Studying A-level biology in Dubai – what are the options?

Studying A-level biology in Dubai

Many UK expat families are relocating to the United Arab Emirates with teenage children. Parents and students often ask me what the options are for studying A-levels in Dubai. Here are some details about the next steps and the choices you have. We’re focussing on A-level biology in Dubai, but many of these points apply more generally too.

Choosing a school in Dubai vs online school vs home school (home education)

Enrolling at a local school to study A-level biology in Dubai

Depending on your circumstances, one of the local schools may be a good option. Enrolling for A-level biology at a Dubai school gives you two years’ teaching on topics like genetics, homeostasis and photosynthesis, together with practical skills and experience (more on this below). Exams are usually taken at the school (most schools double as exam centres). Each school will have its own requirements for entry in terms of grades at GCSE or equivalent and may offer A-level biology courses from different course providers (see below).

Here are some popular Dubai schools, with the specific A-level biology courses they provide:

GEMS Jumeirah college 19th St – Al Safa
(Biology course/exam board: Edexcel Salters Nuffield)

Dubai College Al Sufouh – Al Sufouh 2
(Biology course/exam board: Edexcel Salters Nuffield)

Dubai British School Emirates Hills Town Centre – Springs 3 Emirates Hills
(Biology course/exam board: Edexcel Biology B)

Dubai English speaking school and college Oud Metha Rd – Umm Hurair 2
(Biology course/exam board: AQA)

Safa community school Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road
(Biology course/exam board: AQA International A-level)

GEMS Cambridge International school Al Twar 1
(Biology course/exam board: Cambridge International A Level)

Differences between the A-level biology courses are discussed below.

Enrolling for A-level biology at an online school

Online schools provide an alternative for A-level biology students who need to move around (perhaps through family commitments) or who prefer online learning from their own home. Again, these schools have individual requirements (and fees) and offer different A-level biology courses.
Studying A-level biology at an online school still requires you to attend an exam centre to sit exams (although online exams are currently being trialled by the AQA). You may also need to attend a local centre to gain a “practical endorsement” required by some universities (see below).

Home-schooling (home education)

Some A-level students opt for an entirely home-schooled (home educated) approach. Here you have lots of flexibility in choice of A-level biology course provider/ exam board, but more admin to take care of. You’ll need to register with the British Council at least six weeks before your exams and find a local exam centre offering A-level biology in Dubai. The exam dates can be found on the website of your course provider, for example AQA, Edexcel. You’ll also need to decide if you need to earn your “practical endorsement” (see below).

Private tuition can complement all of these approaches – working with a dedicated one-to-one tutor throughout your course. I am a specialist A-level biology tutor if you want to get in touch for any advice on your options 🙂

Choice of exam board for A-level Biology in Dubai

Studying A-level biology in Dubai Different schools offer A-level biology courses from different exam boards. Each has its pros and cons. AQA A-level biology is a popular choice in schools in the UK, and is perhaps also (slightly!) easier than others in terms of the exam content; however it features a 25 mark essay question which some students may find a challenge. Edexcel’s Salters/Nuffield and Biology B courses are other highly respected options, but the content is more detailed.

Alternatively, OxfordAQA, Edexcel, and Cambridge International Education (CIE) also offer “international” A-level Biology courses. These are very similar to A-levels, with some details changed to put exam questions in a more international context. These international courses are modular, meaning rather than sitting all the exams at the end of the course, assessment is  spread throughout the two years, after each taught module.

The content covered is broadly the same for each exam board including cell biology, evolution, genetics and immunity. Each exam board has a “specification” for their course that can be downloaded from the web sites linked above.

Practical endorsement and applying to university

In the past, assessed practical work contributed to your final A-level biology grade. Now, most A-level biology courses “strongly encourage” you to have practical experience, yet this doesn’t contribute to your final grade. So why do it at all? This separate “practical endorsement” is sometimes known as Common Practical Assessment Criteria, or CPAC.

Your CPAC endorsement is proof that you have practical experience and is sometimes required for admission to university courses like medicine. UCAS checks on your CPAC status during the university application process in the UK. It’s worth checking with your desired university, especially when applying to UK universities from Dubai, to see if the practical endorsement is required. If you are home-schooling, it may still be possible to do your practical training, and get your endorsement, at a local school.

Sharing your experience of A-level biology in Dubai 

Often the best way to find out how schools work (and which is the best for you) is from the inside – to talk to students who actually go there, or have been there.  There is a thriving community of teenagers in UAE on reddit discussing “universities and colleges”. There’s also a discussion on “looking for friends” in Dubai – school is only one side of life in Dubai after all, and balance is important to your wellbeing, and therefore to your grades.

Extra help and advice for studying A-level biology in Dubai

I specialise in online A-level biology tutoring, and have several online students in UAE and extensive experience with home education. If you’d like some advice on your next steps, I’d be very happy to help. Equally if you’d like academic support with your A-level biology, please do get in touch.

Best of luck,


Dr John Ankers is a specialist online A-level biology tutor and academic coach.
Woolton Tutors has international clients in UAE, USA and China as well as the UK.

Author: Dr John Ankers

Dr John Ankers is a tutor, coach and writer. For writing and consultancy work, please contact me at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *