What do I revise for GCSE Maths?

My original blog was Foundation tier based and as I have now started working with students at Higher Tier again I thought I would go through the same process so I could understand the specification in greater detail.

As I said in the original blog this is not about finding shortcuts or quick fixes and students are always going to have to work hard to gain success at GCSE. I have done it to improve my understanding of the higher tier specification and how topics compare in both tiers.

The data below shows analysis for AQA and Pearson GCSE Maths. So the data that I am about to share encompasses a total of 36 papers, 18 from each exam boards. I’ve not included the breakdowns of papers visually in the tables but have calculated the overall figures as school will likely be using the papers for key assessments.

Another area to be aware of is when I have allocated topics to questions in some cases I have had to split the marks between topic areas and if there are more topic areas than marks available I have made a judgement on what topics I felt were most crucial in the success of that question. That is subjective so please take these figures as rough guides only. I am not making direct comparisons between the two examination boards, i have included both as got a lot of correspondence on twitter wanting the specific board. There is a lot more to consider when choosing an exam board, with both boards having their own styles.

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. Which areas carry more weight to the overall grade?

Foundation Tier

Number is the key area at foundation in both specifications and carries roughly a 1/3 of the marks. Algebra and Geometry carry around 50 marks each. Another area i have managed to analyse with AQA is the average score per 1 mark that students achieves in each area. So looking at this students generally find the areas of Number, Statistics and Probability as the most successful areas in the examinations. It’s worth noting that whilst ratio and proportion looks lower there are areas like Similar shapes which are classified as Geometry but have proportion in them – it’s not an exact science this!

Higher Tier

At Higher Tier up to 70 marks are allocated to Algebra and Geometry which equates to about 30% each of the overall marks. Students generally perform better on Number and Statistics with Algebra and Geometry yielding the least marks overall.

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’ or ‘Algebra’. What I can do is create opportunities for key topic areas to be repeatedly retrieved and practiced. When I looked at the new specification I think there are 44 topic areas at foundation tier and 49 topic areas at higher tier. Below shows the average number of marks in each specification broken down by topic. The AQA analysis also has the average scored per mark (red bars) in that topic.

Foundation Tier – Common Topics

Foundation Tier – Least Common Topics

Had quite a lot of teacher tweeting asking about what areas to cover in boosters, intervention etc… and whilst the clear way of getting success in Maths is knowing the all the content well this might inform some initial starting areas. Before I did this analysis students skills in dealing with money was an area I took for granted at foundation tier and it’s a significant topic in both specifications, charts and tables was another area that I may have not given the appropriate time to.

Higher Tier – Common Topics

Higher Tier – Least Common Topics

This is possibly the most useful area for me when considering topic areas to start with at higher tier particularly referencing the red bars when looking at which areas students generally do well in. I think initially I will focus on the top 10 areas and then looking at topics like sequences and fractions to build confidence as they should be more assessible. Then onto the rest!

Which topics 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. Some topic areas naturally lend themselves to AO1 styles questions so their success rate is likely to be higher due to this. Be aware that this area is based just on AQA.

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.

Topic Areas with highest national success rates (Foundation – Left, Higher – Right)

Topic Areas with the lowest national success rates (Foundation – Left, Higher – Right)

With higher tier it is particularly worth considering the average number of marks allocated as well as the success rate. Percentages and Averages and Spread seem to be two areas to consider with Higher tier where there will be enough marks on offer and nationally students do quite well on those areas.

I’ve purposely not commented in great detail about each table in this blog because I don’t think you can make significant inferences from the information. I wouldn’t suddenly change a mid term plan based on this or make other curriculum decisions but it has made me reconsider some topic areas and their relative difficultly compared with others and the time I take introducing the initial concepts. I do not think there were many surprises on the list but it’s certainly made me re-evaluate how I will approach some topics in the future.

If you want to see what specific areas are under the topic ‘Charts and Tables’ for example if you look under Statistics on the top menu and then click the topic the specific areas will be shown. I’ve not added the Higher tier topics objectives yet to my website resources but hoping to in time!

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading.