The Biology AEA is a qualification introduced in 2002 aimed at the top end of the candidates for the Biology and Human Biology A-level courses. It is based primarily on the core of the A-level specification, as outlined by the QCA, and so like all AEAs it is designed to be independent of exam board or specification route. It is administered by AQA, with examination code 6811.
Like all other AEAs, the Biology AEA is a linear qualification that consists of a single three-hour exam, only available in the summer session each year, often in the penultimate week of the A-level exam calendar. A calculator can be used, it says on the front of the paper, but it's unlikely you'll need it. There are four sections to the paper, each worth 25 marks; the paper is thus out of 100. One full question from each of the four sections should be answered; the two compulsory questions from section A and section B, and one from each of section C and section D.
Section A is based on stimulus material such as an extract from a scientific article or journal. There is one compulsory structured question, which requires you to analyse the article's descriptions, explaining the content in terms of biological principles. Section B is based on various related pieces of experimental work, including explanations of quantitative data, describing further experiments, evaluating validity of such data, and proposing solutions to problems.
Section C and section D require an essay each. There is a choice of three questions for each section. Section C essays are much more scientifically-based, requiring integration of AS and A2 work across several biological topics to be applied to the question; diagrams can be included in such an essay. Section D essays are centred on debates and arguments within biology, and often reflect a social or technological aspect of biology. Both sections are much like A-level synoptic essays, including marks for clear presentation of ideas and arguments.
Like all other AEAs, the Biology AEA has two grades, Distinction and Merit, with Distinction the higher grade.
Performance Level Descriptors
- use and apply the specified knowledge of biology with few significant omissions;
- select the relevant biological information, principles and concepts which are relevant to most situations, and bring together principles and concepts from different areas of biology in seeking a solution, demonstrating a clear understanding of the relationships between these;
- demonstrate good and consistent understanding of the principles and concepts of biology, when applying them to familiar and new contexts;
- communicate their ideas clearly and logically, making good use of appropriate concepts, terminology, data and techniques in constructing arguments and solving problems;
- apply quantitative techniques and tests effectively when manipulating and evaluating data, carrying out a range of calculations in contexts where little guidance is given;
- interpret, analyse and evaluate qualitative information and quantitative data from a range of sources, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and draw appropriate inferences.
- use and apply the specified knowledge of biology with no significant omissions;
- select and use the relevant biological information, principles and concepts which are relevant to situations, recognise information that is not relevant, and bring together principles and concepts from different areas of the subject in seeking a solution, demonstrating clear and deep understanding of the relationships between these;
- apply the principles and concepts of biology effectively and efficiently when dealing with a range of contexts and situations, many of which are new to them;
- communicate their ideas with clarity and precision, selecting a form appropriate to the context, and make effective use of a range of appropriate concepts, terminology, data, and techniques in constructing arguments and solving problems;
- select and apply quantitative techniques and tests effectively when manipulating and evaluating data, carrying out a range of calculations in contexts where no guidance is given;
- interpret, analyse and evaluate qualitative information and quantitative data from a range of sources, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and suggest improvements, draw inferences and, where appropriate, relate these to the stated contexts (e.g. social, economic, ethical, environmental and technological).
Like almost all other AEAs, the last Biology AEA will be the summer 2009 session; after this, it will be withdrawn.