Science GCSE

Science GCSE

On this page:
~ How is science GCSE organised
~ The best resources to use
~ How to learn science
~ Exam technique downloads

How is science GCSE organised?

On this page, I’m describing the common GCSE courses that are taught in schools. I don’t include details of less common courses such as Additional Applied Science or Applied Science. Also, this page doesn’t apply to the International GCSEs which I describe on other pages (see Edexcel iGCSE Sciences and Cambridge iGCSE Sciences).
science gcse options
There are six possible GCSE qualifications as described in this diagram. Each involve three modules plus a controlled assessment.

Each subject (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) can be studied at three levels, for example B1, B2 and B3.

The normal progression is to study the GCSE (core) Science first, then Additional Science and then Further Additional. Everyone has to take the first one, the GCSE in Science. This is one of the required subjects. Most students will take Science in year 10 and Additional Science in year 11. That is the equivalent of the old Double Science.

For those wanting to get three GCSEs, there is now, as of summer 2014, a choice.

In the past, students have had to decide whether to take Science and Additional Science (double science – that is two GCSEs) or to take triple (separate) sciences in each subject resulting in three GCSEs. The problem with doing separate sciences is that, due to courses changing from modular to linear, all the exams (e.g. B1, B2 and B3 for Biology) have to be taken at the same time at the end of the course. This means taking nine papers in the summer if you’re going for the three separate sciences.

But this is changing for next year (2014) because the extension modules (e.g. B3, C3, P3) for each science can, on their own, be taken as a separate GCSE. Now there is a second option if you want three GCSEs. Rather than go for three separate sciences, which usually means doing all the nine papers at the same time, you can take Science, Additional and Further Additional at different times, giving you three GCSEs and spreading the exam load over two or three years. You’ve covered the same material as in separate sciences.

This is likely to result in fewer students going for the three GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics as separate science GCSEs, and more going for the three GCSE as Science, Additional Science and Further Additional Science. No difference really as the same content has been covered.

And in 2015, it’s all change again with the major revamping of GCSEs. Watch this space.

For on-line Maths and Science homework help and tuition and for any questions you have, do email me (bobfostertuition at or leave a comment.

Best resources for science GCSE

Your course textbook. This is the most important resource. It contains all the facts you need to know in much better detail than a revise guide. Changes to Science GCSE mean that there are longer questions requiring greater understanding of principles, rather than simply memorising facts. Textbooks give that background information and discussion. If your school doesn’t allow you to take a copy home with you, buy one from Amazon. Get the ISBN of the school’s copy to make sure you get the right one! They usually cost between £16 and £20 and you can sell them second-hand after you’ve finished with them.

The course specification from your exam board. All courses have a syllabus which tells you exactly what you have to know. This is published in a large document called the Specification. You can download it from the exam board’s website. It’s really useful to use as a checklist. Resources from this publisher are low cost. They include revision guides, workbooks and specimen exam papers – roughly £6 each. Good value – despite what I said about textbooks.
Link –

BBC Bitesize. This is the best web resource. It is organised according to exam board, so you know that what it says is what you need to know. Read the revision notes and do the exercises. Look out for any podcasts or videos. Link - bbc bitesize.

How to learn science

I assume that you’ve got the resources that I recommended above.

Longer questions.

Most students tell me that they find the longer questions particularly hard. Papers have moved away from multiple choice and are increasingly testing you on your ability to understand and describe concepts fully, to communicate knowledge of processes clearly and to interpret information correctly. Science is not just a lot of facts to learn. Test yourself  by writing mini-essays on each topic, including all the facts in a logical order. Ask your teacher or tutor to read them and give you feedback. Read the documents about 6-mark questions that I  link to above. Read as many past papers and specimen papers and marking schemes as you can, including those from other exam boards! The important thing is to read the marking schemes as this will tell you what the examiners are looking for.

Write your notes as questions and answers.

Rather than just write out key points, make everything into a question. Find the best answer and write this down in a different place. Diagrams and tables of information can be made into questions by leaving parts of them blank for you to fill in from memory. This is a bit like using flash cards, with the question on one side and the answer on the other. But you don’t need cards – and there are too many things to remember in science. You’ll end up with thousands! Just make a list on paper.

Teach it!

One of the best ways to learn anything is to have the attitude that you are going to teach it to someone who doesn’t have good knowledge of the topic. This can be quite difficult at first, but if you can get used to it, you’ll find that you remember a topic much better. You really do have to understand a topic in order to teach it.

In order to teach, you must be able to organise the facts in a useful way. In science this might be in the form of a diagram, table, list of key words or a memory map. You will also need to have a list of questions to ask about the topic. In fact making notes in the form of questions and answers is far better than just writing down the facts. You really have to think about it,  and later you can use your questions to test yourself.


Advice on answering exam questions.

