Specifications that use this resource:

Switching to AQA: from OCR

To save you time and help you compare our GCSE Biology with the OCR Gateway Biology specification, we’ve created some comparison tables.

These tables highlight the content and requirements side by side, so you can make the right choice for your students.

Subject content

The subject content covered by all awarding bodies is fundamentally the same. This is because the DfE subject criteria were very specific and extensive and no awarding body felt there was a need to add greatly to this body of knowledge. There are slight differences where small amounts of detail have been added to certain concepts. By reading the specification statements it is quite easy to identify these points. The titles used for topics are different in each specification as is the order that they appear. A summary of this is shown in the assessment structure table.

Working scientifically

The working scientifically statements are part of the subject criteria set by the DfE so are the same for all awarding bodies. AQA have also given examples of what students could be asked to do in the exam for each skill (section 3 working scientifically).

AQA have mapped key opportunities for development of these skills throughout the subject content (section 4). These are suggestions and are a starting point for teachers to identify where best to introduce and develop these skills during the course.

Mathematical requirements

The mathematical skills are part of the subject criteria set by the DfE so are the same for all awarding bodies (AQA section 9). Key opportunities for development of these skills are mapped throughout the subject content in the specification. It should be noted that this does not mean that this is where they will be exclusively assessed.

Required practical and apparatus and techniques

The apparatus and techniques are set by the DfE so these are common to all awarding bodies. The required practicals are designed to ensure that all the ATs are met. There are some differences to the required practicals we have used to address these ATs and the ones OCR suggest. The table below shows for the titles of the RPs. The free practical handbook is available on the website where full details of teacher technician notes and students worksheets can be found.

OCR does not specify particular required practicals but split the requirements into 8 Practical Activity Groups (PAGs). The PAGs cover the ATs and an example practical is given.


AQA – Biology

OCR Gateway – Biology PAGs suggestions

1. Use a light microscope to observe, draw and label a selection of plant and animal cells. A magnification scale must be included.

B1 Investigate different magnification techniques to draw scientific diagrams from a number of biological specimens

4. Use qualitative reagents to test for a range of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. To include: Benedict’s test for sugars; iodine test for starch; and Biuret reagent for protein.

B2 (Biology only) Testing foods for the presence of biological molecules in a range of foods

9. Measure the population size of a common species in a habitat. Use sampling techniques to investigate the effect of a factor on the distribution of this species.

B3 Investigate the differences in habitats using ecological sampling techniques

5. Investigate the effect of pH on the rate of reaction of amylase enzyme.

B4 Investigate the factors that can affect the rate of enzyme activity

6. Investigate the effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis using an aquatic organism such as pondweed

B5 Investigate the factors that can affect the rate of photosynthesis on Cabomba

2. (Biology only) Investigate the effect of antiseptics or antibiotics on bacterial growth using agar plates and measuring the zone of inhibition.

B7 Investigate the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents on the growth of a bacterial lawn

3. Investigate the effect of a range of concentrations of salt or sugar solutions on the mass of plant tissue.

B8 Investigate the effect of different water potential on the length and mass of potato chips

7. Plan and carry out an investigation into the effect of a human factor on human reaction time


8. Investigate the effect of light or gravity on the growth of newly germinated seedlings


10. Investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of decay of fresh milk by measuring pH changes


B6 (Biology only) Investigate the effect of exercise on pulse rate/ ventilation rate and recovery


AQA – GCSE Biology

OCR Gateway – Biology

Students must complete all assessments in the same tier.

Students must complete all assessments in the same tier.

2 papers – 1 hour and 45 minutes

2 papers – 1 hour and 45 minutes

100 marks per paper. 200 marks in total

Sufficient marks on each paper to sample the content in enough detail for valid assessment throughout the course.

90 marks per paper. 180 marks in total.

30% marks common between foundation and Higher.

This level of overlap allows us to be surer of the equivalence of standard across the common grades, and to be more confident in the awarding of these common grades.


Topics covered in each paper

Paper 1

AQA – Biology Paper 1

OCR Gateway – Biology Paper 1

Fundamental principles


Topic 1 – Cell Biology

Topic B1 – Cell level systems

Topic 2 – Organisation

Topic B2 – Scaling up

Topic 3  –  Infection and response

Topic B3 –  Organism level systems

Topic 4 – Bioenergetics

Topic B7 – Practical skills

Paper 2

AQA – Biology Paper 2

OCR Gateway – Biology Paper 2

Fundamental principles

With assumed knowledge of B1-B3

Topic 5 – Homeostasis and response

Topic B4 Community level systems

Topic 6 – Inheritance, variation and evolution

Topic B5 Genes inheritance and selection

Topic 7 – Ecology

Topic B6 Global challenges

Topic B7 Practical skills