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GCSE maths exam boards explained

AQA vs Edexcel – what’s the difference? Discover everything you need to know about GCSE maths exam boards all in one handy place. Let’s get prepared together!

Students sitting their GCSE exams

We know you’ll have so many things going through your head in the lead up to your summer 2022 exams, like what are the different exam boards and how they’ll affect your exams when you come to sit them. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand with our handy maths GCSE resources and this guide to explain GCSE maths exam boards. 

 

What exam board is my GCSE maths exam?

GCSE exam boards are small organisations that set the exams for schools and colleges. The exam boards aren’t specific to subjects, so the same board that sets your English exams could also set your maths exams. 

The exam board that sets your maths GCSE exams could be different depending on which part of the UK you live in. Let’s take a look at the exam boards…

 

GCSE maths exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

These exam boards set exams across all of the UK except Scotland: 

Different exam boards used to work in different regions, but now these exam boards cover much wider areas. 

If you live in England your school will most likely work with AQA, OCR or Pearson Edexcel. 

If you live in Wales, there’s a good chance your exam board will be WJEC. 

For Northern Ireland, you’ll likely be with CCEA. 

 

GCSE maths exam boards in Scotland

If you live in Scotland, you’ll do your GCSE maths exams with SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority)

Regardless of where you live and which GCSE exam board handles your exams, every exam board will ensure you’re tested fairly in your GCSE maths exams. 

 

The differences between GCSE exam boards

You probably have so much going through your mind leading up to your GCSE exams. One of those things might be why there are so many different exam boards for schools and colleges in the UK, and whether you’ll be graded equally regardless of who sets your exams.  

You might know someone sitting their GCSE maths exam at another school with AQA, while you’re sitting your maths exams with Edexcel. While the exam papers will be different, you’ll both still be graded fairly and have the opportunity to reach the same grades. And thanks to the hard work of your teachers in working through the school syllabus, even though you both have different papers, you’ll both have all the information you need to answer all the questions. 

So when it comes to your GCSE maths exam, as long as you’ve done your GCSE maths revision then you’ll be all set for your exam, regardless of the awarding body.  

 

Exam formats

The format of your GCSE maths exams will be similar regardless of the exam board you’ll be sitting your exam with. 

You’ll sit three maths papers, one non-calculator paper and two calculator papers, and each paper will be 90 minutes. 

The only difference between AQA, Edexcel and OCR is the amount you can be awarded. Edexcel and AQA exams will be out of 240 marks, while OCR will be out of 300 marks. Don’t worry though! Regardless of the exam board and the number of marks available, you’ll still be marked within the same grading systems of 1-9. 

 

Foundation tier or higher tier?

When it comes to maths GCSE you’ll be able to take an exam that’s best suited to you. This comes in the form of a foundation paper or a higher paper. 

While different exam boards will grade everyone equally to ensure no one has an advantage based on who their awarding body is, foundation and higher tier papers are graded differently. That’s because with a foundation paper your highest possible grade is 5. 

The foundation tier paper is only partly identical to the higher tier paper from the same exam board. However, a lot of the questions are changed to a skill level suited for a student aiming for a 4 or 5. On the other hand, the higher tier paper is aimed at students expecting to get a grade of 5 or above, so the question styles can be more challenging. 

Your teacher will be the best person to advise you on which paper you should take based on your skill. After all, they’ve been getting to know you for a while now! 

 

GCSE exam support and resources

If you need extra help with your GCSE maths exam, whether that’s understanding the exam format or which tier of entry paper is best for you, that’s okay. There’s plenty of GCSE maths support out there, and we’re here to help

We also understand that even once you’ve finished the exam you might still be anxious about your exam grades. So to reduce that exam stress, keep these things in mind before and after the exam: 

  • You will probably get a little worried, it’s perfectly natural, so prepare yourself for it as best you can – get the reassurance of your teachers and parents or guardians that you’ve done your best
  • Prepare yourself as best you can before the exam, with maths past papers, practice questions and revising in a way that best suits you
  • Remember, your grade won’t be negatively impacted by the examination board that sets your GCSE maths exam – everyone is graded fairly regardless of the awarding body.

 

Are different exam boards better for GCSE maths?

The short answer for this is, no. All exam boards work hard to ensure that your GCSE maths exam is appropriately challenging but fair, regardless of which awarding body sets your exam. 

To make sure that you’re being treated fairly in your GCSE maths exams (and all your other GCSEs), regardless of the exam board, there’s a government regulation company called Ofqual. Ofqual will make sure that every exam board is meeting the right standards to set your GCSE exams and make sure every student across the UK is graded fairly too. 

So don’t worry, whichever exam board sets your GCSE maths exam, you’ll be treated fairly. 

 

Which exam board is the easiest for GCSE maths and which is the hardest?

Many students, and you may be one of them, believe that your teacher might’ve chosen an exam board to ensure you get simpler questions for your GCSE maths exams. That isn’t the case, and you won’t be penalised for being examined by a ‘simpler’ exam board because there isn’t one. 

When it comes to GCSE maths exams, all exam boards will do everything to ensure you’re treated equally. The only difference will be between the foundation tier exam and the higher tier exam paper, as we talked about earlier.

 

How do schools choose their exam boards?

We know that every exam board will treat everyone fairly and ensure everyone is tested to the best of their abilities in their GCSE maths exams. So, you might be wondering how your school decides on different exam boards for different subjects. It must be a difficult decision! 

The decision is often made by the head of subjects or sometimes your teacher, which is why different subjects may have different exam boards to your maths GCSE. Your teacher is given lots of paperwork and specifications for each exam board, so they can make sure the exam paper your class takes will be the best one for you. 

The important thing is not to worry! Whichever exam board your school chooses for you will have been a very careful decision to ensure that you are appropriately challenged for your GCSE maths exam. You’ll all be graded fairly when it comes to GCSE results day!

 

How do I find my GCSE exam board?

If you want to find out who your GCSE exam board will be, the best way is to just ask your teacher. As soon as they know, they’ll be able to tell you which exam board will be setting your GCSE maths exam. 

If, when you’ve finished school, you ever need to know which exam board set your GCSE exams simply get in touch with your school. They’ll have records for your year group and can tell you. 

 

Revision resources and past papers

If you’re worried about your GCSE maths exams there’s a lot of help available to you. One of the best things you can do is practice with past GCSE maths papers or GCSE maths revision apps

We’re here to help too! Our expert maths tutors will be there for you with one-to-one tuition and help you practice in the areas you’re finding particularly tricky, so you can feel confident about your GCSE maths exams.  

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