Command words 1
Command words 2 – from AQA
Answering the 6-mark questions
Guide to quality of written communications and the longer questions from AQA

About the controlled assessments.

How science works 1
How science works 2
Another glossary of terms

Where to now? Science courses from AQA, Edexcel and OCR.

For on-line Maths and Science homework help and tuition and for any questions you have, do email me (bobfostertuition at or leave a comment.

105 Responses to Science GCSE

  1. Anthony June 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    I’m doing GCSE edexcel triple science. I’m doing biology for A level and recently there was a mix up where I wa doing B3 foundation and B1 and B2 higher, can I still get an A grade if I’ve done this, including the Controled assessment, my head of exams in my school said I could but I didn’t really believe her because the mix up was right before and the exam and she was rushing , please answer!

    • Bob Foster June 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Your exams officer is the expert in your case. Believe!

  2. Maria June 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Hi Bob

    My daughter is in Year 9 and just been told she will be doing Core / additional science for GCSE. She wants to be a teacher so needs to get a “C”. She really struggles with chemistry so I was wondering if she can still get C if she does well enough in Biology and Physics, or does she need to pass all 3?

    Many thanks (and great site!)

    • Bob Foster June 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      The marks are combined, so she’ll be OK if she gets an average of a C.

  3. Cherry May 19, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    I am in year 11 and I am currently sitting my igcses. I have done so badly and I am doing double award. Badly as in I estimate my mark to be like an E or something. I am not doing any science for a levels however since business is busy they said I must take something else just Incase so they’ve put me for physics. I was wondering if you think I could still be allowed to do a levels or if I could retake my science double award while doing a levels. Please reply as soon as possible because I am sort of terrified. This school is the only one I’ve applied for

    • Bob Foster June 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Only your schools knows the answer – ask them.

  4. Mary Clare May 13, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Just a quick question. I’m currently in year 11 and I’m taking Core and Additional Science, both Foundation. I have obtained an A* in my Core ISA and an A in my Additional ISA, if I get high C’s in each of my exams I know that this will give me an overall B in both Core and Additional Science.
    With the entry requirement being a B in Core and Additional Science to study A Level Biology both at college and sixth form, would the hypothetical B’s I obtain be acceptable to do Biology at A Level?
    Thank you.

    • Bob Foster May 13, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

      You’ve already answered your question! You say that a B will be acceptable for both your school and college!?

      • Mary Clare May 13, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

        Yes a B is the entry requirement, it just doesn’t specify whether it has to be from actual exam papers.. I was just a little concerned over my actual exam papers being foundations, I thought they could be a little iffy about it but thanks

  5. Dan April 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m currently in yr10 and did my core science coursework for which I attained a B. I’ve got 2 exams – one on 19th May and second is on 6th June. What grades in the exams for this year will I need to make it an overall grade of A or A*? Also is it possible to triple science privately as I enjoy science and don’t mind sitting extra exams privately as I perspire to do Medicine in the future and sixth forms are hunting for minimum A grade candidates in at least double science – so offer places and in university for people who got A in year 10 and 11.

  6. Josh March 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm #


    Really useful post, thanks.

    I was just inquiring, as an external student that is currently taking Core Science, whether colleges would be okay if I took Additional Science in, for example, Edexcel if I took Core in AQA. Do they cover the same topics and would colleges mind if I followed this? Thanks.

    • Bob Foster March 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Core and additional are completely separate exams, so you can take them with whatever board you want. You have to take the controlled assessments of course, which is difficult unless you’re taking the course at a college or school.

      • Josh March 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

        Yeah, I understand that. If I took the exam at an exam centre which offered Edexcel GCSE, they would do the Controlled Assessment there though, right?

  7. John March 16, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    I have a question on either sciences. Could you for example do papers B1 and B2 as higher level and B3 as a foundation paper? Same for Chemistry and Physics. If this possible what is the maximum level you can attain. Presume with foundation papers B1 – B3 max would be C grade.

    • Bob Foster March 16, 2014 at 10:41 am #

      Unlikely to get more than a B overall if you take a foundation paper. Possible, but unlikely.

      • John March 16, 2014 at 11:27 am #

        Bob – thank you for the fast reply.

        So just to make sure taking a B1 and B2 as higher and getting an “A” in controlled assessment and a B3 as foundation – the highest you could get is a “B” overall at best.

        And then if B1 and B2 (both higher) and get a “B” and say an “A” on controlled assessment and a B3 foundation with the highest possible grade which is a C – the highest here would be a “C” at best?

        • John March 16, 2014 at 11:36 am #

          I should add. The teacher is saying that if he does B1 and B2 as higher and B3 as foundation then he is in line for grade A or B. Controlled assessment he is repeating as he had 38 out of 50 which they say is borderline A – B. I just want to make sure we are not being told something where the wrong decision is made.

