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New lease of life

* AS LEVEL BIOLOGY. By Phil Bradfield, John Dodds, Judy Dodds and Norma Taylor. Longman pound;19.99.

This is the only attempt to cover the AS specifications for all examination boards in a single volume. It weighs in at 566 pages, as big as many generic texts covering AS and A2. Its coverage of the modules is comprehensive and rigorous, with a clear emblem (not icon) used to indicate the match between each chapter or sections within them, and the specifications.

This book is beautifully designed, with the underpinning main text always occupying two-thirds of the page. The standard of illustration is mostly superb, apart from some rushed diagrams of muscles that do not change length and a scribbled diagram of root nodules, better illustrated in a later photograph. Within each chapter there are self-assessment questions, with past examination questions. Answers are provided for both. Apart from a few misprints, the enzyme "anylase", for example, this is unquestionably an excellent resource; but the combined cost of the AS and A2 will be far greater than a good generic text. The AS book inevitably includes some A2 material. It will be fascinating to see the A2 book later this summer.

ADVANCED BIOLOGY: Principles and Applications. By Chris Clegg and Don Mackean pound;25. Study Guide pound;17.99. John Murray. This generic text covering AS and A2 is the second edition of a familiar text book first published in 1994. It has been revised to take account of the new specifications and provides one page showing the match.

Although it could stand alone, it has a companion Study Guide and the specification mapping includes a great many references to that guide - an aditional cost. The text is laid out in three columns with clear illustrations. There are many questions embedded in each chapter, with answers at the back.

Each section closes with a selection of recent examination questions but, curiously, the answers to these as published by examination boards are not included.

ADVANCED BIOLOGY FOR YOU. By Gareth Williams. Nelson Thornes pound;22.50.

This new generic textbook is aimed at students in both years of the advanced level course. The rudimentary specification matrix is fleshed out at and is comprehensive. There are some excellent original boxed sections on "Biology at Work". The main text is pared down to succinct sentences - more in the style of a revision guide and the design is rather fragmented.

Questions at the end of chapters and past examination questions following each section are not supported by mark schemes.

BIOLOGY. By Ann Fullick. Heinemann pound;24.99.

This is the second edition of another familiar textbook, first published in 1994, with many features of the original. Its generic coverage is comprehensive, but there is no attempt to flag up the specification matches for exam boards.

There has been some updating of the old main text and, indeed, a whole new section on "Microbes and Biotechnology", but much updating has been achieved with new information or extension boxes. Each chapter has a few questions, with specimen examination questions at the end of each major section but, again, answers or mark schemes for neither.

Nigel Collins is head of biology at King Charles I school, Kidderminster and editor of 'Catalyst', GCSE Science Review

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