Biology Transition Work

Welcome to the A level biology course.

I am sure that you will agree that there could not be a better time to study biology, its relevance has never been greater and no matter what career you go on to pursue in the future your scientific knowledge will make you better informed and for some of you it will be the stepping stone to an amazing scientific career. To get you started, I have set out a series of foundation activities that you can complete which will build on the knowledge you have acquired in the GCSE course and extend it for A level.
When we get back into school, during the early lessons we will consolidate all this information so if you feel unsure of any of the content there will be an opportunity for you to ask questions and resolve difficulties. We will provide you with opportunities to apply the skills required in practical activities such as microscopy and in answering A level questions.

1 Cell Organelles Structure and Function
Find clear labelled diagrams of the following cell organelles. They should be easy to find online. We will look at different specialised cells in more detail as we go through the course, however this will provide the foundation of understanding at A level. Some of these organelles will be familiar to you and some will be new. The interactive website will give you an opportunity to look at the cells in detail.
• Mitochondrion
• Chloroplast
• Nucleus and nucleolus
• Rough endoplasmic reticulum
• Smooth endoplasmic reticulum
• Ribosome
• Cilia
• Undulipodia
• Golgi apparatus
• Centriole
• Cellulose cell wall
Write a brief outline of the roles of each of these. No details of the biochemical processes such as photosynthesis or respiration are required at this stage.
Please ensure this work is completed for the first lesson.

2 Comparing animal and plant cells
Draw up a comparison table which compares the similarities and differences of plant and animal cells. Make sure that you compare each organelle and whether they are present, how they are similar and if there are any differences between them.

3 Prokaryotes - structure and organelles.
Create a comparison table to show the similarities and differences in the structures between eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

4 Microscopes
Research microscopes, making sure you:
- Have an understanding of the principles of light and electron microscopes, including methods for calculating real sizes of structures on slides. Much of this should be revision from GCSE.
- Explain magnification and resolution.
- Include methods for making microscope slides.
- You should know how they are different and which you would use to observe a range of different samples.
Confocal microscopy will be new to you and we will go back over this.

Some useful links: 

Interactive cell website

Useful video links: 

Cell structure
Cell structure including prokaryotes


Microscopy (A light-hearted take on dating type programmes!)

Making Microscope slides
A more complicated explanation of SEM than you need but some useful stuff.

Images see with electron microscopes

Virus replication showing many structures in a cell.

Inner Life of the Cell.
This is a great animation of how many of the cellular structures interact and shows how highly complex the cell is and that activities are highly coordinated and controlled. You will not be expected to know about or understand many of the complex processes mentioned but it is well put together.

Before the start of the school year you will need to buy the recommended A level text book. This book covers the whole 2 year course content:

Biology textbook   A-Level Biology for OCR - Ann Fullick, Jo Locke, and Paul Bircher ISBN: 978-0-19-835192-4

Some of you will want some additional reading so I have attached a list of recommended literature which can be accessed through online shops such as Amazon. I particularly enjoyed Adam Rutherford, Giles Yeo and Richard Dawkins' books.
In addition there are loads of excellent wildlife programmes and Podcasts on BBC iplayer BBC Sounds and YouTube such as David Attenborough's Life on Earth Series.
You will find that searching for these titles on Amazon will lead you to other, similar titles and this list is a starting point to stimulate your interest but by no means definitive.

Additional Reading:
The Selfish gene by Richard Dawkins
The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins
The History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford
Gene Eating by Giles Yeo
Junk DNA by Nessa Carey
Life Unfolding by Jamie A Davies
The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Prof Alice Roberts
How We Live and Why We Die by Lewis Wolpert
Endless Forms most Beautiful by Sean B. Carroll
How to Build a Habitable Planet by Charles H Langmuir and Wally Broeker
Oceans by Paul Rose, Anne Laking, Philippe Cousteau
The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge

Books by David Attenborough
Life of Mammals
Life on Earth
Life in Cold Blood
Life in the Undergrowth
Planet Earth
Blue Planet