GCSE Maths Syllabus – Everything You Need to Know

If you have a fourteen to sixteen year old student under your care, chances are that the thought of the upcoming GCSE examinations are giving you sleepless nights. The GCSE maths is a demanding subject and the syllabus is very comprehensive. If you’re overwhelmed by what lies ahead of your child’s future, let us help you.

Basics of GCSE Maths

Before we launch into the details of requirements of the GCSE syllabus, here are some basic facts about this examination.

GCSE maths has two tiers. There is the Foundation tier for grades 1 – 5. Then, there is the Higher tier for grades 4 – 9. Students must take three question papers at the same tier. All question papers must be taken in the same series.

According to the Department of Education UK, GCSE specifications in mathematics should enable students to:

  • Develop fluent knowledge, skills and understanding of mathematical methods and concepts
  • Acquire, select and apply mathematical techniques to solve problems
  • Reason mathematically, make deductions and inferences and draw conclusions and
  • Comprehend, interpret and communicate mathematical information in a variety of forms appropriate to the information and context.

Students should be aware that mathematics can be used to develop models of real situations and that these models may be more or less effective depending on how the situation has been simplified and the assumptions that have been made. Students should also be able to recall, select and apply mathematical formulae.

All of the above sounds a wee bit overwhelming. Who am I kidding? It is downright hard! So, why study GCSE Mathematics? After all, if your child ends up becoming a fashion designer or an influencer on YouTube, the chances are he won’t have to calculate the value of cos, sine or theta. However, GCSE Maths helps build skills required in daily life. We all need skills like communication, analysing data, logical thinking, problem solving, and attention to detail, irrespective of the career path we chose to follow. And Mathematics is a universal language, the mastery of which will open doors for your child to secondary education or higher education institutions, universities , apprenticeship organisers, and a wide range of recruitment professionals working for an employer and/or organisation.

Assessment Objectives

GCSE Maths focuses on the practical side of mathematics. It tests the ability of a candidate to apply core mathematical concept derived from everyday life.

GCSE exams and certification for Mathematics are available for the first time in May/June in an academic year. Thereafter, a student can take the examinations, every May/June and November for the life of the specification. This is a linear qualification. In order to achieve the award, students must complete all exams in November or May/June in a single year. All assessments must be taken in the same series. November entries are only be available to students who were at least 16 on the previous 31 August. Please see, “Resits and shelf life in the General administration section” for November entry restrictions.

All GCSE exams in mathematics must include questions that allow students to draw on elements from within and across different topic areas, and questions that allow students to provide extended responses. All materials are available in English only.

The table below shows the assessment objectives  as outlined by the Department of Education:

This specification is designed to be taken over two years with all assessments taken at the end of the course. The weighting of the topic areas has been prescribed by Ofqual and is common to all exam boards.

This table below shows the approximate weightings of the topic areas for the overall tier of assessment, not for each individual question paper.

Number 25 15
Algebra 20 30
Ratio 25 20
Geometry 15 20
Probability and statistics (Combined) 15 15

Source- AQA.ORG.UK

Awarding Grades and Reporting Results

The qualification will be graded on a nine-point scale: 1 to 9 – where 9 is the best grade. A student taking Foundation Tier assessments will be awarded a grade within the range of 1 to 5. Students who fail to reach the minimum standard for grade 1 will be recorded as U (unclassified) and will not receive a qualification certificate.

A student taking Higher Tier assessments will be awarded a grade within the range of 4 to 9. A student sitting the Higher tier who just fails to achieve grade 4 will be awarded an allowed grade 3. Students who fail to reach the minimum standard for the allowed grade 3 will be recorded as U (unclassified) and will not receive a qualification certificate.

Teaching Methodology

Initially, the GCSE course is planned in a way which covers the basics of mathematics and core math skills. This means that multiplication and division, addition and subtraction, counting, fractions, and basic algebra specifications all have a part in the timetable. After developing a strong base in these topics, the GCSE Maths course then transitions slowly towards more advanced concepts and topics.

This course is usually taught in a structured manner. Topics are introduced and the students are asked to have a go at some simple practice questions to cement the conceptual learning. Then, they attempt have a go at some harder questions, perhaps word problems or questions involving some extra steps. Finally,  student work through some exam questions. As a plenary, they are asked to summarise what they have learnt.

There are many GCSE Maths tutorials available online that support student preparation. The best thing about online Maths tutoring is that the student doesn’t have to constantly toggle between pages to view questions and answers. Usually there is a ready-made practice pack available based on past questions that help the students be ready for test day. You can book a free demo class with Wizert and try out their customized lesson packs.

For past papers and mark schemes, and specimen papers for new courses, visit aqa.org.uk/pastpapers

For more information on the GCSE Maths syllabus , visit these sites: