How GCSE combined science grades work: a quick guide

Grades for combined science are a bit complicated ... here's a simple explanation

Feeling a bit confused about your combined science GCSE grades? You’re not the only one on The Student Room who feels that way.

I’m a year 11 student. We've been told that we now only get two grades in science instead of three separate ones and I was hoping someone could explain this.

Two grades for three sciences

OK, here's how it works. If you’re studying the three sciences as separate subjects then it’s pretty straightforward: you get a 9-1 grade for each. That’s three GCSEs.

If you study combined science, you get two GCSE grades. Again, these are both on the 9-1 scale. This is because you’ve covered the content of two GCSEs and probably spent about the same time studying the combined science course as you would two GCSEs. 

The combined science course involves the study of all three sciences and covers about two-thirds of the content covered in the single GCSE for biology, chemistry and physics.

So a combined science course is worth two GCSEs – that’s why it’s sometimes called ‘double science’.

How are grades worked out?

I’ve heard you get two GCSEs presented as 4-4 or 9-9 etc. But I don’t understand what the two different grades are.

Remember: you get two grades simply because you've taken a course worth two GCSEs.

Your two grades are worked out by adding together all your marks in the science exams and then setting seventeen (yes, seventeen) grade boundaries. So you could get 9-9; 9-8; 8-8; 8-7 and so on, down to 1-1.

So your two grades might not be at exactly the same level, they might be adjacent (eg 6-5, 5-4 etc). The point of this is so that, if you lose a couple of marks, you don't drop down a double grade. For instance, if you're one mark off a 7-7, you would get a 7-6 instead of dropping further down to a 6-6.

The grade reflects your performance across all three sciences - you don't get a separate mark for each science or for each paper you've taken.

Want to find out more? Here's OFQUAL's information on GCSE science grading.

What do you think of combined science grading? Join the discussion below.

Still not sure? Ask a question in TSR’s GCSE forum.

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