Understanding what GCSE Maths is all about can help set yourself up for the best results. It's a study of mathematics that provides a foundation for the future needs of all students. While schools should be able to provide you with enough preparation to do well on your Maths GCSE it could be a good idea to seek extra help.
Once the exam is over, the stress levels should also be over. If this isn’t the case then pupils can always follow tips to avoid that anxiety to give them peace of mind. They can also use a range of revision techniques proven to help students achieve a better overall score which could be crucial.
Below, we'll take a look at the core components of the Maths GCSE, the grade boundaries and some tips to be able to prepare and get higher grades.
What are the main boards for Maths GCSE?
It's vital to note that schools cherry-pick their Maths GCSE boards. This decision depends on how they want to prepare students for mathematics and eventually, higher education. There are currently five major boards in the U.K.
The three boards that are focused on England:
AQA (Assessment and Qualification Alliance)
Edexcel (part of Pearson)
OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations)
The two additional boards for Northern Ireland and Wales:
CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment)
WJEC (Welsh Joint Education Committee)
However, there is no “best” board out there. These boards tend to work with each other to set out universal standards for Maths and other assessments for students. Each of the main boards has its own scoring system that converts to a universal boundaries range. That means some exam boards could have wider ranges or require a higher point amount to achieve similar grades.
How are Maths GCSE exam papers marked?
Once the exam is complete, exam papers are graded by qualified examiners who assess the quality of the work provided by students.
There are new GCSE boundaries that have been introduced, and the lettering system has been changed to a number system. Now, the scoring system is all the way up to a 9 (highest) down to the lowest rank of 1. Anything that is a 7 or above is in the highest ranks of A or A*.
What about the GCSE questions and grade boundaries set each year?
Both of these are decided in a similar fashion. Examiners will look at the preceding years and decide on what the minimum mark should be per grade. All of this is based on the overall difficulty of the questions and the exam itself.
If the exam questions tend to be too easy then the boundaries for the grades will go up. This also works the other way where the grade boundaries could end up lower if the exam seems tougher.
What are the Maths GCSE Assessment Objectives?
There are three major areas that the government considers when it comes to what the Assessment Objectives or AOs should cover. This is meant to be a standard on what is being tested in Maths. It is also meant to ensure that those taking the exam understand Maths and how to solve equations thoroughly.
AO 1 – Use and apply standard techniques
This is related to students being able to understand the terminology and meanings of everything related to their current Maths level. They should be able to utilise notation properly as well as comprehend it when they see it. They should also be able to follow a systemic approach when a Maths problem requires multiple steps to solve it.
AO 2 - Reason, interpret, and communicate mathematically
Here the student should be able to essentially show their work. This means showing the detail of the process and route they took to reach the answer. It also means it may not, at times, be enough to simply show the right answer. Students should also make the necessary deductions and conclusions from details related to mathematics to help them show reasoning and ultimately be able to get to the right end result.
AO 3 - Solve problems within mathematics and in other contexts
The final objective is the solution. As alluded to above, it’s key to understand what concepts were used to achieve an answer and to show that properly. It's also key for students to understand the process and not work from assumptions that aren't proven in any way.
These are also the main components when it comes to producing a score for the student. AO1 is weighed heavier than AO2 and AO3 separately. Make a note of that during your studies, as this can help with achieving higher marks.
Key dates for Maths GCSEs 2024
As the 2023 time period for Maths GCSEs is now over let’s look at what the estimated dates are for 2024. Currently, it seems that the first exam date for Paper 1 will take place around the middle of May in the morning. The remaining two papers, Paper 2 and Paper 3, will occur in early and mid-June respectively.
It’s also difficult to confirm what days in 2024 they will take place on. In 2023 they happened on Wednesday and Friday but they could be on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday.
Which Maths GCSE topics do students struggle with?
It can depend on the year. With that said, there have been some extremely challenging questions in recent years. They have either been overly complicated or have required extensive work to show how the answer was derived. These types of difficult questions came from questions related to:
Students tend to struggle with the more complex levels of math, which can include the above as well as:
Yet these are just a portion of many mathematical topics that are covered. The exam is meant to be an assessment of a range of topics so the best way to approach this is with a proper plan. This way students will be able to handle even the toughest Maths questions on these exams.
It's important to note that there are some exam papers where you can and cannot use a calculator. For papers two and three, you can use a calculator; for paper one, you cannot.
Getting the right study tools with GCSE Maths Textbooks and GCSE Past Papers
There’s a plethora of options with these and new editions coming out annually. Yet, it’s also important to find Maths textbooks that come from reputable educational publishers.
A great place to source such books is straight from the Oxford University Press. Some of the examiners, such as Edexcel, also sell specific textbooks that could give students the edge they need for that particular exam.
GCSE past papers are another area you should definitely check out. They will show what the exam looked like in the past and it’s a good idea to use them as practice examinations. You may also want to consider using a similar timed testing environment to be able to mentally prepare for the examination.
Some top tips from a tutor for Maths GCSE revision
It's important to always start to revise early when it comes to revision. You also want to ensure that you develop a schedule and stick to it. Unless Maths comes completely naturally to you, it's not something that can be done at the last moment.
Also stick to studying when you are fresh in the morning and break up the study days early on. For example, study on Monday and Thursday. You can then eventually add in extra days such as Tuesday and Wednesday to the study schedule as the exam approaches.
In the end
Make sure to note that pupils require 30+ weeks of study and classroom training to prepare for the questions that are going to be asked on such examinations. While tutors can help prepare, the schools themselves tend to provide the core foundation in the beginning.