International AS / A-level Biology

A Level Biology

This qualification is designed to harness students' interest in the world of living things.

The four units each take an overarching topic such as diversity or disease. These topics allow students to see links between concepts to bring the subject to life.

Students must carry out 10 required practical activities in the course. The practicals are not constrained, allowing each school to choose resources and equipment that best suit their circumstances.

Practicals in this specification include investigations into enzymes and photosynthesis as well as using equipment such as microscopes and potometers. Exam questions will be asked on the practicals, but there is no coursework or practical exam.

A range of question styles are used, such as short answer questions, calculations and longer extended writing questions, allowing students to demonstrate the skills required for university study for subjects such as biology, medicine or dentistry.

This qualification is available for teaching now in Bahrain, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.


Unit 1: The diversity of living organisms (AS)
Unit 2: Biological systems and disease (AS)

Unit 3: Populations and genes (A2)
Unit 4: Control (A2)
Unit 5: Synoptic paper (A2)


  • Candidates may re-sit a unit any number of times.
  • The best result for each unit will count towards the final qualification.
  • Candidates who wish to repeat a qualification may do so by re-sitting one or more units.

Syllabus summary

The diversity of living organisms

  • Biological molecules
  • Cells and cell structure
  • Biochemical reactions in cells are controlled by enzymes
  • Transport into and out of cells
  • Gas exchange and the transport of oxygen in living organisms
  • DNA, genes and chromosomes
  • Protein synthesis
  • Genetic diversity may arise by meiosis
  • Species and taxonomy
  • Biodiversity within a community

Biological systems and disease

  • The causes of disease: pathogens, lifestyle and genes
  • Digestion and absorption
  • Cholera
  • HIV as an example of a human disease caused by a virus
  • The defensive functions of mammalian blood
  • The circulation of blood and the structure of the mammalian heart
  • Heart disease may be associated with specific risk factors
  • Mass transport systems in plants
  • The role of aphids in spreading plant viruses
  • Cell division by binary fission and mitosis
  • Mutation and cancer

Populations and genes (A-level only)

  • The effect of biotic and abiotic factors on populations
  • Respiration
  • Energy transfer through ecosystems
  • Nutrient cycles
  • Inheritance
  • Allele frequencies in populations
  • Evolution may lead to speciation

Control (A-level only)

  • Control systems involve stimulus and response
  • Receptors
  • Nerve impulses and synaptic transmission
  • Skeletal muscles as effectors
  • Control systems in plants
  • Homeostasis and negative feedback
  • Hormones and the control of blood glucose concentration
  • Control of heart rate
  • Regulation of transcription and translation
  • Recombinant DNA technology

Download the complete Oxford AQA International AS / A-level Biology specification (PDF, 537 KB).

Resources available with this specification

Oxford International AQA Examinations provides the resources and advice you need to teach the International AS / A-level Biology specification effectively.

Switching Guides

Quickly orient yourself with the changes between your old International AS / A-level Biology specifications and the new Oxford International AQA Examinations specification.

Scheme of Work

Plan your course with the help of a suggested pathway through the syllabus so you can be sure you are covering the essential content.

Practical Handbook

Get all the help you need to undertake practicals with your class. This guide harmonises the rules and guidance for A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and includes a full glossary of terms.

Subject specific vocabulary

Ensure that everyone is using scientific language correctly with this list of word definitions used in our international A-level science specifications and exam papers (based on ‘The Language of Measurement’ produced by the Association of Science Education).

Specimen Papers and Mark Schemes

See how the International AS / A-level Biology specification will be assessed, so you can help your students prepare to sit their exams.

Command Words

Help students prepare for their exams by accessing definitions to command words used in exams and other assessed tasks.

Marked Exemplars

Prepare your students in exam technique with the help of exemplar student answers and examiner commentaries that show how examiners interpret the mark scheme.

International AS and A-level Biology marked exemplars

These exemplars of AQA past papers reflect the Oxford AQA Exams style of assessment. The exemplars show students’ responses in ‘Notes’ and where students have gained or lost marks, with comments that will help teachers to understand the reasons for the mark allocations. Common question types are shown, along with common student errors and misconceptions, as well as answer formats required for students to gain marks.


Exampro is an online database of AQA past paper questions mapped to the new international qualifications, enabling teachers to create their own resources and assessments.

Schools will be given an Exampro username and password when they are approved to teach our qualifications. If you have these credentials you can log in now. If your school is approved to teach our qualifications and you do not know your school’s log-in credentials, contact us.

Enhanced Results Analysis™ tool

Our free Enhanced Results Analysis tool (ERA) gives you instant analysis of your students’ results. You’ll see how students performed in each unit, topic and marks they received for each question. This allows you to see which questions proved the most challenging, or how different classes performed, so you know what areas to focus on in following years. The tool will be available following published results from the first cohort of International AS / A-level Biology students in 2018.

Download this specification

(PDF, 537 KB)

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