          • Bob Foster March 16, 2014 at 11:58 am #

            I can’t work out that combination without knowing individual marks. If you don’t trust the teacher, ask your exams officer – they’re the expert and they know the details.

          • John March 16, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

            Bob – Thank you for the reply. Will check but just so that I know.

            If I take an example, June 2013 Edexel Biology GCSE

            For B1 he gets 45, for B2 he gets 45, and B3 (foundation he gets) 45. These are all raw marks. For controlled assessment he gets 39. So i work this out as grade A for B1, B2 and controlled assessment. For B3 it would be grade C as this is the highest. How do you work out overall raw and grade?

  8. Riaz March 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    I am filling up Year 9 Options form for my son.

    Apparently, the French and ICT are offered under a single block of subjects, but my son wants to do GCSE in both. Also there is no Additional Mathematics on offering on the form.

    Is it possible for my son to take 2 GCSE’s after studying privately and may be take a couple of courses less through the school?

    About the Triple science Vs additional science option, please advise the difference. Phy, Bio, Chem, would they be offered in school at the same time each week? What about the GCSE exams, is it possible to distribute the GCSE exams so that 3 or 4 may be finished during year 1 and remaining in year 2?

    thanks and regards,


    • Bob Foster March 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      You can’t take exams at two different centres in the same ‘series’ (e.g. summer or January). If the timetable permits, you could ask the school to enter you for extra exams, though you might have to pay. Ask your exams officer – they’re the experts and know you son’s situation.
      It looks like you’ve read the page on science GCSEs ( so you know the structure. Because of the new flexibility that I describe on that page, the school can organise science in different ways. There are only three exams for triple science. They can be taken together in year 11, or split between yr 10 and 11. E.G. Biology in year 10 and the others in yr 11. Or, the school could go down the route of Core science in yr10 and additional plus further addition in year 11.

  9. Leigh March 2, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Hi, I’m in year 11 and I have just received my exam timetable. I have been put forward to do additional science biology and chemisty in the foundation tier and physics in the higher tier. My ISA grade was a C. What can be the highest grade I can achieve? Thanks.

    • Bob Foster March 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      Your exams officer is the best person to ask these kinds of questions – they know your exact personal data. Of course, your teacher will know as well!

  10. nahid February 27, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    I just had my daughters parents day today she is in yr 8 and have been told that she has done well she on level 7a.they are saying that she should sit her gcse early biology in yr9 chemistry yr10 and physics yr11 so having to do 3years work I ech year,should I consider it and what if she doesn’t do well will she get to resit.

    • Bob Foster February 27, 2014 at 9:24 am #

      Hi – yes, this sounds like a good idea – as long as the student is ready. Each science is completely separate – you can take each one as many times as you want. If she enjoys Biology, then go for it. If she doesn’t get the grade she needs for progressing to her chosen 6th form courses, then she can take the exam again in year 10 or 11 (or both!)

  11. Saime Hussain February 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    I have done badly for the Core Science GCSE controlled assessment I got an E, I know it’s 25% towards the final mark is there any hope of me achieving a B in my exams???

    • Bob Foster February 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

      Difficult – ask your exams officer; they will know what options you have. Focus on getting a top grade in Additional science.

  12. C Byrne February 12, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    My son sat the core Science in June last year and achieved a ”C” over all much to our disappointment and his. He achieved A in Physics, A in Chemistry and C in Biology I think a D in his Biology ISA which dragged the grades right down. He will resit the papers this summer and I want to confirm that if he does not do as well in the resit can he still keep the grades from last year or will he be stuck with a possible new lower grade?

    The school says he can’t loose by resitting as he will keep which ever grade is higher. However I am getting conflicting information from many different sources.

    Please help

    • Bob Foster February 14, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

      The school is correct.

  13. Amy December 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    Hi! I’m in year 11 and am in the middle of taking my biology ISA for the second time (we did one last year in year 10). I completed my chemistry one last year and got 48/50 but my subject teacher for biology really isn’t the best. I’ve done section 1 but I don’t think it went too well and have section 2 tomorrow. My question is: would it be possible to retake the biology ISA before they have to be submitted in June (I don’t mind after school sessions/fees/lots of extra work) as I’m aiming for an A* in all three science GCSES and, as this ISA grade is 25% of my biology GCSE, I’m worried it will bring my mark down and I won’t get the grade I’m aiming for? Thanks in advance!

    • Bob Foster December 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

      Hi – In theory you can do it more than once (different ones of course!) but you can only do that at the same centre (school) that you took the other parts of the course, so it’s up to your teacher if they want to organise it. They’re unlikely to do it for just you though, so find a bunch of others that want to retake and put the pressure on!

      Of course, if you’re really keen you could take an iGCSE in Biology privately. Different syllabus though ( .
      Don’t forget that the really important exams are the A-levels. Good luck

  14. helen October 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Hi Bob,

    My son is in Y11 and has just had his OCR core science result for the exam/coursework taken in Y10; despite getting an overall 85% in the exams he got a B grade as unknown to him he had a low C grade (63%) in the coursework. Investigation seems to explain that the Y9 summer term teaching for coursework preparation was inadequate and there has been no practice/revision since.
    So roll on this year, we’ve asked the school about his additional science score for coursework (rushed to be taken last summer-so no revision or practice!). Again, a poor C – but a provisional grade only. The school are not planning a resit – despite most of the class doing poorly as they wish to concentrate on the exams worth 75% (and to be honest, without any proper preparation my son would probably just churn out the same grade). School also said it was common for exam grade to pull up the c/w grade!? So looks as though the pressure is on for him to out-perform his target to achieve an overall A which is necessary to continue to A level at his school.
    Firstly, would you agree that we just go with it and concentrate on the 75% exam? Secondly, he plans to take A level Biology and Chemistry despite not taking the triple – do you think this will be a huge challenge considering he’s only covered 2/3rds of the gcse courses for each? He wants a career in biology. I’d be grateful for your advice.

    • Bob Foster October 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

      It’s an astonishing attitude from the school, but not uncommon. They should allow students to go on to A-level with a B grade – most do. You might have to do some negotiating. They should of course retake the coursework/controlled assessments and submit the best, but it sounds like they can’t be bothered.
      A-level sciences are a challenge, but with the right attitude and support, he should be OK. Different teenagers develop at different rates; some find the transition difficult but others seem to become ‘adults’ during the summer break and have no problem at all with A-levels.
      I hope this helps – let me know if I can help with getting him an A grade.

      • helen October 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. I’m pretty confident that if he gets an A in the exam portion (like last year) we will be able to get him onto the A level courses. He seems to be doing fine at the mo, but I may be in contact if that changes. Once he’s definite about A level options we will bear you in mind for the units B5,6 / C5,6 catch up before AS study starts.
        Thanks for your help.

  15. Gurpreet September 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    I am in year 11 now and I was quite disappointed in my overall grade I got in science for my core at the end of year 10 which was a C as I put a lot of effort into it I got a A in chemistry B in physics C in biology and D in coursework which had dragged my overall grade down and I would really like to retake this since I want to take medicine when I am older and I will be putting in more effort this year for my additional science I was wondering if you could tell me if this grade I got would effect my A level options as I would like to pick biology and chemistry for A levels.


    • Bob Foster September 30, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      It depends on the A-level supervisor, or your head of science. They decide. Ask them. If you’re taking A-levels at a different place, you’ll have to ask them what they require. Maybe you’ll be accepted if you do particularly well at Additional Science.

  16. Payal September 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi My daughter got her year 10 core science result and she got grade E. Will she be able retake this core science exam in year 11 again? as she has said that she will work really hard this time round

    • Bob Foster September 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      In theory you can take any exam again, but it depends on whether the school will bother. She’ll have to take all the modules again though. And she will have forgotten some of it!
      In practice, your daughter might be better off making sure she gets a good grade in her Additional Science (I assume she’s taking it this year?). Then she will have a good science grade, forgetting the core science, which should be fine if she want to take science further.
      She will have to learn ways to study and remember science facts and concepts – it’s different from other subjects. Simple will-power might not be enough. But it’s good that she seems to be keen to do better. Let me know if I can help with the learning skills.

  17. linda August 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi I received my core science results and I was devestated when I saw a c as I want to study the following subjects for a levels however c is below their requirements.I was really upset ; I really wanted to do a levels as the university I want to go to only accepts a levels.on the other hand in the first two units I achieved a b and an a.But the last unit I got a d which brought my grade down.I was wondering if I can retake the unit b3 c3 p3 as I know I can achieve a b if not an a if I try harder because during the time I did the exam I was really stressed as I had exams following after one another but now I have learned from my mistakes and if it take even a year to retake I will as I want to study medicine.I asked my sixthform but they rejected me just for only one b in core science and recommended btec applied sciences as I have mentioned above the university only allows alevels but I did achieve a high b in additional which is harder than core in my opinion and I believe I have the ability to gain a b in the last unit.if any one knows where I can retake this module as a private candidate I would be very thankful.

    • Bob Foster August 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      You can’t resit individual modules any more – you have to retake the whole exam. You can take science iGCSE (international GCSE) if you are not at school. Your email is a bit confusing, but I assume you’ve finished year 11 and going into year 12. If you’re still at school, the person to advise you is your exams officer or science teacher. If not, then ask your local college. If you want to take a year off before doing A-levels, then do the iGCSE

  18. Amelia August 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    i am looking to undertake GCSE science as a private candidate. I cannot afford the fees currently charged by the colleges as a mature student so i was wondering if you could assist on which exam board would best suit an independent learner.
    I contacted a few exam centres and because of practical assessments and written exam associated with science GCSE, i would still be charged over £350!…
    would it be easier and cheaper to do just one science subject as opposed to all three? i.e. just biology?
    Is AQA the only exam board to involve practical or do all exam boards require it?
    Science has always been difficult subject for me but i do enjoy distance learning and with the vast array of guidance and resources available, i feel i can do this independently but if i need to do lab work assessment, then i may have to give up the ‘going alone’ form of study.

