This subject is usually compulsory at GCSE level - but what should you expect from your maths course? Here, we will answer all of the FAQ regarding GCSE and A Level, giving you an insight into what's studied and whether it's right for you.
If you are looking for the guide to the new A level specification, you can find it in posts 2-4 here.GCSE(9-1) What skills will you need to successfully complete this GCSE?
Mathematical knowledge learnt in KS3 is often assumed within this course. You should also have a basic fluency in English to enable you to access the questions in the exam paper. Students are expected to learn most of the formulas, although a few will be given to you if you will need them in that particular question. Here
is a link to all the formulas you need to learn for Edexcel (similar for the other exam boards). All other formulas are provided.What is the workload like?
The workload for maths totally depends on your starting point and your natural mathematical ability. It can be anything from your easiest subject where you simply have to complete your work in lessons plus homework to fullying understand all the content, to your most difficult subject which needs lots of additional practise to understand the content and get the grade you want.What are the differences between foundation and higher tier?
Foundation tier covers grades 1-5 while higher tier covers grades 4-9. All of your papers must be taken on the same tier.
The emphasis on the foundation tier will be the topic areas of number and ratio, proportion and rates of change. This means that the content is standardly much easier. Certain more complex topics will never appear on a foundation paper (more explained below).
On higher tier, the emphasis within questions is much more heavily on algebra, with up to a third of each paper being on this topic. There is also a greater weighting on geometry and measures but a lesser weighting on the number unit.What sort of topics will be studied?
There are six sub-topics which will be assessed:Note that some of the material below will only be on the higher tier papers, hence if you are taking foundation then some of these topics are unlikely to be taught to you. The topics in bold are typically only on the higher tier.
How will it be assessed?
Number (basic operations, fractions, estimation, rounding, bounds and surds)
Algebra (notation, substition, changing the subject of the formula, factorising, expanding brackets, algebraic proofs, quadratics, functions, graphs, equations of circles, sequences and simaltaneous equations)
Ratio, proportion and rates of change (scale factors, percentages, direct and inverse proportion, tangents, compound interest and iteration)
Geometry and measures (constructions and loci, congruency, properties of common shapes, angle theorems, triangles, transformations of shapes, circle theorems and their proofs, sine and cosine rule cones and spheres, trigonometry, vectors and vector proofs)
Probability (frequency diagrams, probability scales, tree diagrams, venn diagrams and two way tables)
Statistics (sampling, interpretation and construction of charts and graphs, averages, correlation and lines of best fit)
All the main exams boards are 100% exam. Edexcel and AQA have three 90 minute, 80 mark exams, while OCR has three 90 minute, 100 mark exams. Each of the exam boards have one non-calculator paper (paper 1) and two calculator papers (papers 2 & 3). This is the same regardless of if you are taking foundation or higher tier, and all three papers are equally weighted (meaning they are worth 33.3% each)What is it useful for post-GCSE?
The mathematics specification not only develops your maths skills, but also your problem solving, logic and comprehension skills. People who enjoy and are good at mathematics often go on to study subjects at A level such as mathematics, further mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, economics or computer science.A Level
(written by @Notnek
) Why is studying A Level Maths useful?
A Level maths is an interesting and rewarding course which extends the topics you learnt at GCSE and applies these topics to mechanics and statistics. Through taking A Level maths, you will enhance your numeracy, logic and reasoning skills plus the problem solving work that you will do will help you to think creatively. All of these skills are highly valued by employers and universities which is why A Level Maths is such a useful course. There is currently a huge demand from employers for STEM
students and A Level Maths is often a requirement for most university courses in these fields.What skills will I need to be able to do A Level maths?
Schools/colleges will provide you with the minimum GCSE requirement to study A Level maths. The most important GCSE topic that you will need for A Level maths is algebra since it will be used in nearly every A Level maths topic. It's very important that you are comfortable with GCSE algebra before beginning the A Level course.What is the workload like?
The workload is high for maths since you will need to understand a topic as well as attempt lots of questions. But if you enjoy a certain topic or find it easy, you may be able to plough through a set of questions and the workload may seem low compared to other subjects. But on the other hand, if you don't like a topic then attempting 20 questions on this topic may take up a lot of your time. Comparing A Level to GCSE, most students will say that the initial difficulty level is similar to GCSE but it doesn't take long for the difficulty to increase and the second year of the course will be a step up from the first year.What topics will I study?
The content is the same across all examination boards and is divided into pure maths and applied maths which includes statistics and mechanics. The topics that you will learn are shown below:Pure mathematics
(2/3 of the content) : Algebra and functions, proof, coordinate geometry, sequences and series, trigonometry, logarithms, calculus, numerical methods, vectorsStatistics
(1/6 of the content) : Sampling, data representation, probability, probability distributions, hypothesis testingMechanics
(1/6 of the content) : Mechanical quantities and units, kinematics, forces and Newton's laws, moments
Exam boards provide a "large data set" which you will work with throughout the statistics course and you will need to be familiar with it for the final exam.How will it be assessed?
For the new linear course, the A Level will be assessed at the end of your course (normally at the end of the second year) and is 100% exam with no coursework. The exams will assess everything that you have learnt in pure maths, mechanics and statistics and will be graded from A* to E. Some schools will also offer AS Levels which will be taken at the end of the first year but these exams do not count towards the final A Level grade.Will not taking A Level Physics be a disadvantage?
The general consensus is that studying mechanics as part of the maths course will help you with physics but the physics course won't help much with mechanics. While you will need to understand some physical concepts, in maths the focus is more on the applications of pure maths to physics questions. So you don't need to worry if your classmates are studying physics and you are not.