Is Maths GCSE Syllabus easier than Maths O Level?

I’ve received my 688 page text­book (AQA GCSE Math­e­mat­ics for Higher Sets– Longman/Pearson) and just had time to scan through to gain some first impres­sions. The syl­labus is wider and deeper than I remem­ber (this is not very sci­en­tific –its more than 30 years since I sat my Maths O Level). How­ever the text­book itself is a lot clearer and more colour­ful than my old textbooks.

The text­book is divided into 3 sections:-

Unit 1 — Sta­tis­tics and Num­ber (cal­cu­la­tor allowed)

This cov­ers using and inter­pret­ing num­bers includ­ing frac­tions, dec­i­mals, per­cent­ages, ratios, prob­a­bil­ity and an intro­duc­tion to Sta­tis­tics. At first sight I will find this unit the most straight­for­ward. It seems to be day to day use of numbers.

Unit 2 — Num­ber and Alge­bra (cal­cu­la­tor NOT allowed)

This Unit will be more chal­leng­ing. I remem­ber the basics of alge­bra but I’ll cer­tainly have to re-learn “Sequences and Proof” and “Qua­dratic Equations”

Unit 3 — Geom­e­try and Alge­bra (cal­cu­la­tor allowed)

I think this will be the most chal­leng­ing. I seem to have for­got­ten lots of the ter­mi­nol­ogy and I was never com­fort­able with geom­e­try beyond sim­ple shapes and formulae.

I’m really impressed with the text­book and how each topic is explained with clear worked exam­ples. The biggest change since my maths O Level is that every les­son is sub-divided into the Maths GCSE grades. I’m study­ing the higher level book with cov­ers grades D to A*. Each les­son starts at the low­est level (grade D) and steadily works through to the higher lev­els, C, B, A and A*. This is made very clear as each para­graph is flagged with the rel­e­vant grade. This same method is used for all exer­cises and review exer­cises. In this way you know, at all times, and for all top­ics to which grade you are work­ing. So far exam­ple if you strug­gle with Maths but you need a Grade C to get your uni­ver­sity place you may focus your effort to ensure you have at least a Grade C level of under­stand­ing but not get too hung-up if you strug­gle with some Grade A/A* lessons/questions.

Is the rea­son that Maths GCSE grades have improved, despite the syl­labus being harder than the old Maths O Level, the fact that the mea­sur­ing of pupils’ per­for­mances has enabled teach­ing and teach­ing mate­ri­als to be more tai­lored to suit each individual’s require­ments? I’d be inter­ested to hear the views of other par­ents or teachers.

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