    • Bob Foster August 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      By far the best way is to take the international GCSE (iGCSE). There are just two papers and so controlled assessments. This is what home-schooled children do. You can take double science or any of the individual sciences. Let me know if I can support you with this.

  19. Lisa August 22, 2013 at 11:10 am #


    My Daughter has just received her year 10 core Science result. She is devastated she received D E E, she put in a lot of work and had a tutor before her exam. Its her weakest subject and she is predicted high grades next year for every other subject, she wants to remain at school to do A levels. Can you tell me if she achieves a C grade next year at additional science is that enough for prospective colleges and universities? Will that give her 1 science GCSE? She was told by a Teacher it is now impossible for her to achieve a C grade in science is this correct?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Bob Foster August 22, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      Yes, Additional science will give her 1 science GCSE. It’s a separate qualification – nothing to do with core science – so you can achieve any grade you want, depending on whether you take foundation or higher. Normally you’d need a B grade to be accepted onto an A level science course, but you should certainly talk to the college/university and ask them what their requirements are. If staying at school, ask the head of science. If she doesn’t want to do science, then it’s not an issue. However, going on to University to do a degree, they like to see a grade C in science as evidence of a good all-round education.
      I hope that helps.
      By the way, if she’s good at other subjects, she should be able to get a decent grade at science if she gets the best learning advice. Different subjects require different learning skills. Let me know if I can help with this.
      Give me a call if you like on 07989 412 319.

  20. Shahnaz July 8, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Hi Bob, I’m home educating my son and in JUne 2014 he will be sitting is Gcse’s. My son feels that the AQA exams are best suited to him. I am finding it very difficult to find an exam centre so that he can sit his exams. He will be studying high level maths and higher level biology along with Arabic and English. How can I best find a solution for this.

  21. Anna June 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Can you change from double science to triple science?

    • Bob Foster June 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      That depends on what exams you’ve already taken and if they’ve been cashed in. Ask your exams officer – they know your situation.

  22. Deeqa June 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I do triple science and iv just finished my B4 B5 and B6 for OCR gateway . However in January I got an A* for B1 B2 B3 my marks were 45 and that’s what you need to get an A*. I don’t feel confined that i have scored a A* in the B4 B5 B6 , so say i get an A in it and an A* for the first modules what would my overall grade for Biology be ??????? how do they give it an average grade and what are the grade boundaries for that ??? there’s a total of 120 for both b1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 so what would you need for an A* ????

    thank you :D I’m in year 10 by the way .

    • Bob Foster June 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Grade boundaries are set after the exams. The best person to ask about your particular exams is your exams officer – they have all the relevant info. I’m not sure why you’re asking, by the way. There’s nothing you can do about it except work hard!

  23. Elly June 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Dear Bob

    Are the OCR 21st century’s Chemistry and Biology papers easier than OCR gateway? I have been told that Gateway twists the questions so you have to apply facts and so is not straight-forward.

    Also, are the grade boundaries for A, A* and B different? I have tried to find these but had difficulty interpreting the data.


    • Bob Foster June 18, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      No significant difference – but then you don’t have a choice! Your school will determine which course they offer. All science GCSE courses are tending towards teaching for understanding rather than memorising facts, which is a good thing. Applying facts, as you put it, is what science is all about. As for grade boundaries, these are set for each paper. I don’t keep up to date with them as they are of no use at all for teaching or learning. Knowing, for example, that last year the pass mark for a grade B was 68% is no help for someone revising for next year’s exam. You’re stuck with simply putting the work in, understanding the material and testing yourself repeatedly.

  24. Thomas Gibbons June 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    i have sat the core science exam in January but i achieved a D and i have the second exam on the 13th but is it possible yo retake the January exam, my exam board is AQA.

    • Bob Foster June 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Ask your exams officer – they know your situation and what’s possible for you.

  25. Rachel Porter June 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Hi I’m in year 10 and take triple science , but have been given the option of doing either biology, physics and chemistry gcse’s or getting core, additional and applied gcse’s . Doing the 1st option means that I have to take 9 exams at the end of year 11 but the second means 3 at the end of year 10 and 6 at the end of year 11. i would rather take core , additional and applied as its easier to only do 6 in year 11 but will this make a difference to universities?

    • Bob Foster June 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

      Probably not – but phone the Universities that have the courses you’re interested in and ask them!

