If you're taking your GCSE maths exam soon, you might be wondering - what exam board is GCSE maths? Unfortunately, there's no one answer to this question - your school or institution will choose between the three main exam boards in England, so you'll need to contact your teacher to find out which exam board your school has chosen.
Once you find out which exam board your school is using, you might be looking for more information on how your exam board structures their exams, awards grades, and considers any appeals or special considerations. In this guide, we're going to give you all the information you need about each various exam board: how they differ from one another on key questions, and what they offer. Let's take a look!
What is an exam board?
An exam board is the authority responsible for creating your exams, marking your exams, awarding your grades, and processing any appeals, disputes, or special considerations once results have been distributed. The exam board your school chooses will determine everything from the length of your exam to the weighting of each paper - so it's pretty important that you understand how your chosen exam board works.
What are the main exam boards for GCSE maths?
For GCSE maths, your school or institution can pick one of the following exam boards:
AQA - AQA is one of the most popular exam boards in England. When it comes to GCSE maths exams, AQA begins each assessment with multiple choice questions, making it easier for students to display their knowledge and understanding of various subtopics and modules.
Pearson Edexcel - Pearson Edexcel aims to simplify the GCSE maths exam by ensuring that all questions and problems are written in easy, plain English. This ensures that even students with reduced abilities in English speaking or reading can show off their skills in maths and numerical problem-solving.
OCR - The OCR exam board also claims that accessibility is at the core of their academic mission: all questions on their GCSE maths papers are written in accordance with their GCSE Maths Accessibility Principles, ensuring simple written English for enhanced student comprehension.
What's the difference between the three main exam boards?
Each exam board differs when it comes to exam length, weighting grades, and even the overall pre-exam curriculum. Here's what you can expect from each exam board for GCSE maths:
Exam length -The GCSE maths exam papers for OCR, Pearson Edexcel and AQA don't differ much - each exam is 90 minutes long, and the GCSE Maths qualification consists of 3 of these papers in total.
One area where the exam boards differ is in the order of the exam papers. AQA and Pearson Edexcel order their papers as follows:
- Non calculator paper
- Non calculator paper
- Calculator paper
OCR orders their GCSE maths exam papers differently, with the calculator paper in the middle rather than at the end of the exam sequence.
Marks -The GCSE maths exam papers for both AQA and Pearson Edexcel consist of a total of 80 marks for each paper, while the papers for OCR reach a total of 100 marks. Overall, this means that the total marks for GCSE maths for each exam board are as follows:
- AQA: 240 marks Pearson
- Edexcel:240 marks
- OCR: 240 marks
Exam papers -When it comes to your GCSE maths papers, each exam board differs slightly in their style of questioning. AQA begins with 4-5 multiple choice questions, each of which are worth 1 mark. AQA and Pearson Edexcel also both have a series of box-ticking questions, where students will be presented with a problem and two answers, and must select the answer that they believe solves the problem or equation. OCR exam papers also include similarly formatted questions, but students must also show their working and reasoning to achieve full marks for these questions. All three exam boards state that the difficulty level increases from paper 1 to paper 3. Some fonts and writing sizes may be different across all three exam boards: it's a good idea to download past papers from your school's chosen exam board, so you can familiarise yourself with the style and format of the exam.
Resources -All three exam boards provide teachers and students with a wide range of academic resources. Here's a simplified list of what each exam board provides:
- Pearson Edexcel: Content guidance, Key Stage 3 resources, mock papers, shadow papers, themed papers, common question papers, worksheets, topic tests and more.
- AQA: Content guidance, practice papers, topic tests, route maps, common question papers, worksheets, lesson plans, homework sheets and more.
- OCR: Content guidance, practice papers, topic tests, worksheets, topic exploration guides and more.
Grade boundaries- Some exam boards may differ when it comes to grade boundaries. Grade boundaries determine the percentage required to obtain a certain grade: for example, if an exam paper is considered particularly difficult and overall grades are down across the board, an exam board may decide to adjust the required grade boundaries for fairness. There's no way of knowing whether one exam board is more or less likely to change their grade boundaries: OCR, Edexcel and AQA have all adjusted their grade boundaries for GCSE maths in the past.
What is the best exam board?
There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to taking exams, which means there's no one "best" exam board to choose from. The best way to ensure a positive exam experience is to revise hard, know your subjects inside out, and get enough sleep and rest in the run-up to your exams. Here are some TeachTutti tips for acing that GCSE maths exam:
- Ask questions -Your teachers are there to help you understand your subjects, so always make sure to ask questions when you don't understand a topic or problem. If you don't like speaking in class, hiring GCSE math tutors can be a great way to get extra help on a 1-to-1 basis. You'll be able to go over tricky modules, get instant feedback, and ask as many questions as you like.
- Focus on your problem areas -While it can be reassuring to go over the subjects or topics that you find the easiest, it isn't going to help you if your least favourite sub-topic comes up in the final exam. Revise your weak points the most in the run-up to your exam, and always ask for help if you really aren't making progress with your comprehension.
- Don't get stuck on one question- When it comes to taking your GCSE maths exam, remember that the timer is ticking from the moment you turn over the exam paper. If you come across a question that stumps you, don't spend 20 minutes trying to figure it out. Instead, skip forward to the next questions and come back to those that you find to be the most difficult - this means you won't lose any easy marks by not completing your paper on time.
What's the most difficult exam board for GCSE maths? While each exam boards' GCSE maths papers will be difficult, OCR has often been cited as the trickiest exam board. They once had to rewrite their GCSE maths paper.
Which is harder, AQA or Edexcel? As mentioned above, both of these exam boards will provide difficult exams - otherwise every school would opt for the easiest option! The best way to pass your exam with flying colours is to do enough studying and revising.
This post was updated on 01 Aug, 2023.