GCSE Design Technology exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

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Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on GCSE Design Technology

To help you make the most of your remaining revision time, we’ve worked with exam board AQA to create a series of exam advice articles.

In each of these features, you’ll find advice and easy-to-follow tips written by one of AQA’s subject matter experts.

Read on to get the inside track on GCSE Design Technology, direct from the people who make the exams.

AQA logo byline
AQA logo byline

The paper is split into 3 sections:

Section A – Core technical principles (20 marks)

This is a mixture of multiple-choice and short answer questions assessing all the material areas.  

Section B – Specialist technical principles (30 marks)

Several short answer questions (2–5 marks) and one extended response to assess a more in-depth knowledge of technical principles. This might be done through one or more material area.

Section C – Designing and making principles (50 marks)

A mixture of short answer and extended response questions.

Tip 1) Generic terms

Remember not to give answers in generic terms such as ‘wood’ or ‘plastic’. Try to be specific e.g. ‘oak’ or ‘high impact polystyrene’.

Tip 2) Read carefully

Make sure you read the question carefully. Look at the command words. What’s being expected of you and how many marks will you gain from answering this question? That’ll give you an idea of how much detail you need to give. 

Tip 3) Give examples

Where possible, give examples to explain a point. This can show your depth of understanding and could be the extra information needed to push you up to a higher mark band.

Tip 4) Multiple-choice questions

Don’t rush through the multiple-choice questions thinking they’re easy. There will be some difficult questions in there that need a lot of thought and focus. Make sure you read them carefully.

If the question is multiple-choice, eliminate the answers you know are wrong and choose your answer from the ones you have left.

Tip 5) Extended response questions

Recognise the importance of taking time to think and plan answers to extended response questions. Sometimes you’ll be asked for your opinion in these questions.

Make sure you use clear evidence to back up your view. Consider what information might help you to show the examiner the reason for your decision. It’s important to confidently say why you’ve come to that particular conclusion.

Don’t spend time writing an introduction to your answer, as it’s much more important to get as much information down as possible and you may not have much time.

Your answer should be well-organised and structured, and written in a logical way - so consider your answer before you start. 

If you’re not sure what the question is asking you, cross out the words you don’t know and see what’s left – can you recognise key words or concepts that you can write about?

Try not to repeat yourself. This wastes time as you can’t get double marks for the same thing. 

Tip 6) Material area choices

For the specialist technical principles and designing and making principles sections of the paper, you can draw on knowledge from one or more material area.

Make sure you choose the one that you know the most about. You can always give examples of other ones too if the question is open-ended in this way.

Think carefully about which material area will give you access to the most marks depending of your experiences in school.

Tip 7) Maths and Science

You need to be able to demonstrate mathematical and scientific knowledge and understanding in relation to design and technology.

Make sure you show your working out - even if you don’t get the correct answer, in many cases you can gain marks from the methods you use to try or the stages you go through.

If you find these questions particularly difficult or time-consuming, you might wish to leave them to the end when you can really focus on them.

Tip 8) Timing

Keep an eye on the clock. Think about how long you normally take in practice tests and make sure you don’t go over this time on each section.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t let it put you off - leave it and come back to it at the end. 

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Good luck from AQA

AQA believes everyone has the potential to achieve, and we make sure our qualifications give all students the opportunity to show what they can do and progress to the next stage of their lives.

Our subject experts worked with The Student Room so we can reach as many students as possible with advice on how to approach your revision and exams. We wish you well in the weeks ahead, and don’t forget to look after yourselves too: eat well, sleep well and tell someone how you’re feeling if there are days when things don’t go so well or you don’t feel so good.

 Good luck!