  26. Becky June 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Hi, I’m taking Edexcel’s GCSE core science and i’m in year 11) and I don’t understand how it is marked, I’ve already completed My biolodgy ( Which i think i should of got a C grade on) and a chemistry paper (which i probably got a D on) My physics test is on tuesday and I just wanted to know do you get individual grades for each subject?
    eg; Biolody – C
    Chemistry – D
    Physics – D therefore my grade is a C- ?
    I dont understand any of the grading systems or anything because teachers havent spokent to me about them (I Have asked.)


    • Bob Foster June 2, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      You get one grade for core science. That’s what goes on your certificate. Marks are averaged out over the three subjects. If you’ve got a good C and good D grades, then you’ll probably get a C overall. If you only just got a low C and did average in Chemistry and Physics, then you’ll probably get a D overall. You really can’t tell in advance, so don’t worry too much. Just make sure you answer all the questions as fully as possible. Saying more in the exams is better than saying less! Good luck.

  27. David May 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    My son has recently been dropped to set 2 science (he is in year nine) and therefore can’t do triple can he be moved back up in years 10 and eleven.

    • Bob Foster May 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      If you can convince the school! It’s up to them and your son, but you could put a bit of pressure on them if you really want to do triple. Ask the teacher what would it take to move back up?

    • Stacey August 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

      Hi bob I’m in year 10 and I do Aqa double science and I really wanted to get a B overall in core science so I can do Biology Alevel and I got my results today and I got a B for biology a C for chemistry and an E for physics so I’m guessing physics dragged my grade down and I got a C overall I was wondering is there
      was I can retake only physics even if the school doesn’t let me can I do it outside of school I really want a grade above a C

      • Bob Foster August 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

        Unlucky. You have to retake all 3 modules (you can bring the controlled assessments forward). Don’t forget that you can get a good grade in Additional Science this year which will be good enough to get onto your A-level course – as long as you enter higher tier.

  28. Euan Jones May 15, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Hi there,
    I am in year 11 and studying triple science on the OCR 21st century board, I recently resat B1,2,3 so that I could easily get an A*. I have been told by peers that only your resit grade counts, they do not take your best grade, is this true?

    • Bob Foster May 21, 2013 at 9:36 am #


  29. kother April 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    i wanted to ask
    if i am doing gcse core science higher, would it have questions were i could choose an answer. Or would it involve longer answer questions.
    thanks for your help

  30. jasmine March 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    i asked my teachers if i could retake my science core unit 1 and they said i could but i have to retake my coursework aswell but will aqa allow that?

    • Bob Foster March 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      I can’t imagine your school wanting you to do something that the examboard won’t allow!

      • jasmine April 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

        but they said the exam board does allow it

  31. yasmin March 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    im in yr 11 and have already done my core science and got a D in my exam i retsat my unit 2 exam and got a C and then asked my teacher if i could retake unit 1 the very first exam in yr 10 and the coursework but she said there’s no point of retaking the exam but i really want to boost my grade to get into science for 6th form… and was wondering is there any other way of doing the yr 10 core exam and if im able to redo the coursework

    • Bob Foster March 10, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      Why did your teacher say there’s no point? Did she explain? Do you think she’s made a mistake? If so, explain the situation to your exams officer – they know all the technicalities about your course – what you can retake and what you can’t. Getting parents to ask often helps to get a clear answer.

  32. Emma February 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I am in year 10 and have got my chemistry exam next month, my teacher has put my whole class (higher band class) in for the foundation paper based on our mock results, many members of my class got a U however I got a D put when I added up the marks I was given I got a C, I am capable of getting a B and for biology I got the highest in my class (only person to get a B) I want to do the higher tier as I know I am capable of getting a B/A in chemistry, do I or my parents have any say in what paper I do? What do you suggest I do?

    • Bob Foster February 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      This is very common! The school will say that the teacher knows best. But some students have managed to change their teacher’s mind – your parents must visit the school and talk to the teacher and give him or her good reasons for putting you in for higher.
      If they refuse, just make sure you get a C and look forward to next year when you can get a high grade in Additional Science. It looks good if you’ve gone from a C in core to an A in additional!

  33. John Cowley January 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Why does AQA offer Triple Science papers at both foundation tier and higher tier level? Foundation tier is meant to be for students of lower ability. I can understand them offering this for Science, but why offer it for Additional and Triple Science?

    • Bob Foster January 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Why prevent a student from studying a subject they are interested in just because their target grade is a C?

  34. Rodney January 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Hi am in yr 9 I am in set 5 out of 1 am really terrible X_X My parents got me a CGP GCSE Core Science Exam Board AQA A Revision Guide for my test in few weeks time but dont I need to do KS3 Science first before reading that CGP book.

