Sir, what do I revise for GCSE Maths Foundation?

The first round of Mocks in Year 11 and I always get this question from students – “What should I revise?” or “Whats going to be on the mock?”. Each year my answer is the same, particularly with the new GCSE, that you need to understand all the topic areas well. I wish I could see into the future and tell them actually what’s on the paper but students need to be good mathematicians and flexible in applying their knowledge and skills in different contexts. Before you read anymore on this blog I want to make clear I am not advocating quick fixes and students must graft and apply themselves to gain success at GCSE.

My first real foray into blogging was to attempt to look at topic trends in content coverage in the final exams and seeing if I could spot any trends. Now we have had 5 cycles (3 June sittings and 2 November sittings) I thought I would come back to this. Had a lot of requests at the time on twitter on my first blog to do this for AQA as well so after a few late nights have completed it. So the data that I am about to share encompasses 15 papers in both exam boards. As June 2019 is not available openly I have left the specific data off for this sitting but it is included in the overall averages.

What is the balance in the 6 main areas of Maths?

As I’d collected the data thought it would be interesting to see what the balance of 240 marks would be for the 6 main areas. This is not an exact science as some 4 mark questions require skills in up to 3 out the 6 areas so I have allocated the marks accordingly but some questions are not cut and dry. Which areas carry more weight to the overall grade?

Number, on average, carries 30% of the overall marks. But it important to state that this does vary between sittings and the specifications do state their percentage topic area coverage as a range of values so it will never be specific.

What topics carry the most marks?

The topic breakdown is more interesting for me as a class teacher as I cannot really teach them ‘number’ in a short space of time it’s too large. What I can do is create opportunities for key topic areas to be repeatedly retrieved and practiced. I have started to create correctives (click here) which target specific areas and allow students to practice these so more of it becomes embedded in their long term memory. When I looked at the new specification I think they cover 43 topic areas and the analysis below shows areas which carry more than 5 marks or more across the 240 marks in the set of 3 GCSE foundation papers.

Had quite a lot of teacher tweeting asking about what areas to cover in boosters, intervention etc… so hope this helps. There is nothing to stop exam boards changing at each sitting and you can see the variety of marks over each sitting. Money questions I know I don’t cover enough!

We are planning to create more GCSE Maths revision resources this year on the site and wanted this to be more informed so it will be anchored in this analysis.

Hope the analysis helps you in the coming year.

Update – Which of the 6 main areas do students perform well in?

Before much more is read into this area it is very important to emphasise that the structure and style (AO1, 2 or 3) has significant impact on the success rate of a question. I have looked at the national average score on AQA foundation and cross referenced this with the main area of maths being covered. The figures expressed in the following tables are the national average score per single mark in that area of maths – hope that marks sense!

This shows that students on average students get 1 in every 2 marks on Number, Statistics, Ratio and Proportion and Probability. The areas where students struggle more is topics within Algebra and Geometry.

What is the performance difference between topics?

Naturally once I had produced this I wanted to break it down into specific topic areas to see which areas students generally were more successful in.

After teaching for more than ten years I think I would have guessed a few of the top 10 topics but some were surprising to me. Personally Bearings and Scale Drawing was the biggest shock. The topics below are the areas which are in general the lowest scoring ones.

I’ll let you make your own inferences from this but the topic areas on graphs seems to be on particular challenge for students taking the foundation tier.

Hope the analysis helps you in the coming year.

If you want to read more of my ramblings (more classroom based) my weekly blogs are here