always give you the equations, its not like GCSE physics!) as well as basic conversion of units, or percentages or occasionally, simple algebra. More often or not, people lose marks on maths questions not because the maths is difficult, but because they failed to include vital information. Always read the question carefully! (RTQ!)

Biology is now pushing more towards application than knowledge. This requires you to fully comprehend concepts, and to be able to apply them to different scenarios. So just being a fountain of knowledge is only part of it, you got to twist your brain.

In A2, the third paper has an essay worth 25 marks, and makes up a significant chunk of the marks on the paper. The essays are general questions, but require precise answering as well as good essay writing. Keep that in mind, if you decide to choose biology.

You will also have outdoor excursions, more so than in the other sciences. This is mostly to see how the composition of a beach overtime, or to measure species diversity. Its a nice little benefit in my opinion.

Overall, biology is hard. Work needs to be put in to fully comprehend some ideas, but it is more often than not extremely interesting. Of course, it's all up to you. I hope I made your decision slightly easier by giving you my take on the subject.
This was really helpful thank you so much!
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Turtle2001
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My advice would be to take what you enjoy. I'm dyslexic and I took 3 essay-based subjects for A Levels, and I'm currently studying English Lit at uni! If you take subjects that you love and are interested in, even if they're essay-based, you'll be much more likely to work harder at them and come out with a better grade than by taking an 'easier' subject. Hope this helps.
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