    • Bob Foster January 23, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

      Your teacher will be able to tell you what is the best book to get for your test. If you’re not starting to do GCSE stuff, then yes, the key stage 3 book is the one to get – and the workbook (the white one) with answers. I assume your test is a practice one. Best bet is ask teacher! The Emaths website has a good collection of science, English and maths papers and answers for KS3

  35. samiha December 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    hi bob,
    im in year 9 and im in set 2 out of 4 sets and this year im am choosing optians can i choose triple science ? and if i do what is the maximum grade i can get at my gcse?

    • Bob Foster December 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Samiha,
      GCSE grades go up to A*, as long as you’re doing the higher tier.
      You’ll have to talk to your teachers about doing separate sciences. Make sure they know you want to do triple (if you do!). Sometimes, they will only allow certain classes to do it, so make sure you really let them know. Doing well in any exams this year will help convince them.

      • samiha December 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

        thankyou helped a lot !! and i will make sure i let them know.

  36. zahra December 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    hello Bob,
    I did foundation last year (core science) and got C in chemistry. Im now in year 11 and doing additional science and aiming for B in chemistry. what will be my overall grade?

    • Bob Foster December 17, 2012 at 12:07 am #

      Hi – core science and additional science are completely separate GCSEs. So you get a grade for core in year 10 and a different one for additional in year 11. Are you aiming to do chemistry at A-level? If so, getting a B at additional science is the important grade.

  37. Unknown November 21, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Hi bob I did a science exam last year which was in year 9 which was called unit 5 and i got a B now im in year 10 and I am doing unit 6 science. the question is what science am I doing right now core or additional and what sets in schools do core and additional

    • Bob Foster November 21, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Good question – let me know what your teacher says!

  38. lynn November 9, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Hi Bob, thanks for this advice its really helpful

    i went into the school and spoke to the head of department. We have agreed a plan and a way forward. my son will transfer back to take GCSE and i will get him extra support. we will then reassess after the retakes in January, although i know that he will be behind in the other course if he does not make the grade in the GCSE, i just feel he has to have a chance.

    I just hope he can make it. i have ordered him some books that the school have recommended and i will be checking in on your site on a regular basis for tips and support. t

    hanks so much.

  39. lynn November 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi Bob, my son took his Gcse 21st Century Science Unit C1 C2 and C3 in year 9 . Apparently his results were one off an E and he has now been told that he will only be able to take OCR coursework and possibly get a C. Is it right that ? i have made an appointment to go in and talk to the school as they have not communicated this to me but he is already in a different learning group.

    I am really concerned about this as i feel that they put him in a year early and now he will suffer for this.

    my other son was encouraged to take some BTEC last year and the college refused to recognise his distinctions as an abilty to progress to A levels as he had not sufficent GCSE’s.

    can you advise me what your view is on the plan for OCR coursework

    • Bob Foster November 8, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Hi – This is a problem that some schools seem to be having right now as the science GCSEs change for modular to linear.
      You can retake modules once before the results are ‘certified’. Retakes can be in January +/or June. All modules (including the controlled assessment) need to be completed before certification – therefor it would seem that you can retake. So ask your exams officer about retaking. Getting an E grade will not be very useful. The controlled assessment is 25% of the marks (as are the other modules), so it’s very unlikely that it will bring the overall marks up to a C.

      The important person to sort this out is your exams officer. They will (should) know what your options are.

      If necessary the OCR number is 01223553998. I call them now and then if I have a question and they’re very helpful.

      Let me know how you get on.

  40. hil October 16, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Hi Bob

    Great site – really clear and informative!

    Can I just ask – can students do foundation and higher tier in core and additional science, or does core count as foundation and additional as higher?

    Presumably there are no tiers in the Triple science modules.

    I’ve looked on the exam board websites but they’re not very clear!

    Many thanks

    • Bob Foster October 16, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Core and Additional are completely different courses – different GCSEs. Both can be taken at foundation or higher tier. Triple science consists of the relevant core and additional parts plus an extension module. All can be taken at either tier.

  41. Sarah September 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    My daugther gained a “D” for OCR 21st Century Core Science. Can she resit just coursework and the B3,C3 and P3 exam inorder to up her grade or does she have to retake the whole thing?

    • Bob Foster September 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Modules can be retaken once – in theory. But the best person to ask is your Exams Officer or manager. They know your daughter’s situation and can discuss all the options open to you. They may depend on when the school certifies / has certified the core science results. The exams officer is a GOOD person to get to know!

  42. Ginny Nicholson September 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    My daughter sat the OCR Additional Science GCSE exam this June and got a ‘C’ to add to the ‘C’ she received for Core Science last year. All fine except for the fact that she is desperate to do Chemistry A Level and has been told by her sixth form college that she must re-take Science this year and gain a ‘B’. Having got an A and a B in her coursework, she is keen not to re-do this part of the qualification, but annoyingly, the college does 21st Century Science – also OCR – which I believe is slightly different. Can her great coursework grades be carried over from school to college?

