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GCSE Sciences 9–1 FAQs


Q: When were the new GCSEs introduced?

A: New GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and combined science were introduced for first teaching from September 2016. They will be first examined in Summer 2018.


Q: What do the new qualifications look like?

A: Students are now able to take Biology, Chemistry and Physics, or Combined Science (made up of content taken from Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but worth two GCSEs).

Schools have the option to submit their students for either Foundation or Higher tier.

New 1-9 grading system

Q: How will the new GCSEs be graded?

A: The new GCSEs will be graded 1 - 9, with 9 being the top grade, to allow greater differentiation between students. The 9 -1 structure will replace the current A*-G. Ofqual have said that broadly the same proportion of students will receive a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above. Broadly the same proportion will achieve a grade 7 and above as currently achieve A or A*.


Q: How will the new GCSEs be assessed?

A: The GCSE science qualifications will continue to be linear, with examinations at the end of the course only.

Controlled assessment will be discontinued, so all assessment will be by exam.

Changes to content

Q: What changes have been made to the GCSE content?

A: New topics include human genome in biology, nanoparticles in chemistry, and energy and space in physics.

There will be a stronger tie-in with GCSE maths, and maths content will be at a level up to the required content for GCSE mathematics for the relevant tier.

Download the DfE document summarising Biology Chemistry and Physics GCSE subject content.

Practical work

Q: How are practical skills be assessed in the new GCSEs?

A: As part of the new biology, chemistry, physics and combined science GCSEs, students are now required to show understanding of experiments, and an ability to conduct them. However, the new GCSEs will be assessed by exam only, with no controlled assessment components. The exams will contain questions specifically designed to draw on the experience students have gained from doing practical work in class.

Each single science GCSE requires minimum of eight practical activities, and combined science a minimum of sixteen. At least 15% of the total marks available for each GCSE will be dedicated to the scientific experimentation questions.

Schools will be required to demonstrate that their students have covered the full range of practical work, but details of this are still to be confirmed.


Q: Have the mathematical requirements changed?

A: The new GCSEs have increased and more challenging mathematical content. The maths required is up to the level required for GCSE maths in the corresponding tier.

Download the DfE document summarising Biology Chemistry and Physics GCSE subject content.