    • Bob Foster September 21, 2012 at 8:22 am #

      Bad news I think – GCSE courses cannot be split between exam centres.
      Chemistry is a hard A’level, which is why a B or A grade GCSE is usually needed. Some school don’t allow you to do Chemistry unless you have GCSEs in separate sciences.

      OCR do two science courses – Gateway and 21st Century. They are quite different. Both involve Core and Additional Science, but different topic structure and different practical assessments.

      It looks like your daughter will have to retake the Additional Science exam (not a resit).

      You can always get advice and information from the exam board – they are always helpful.
      Good luck!

  43. Beth Black August 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    hi my daughter was doing core science in year 9 and got a B , as her options she took
    triple science . so she has already done B1C1P1 right, I’m just wondering what
    modules she would study in Y10 and Y11 , because I heard triple science pretty hard
    so I want her to start studying in the summer so she has a head start ?!

    • Bob Foster August 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      If school has set her up for triple science, she will do the second modules then the third. Your school will tell you the schedule, but if you want to do some prep this week, start on the second modules (also known as Additional Science).

  44. Lyndsay August 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm #


    I’m hoping to follow a part time route into teaching whilst my children are young, I need to retake my Science GCSE during this process but I can’t seem to find a local college offering this course. Is there a reason for this? I really don’t want to do a course like Science via distance learning.

    I have tried searching for Science GSCE but there doesn’t seem to be anything coming up, maths and english are there but not science – any ideas?

    Many thanks.

    • Bob Foster August 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      A common question with an unsatisfying answer!

      GCSE science involves practicals and ongoing teacher assessments, which are difficult to administer if you’re not at school. Most private candidates or home-schooled take the iGCSE exam which doesn’t have practicals. Or the college where you’d do your PGCE may offer an equivalency test. This is quite common and is the most convenient. Ask them. But in all these cases, you’d be studying on your own or with a private tutor.

  45. JT April 27, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Hey, im triple science student doing the new spec for Edexcel (2011 one)
    D’you know if i get a gcse in core science as well as biology, physics and chemistry, or just three gcse’s without core science?

    • Bob Foster April 27, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      You only get three I’m afraid. Nice try!

  46. Denise February 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    My Daughter is in year 9, and is due to take a science GCSE the beginning of March, they have just taken a 2nd mock GCSE test and she got an F (which was the highest of the class!!!) in the previous mock everyone got a U. I cannot not understand why they are put in to take these GCSE’s in March this year, if these grades are going to be shown as part of their GCSE results. Is there a reason the school are putting them in in year 9, could they not hold off until year 10?

    • Bob Foster February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      This is a hot topic amongst teachers! Now that year 9 is not spent teaching for the SAT exams, many schools are starting their GCSEs early. All science modules can be retaken once. I don’t know which course your daughter is following, but i assume she’ll be taking one of the core science modules. The idea is that, if successful, they can save time in year 10, but if everyone is getting bad grades it seems like a waste of time and maybe a de-motivator.

      Tell you daughter to look at the exam as just another mock – a way to test her knowledge. There will be time to retake.

      Do get in touch if you have questions about this.

      The new GCSEs (for taking in 2014) will all be linear – no modules. So that doesn’t affect the core science that your daughter is taking, which is usually a one year course which, I assume, she will complete in 2013. I’m assuming that she is taking one of the three modules this year and the others next year.

      If you want to get the details right, ask your examinations officer at school – they’ll know all the ins and outs of retake and resits for your daughter’s course. The idea of taking a module early is that the school will have more flexibility next year and your daughter will have plenty of time to take the resit. Another good source of information is the exam board themselves – I often call them to get up-to-date details and they are always very helpful.

  47. Rachel Symss December 20, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    My son who is in Year 10 has received his statement of examinations in the post.. He has been entered in the Core Science GCSE at Foundation level. It seems that the whole year has been entered for this meaning that noboby has been put forward for the higher paper. Given that he is a high achiever – is doing the higher Maths paper – am I able to get this changed or take this externally?

    • Bob Foster December 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

      Hi Rachel,

      This is a VERY common complaint! You can’t take it privately unfortunately while your son is ‘attached’ to their present school. The dates for foundation and higher are the same. But it really is no problem for the school to enter your son for higher. It all comes down to how much energy you can put into persuading them. The controlled assessments are not tiered. The school needs to see some evidence that he is capable of more than a C grade. There are two people that you might talk to, apart from the teacher – the exams officer and the head of science. In my experience, the more you keep on at them, while being polite and respectful, the better your chances. Next year, if your son is taking Additional Science, he can go for higher anyway, so taking core science in year 10 is not a disaster; just very annoying.
      Hope this helps – good luck.

Leave a Reply