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GCSE Maths Test Format: What to Expect on the Day

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Of all the GCSE subjects, maths is one of the most important. Knowing what to expect on the day of the day of your exam will help calm your nerves and enable you to perform at your best. To help you prepare for test day, we’ve put together this guide to take you through the GCSE maths test format step-by-step.


Here’s an overview of the main topic areas you’ll be assessed on:


  • Number
  • Algebra
  • Ratio, proportion and rates of change
  • Geometry and measures
  • Probability
  • Statistics


GCSE maths has a Foundation tier (grades 1 – 5) and a Higher tier (grades 4 – 9). Students must take three question papers at the same tier and all question papers must be taken in the same series.


GCSE Maths Test Paper 1 (non-calculator)


Students will be required to answer questions from any of the subjects outlined above. The exam will last for one hour and 30 minutes and it will be marked out of 80. This paper contributes 33⅓% to the overall GCSE maths score.


The paper is made up of a mix of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems. The mathematical demand will increase as you progress through the paper.


For some tips on how to prepare for the non-calculator papers, read our post GCSE Maths Non-Calculator Topics.


GCSE Maths Test Paper 2 (calculator) 


Again, students may be assessed on any of the topics outlined above, although in paper 2, a calculator is allowed. Lasting 90 minutes, the overall score of this paper is 80 marks and makes up 33⅓% of the GCSE maths assessment.


As per paper 1, paper 2 consists of a mix of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems.


For more advice on preparing for this test, read our post GCSE Maths Revision Calculator Paper.


GCSE Maths Test Paper 3 (calculator) 


Following a similar format to the previous papers, GCSE maths test paper 3 could cover any of the subjects outlined previously. Making up the remaining 33⅓% of the overall GCSE maths assessment, this paper is once again marked out of 80 and lasts 90 minutes. Students are allowed to use a calculator with this paper.


For more information on the GCSE maths test format, please visit the AQA website.


Our Tips for the GCSE Maths Tests


The most common advice we give at Exam Papers Plus is to be well-organised and plan well ahead for your exams. However, there are some things you can do on the day of your test to ensure you perform at your best:


  • Find your motivation. During the exam, you might experience stressful moments and want to give up, but if you have an external goal to aim for, you’re more likely to carry on until the end. Choose something that motivates you and keep that in mind throughout the test.
  • Always show your working. Put yourself in the examiner’s shoes and ask yourself what they want to see in your answer. If the question is worth more than a couple of marks, then you’ll know that it requires a few steps. Make sure you’re able to identify where each mark will come from in your answer.
  • Check your calculator answers. Mistakes can still be made on a calculator, so always check whether the answer you have makes sense.
  • Try to give yourself time at the end of the test to double-check your answers. Specifically, make sure you haven’t misread any questions and have used the correct units of measurement where asked.
  • Finish the paper. You’ll be able to pick up lots of marks for partly answering questions, even if you can’t quite get the answer. Try to write something for every question and take advantage of all the time allocated to make sure you haven’t missed a question.


For more information on how to make the most of your maths revision, read our article How to Study for GCSE Maths.


GCSE Maths Practice Tests


The best way to see how well you’ll do in your GCSE maths tests is to do practice papers. Practice tests can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and enable you to allocate more time to areas that need improvement.


At Exam Papers Plus, we publish maths packs that allow you to measure your current attainment level. While creating our practice tests, we thoroughly analysed GCSE reports from previous years to make sure our questions cover all the topic areas of the exam. We’ve also included some more challenging questions that we know students usually struggle with.


Our GCSE packs are tried and tested. Each one is written and developed by former maths examiners and markers. This means students might come across questions in their real exams which look a lot like the questions in the practice papers.


Each pack focuses on the key skills that students need to develop to perform well in higher tier GCSE exams and includes detailed step-by-step answers and mark schemes for every question. Each question is labelled to identify the relevant exam boards.


To give students a better idea of what to expect from the GCSE maths tests, we would recommend the following resource:



GCSE Mathematics: Key Skills 



All of our GCSE packs are available immediately after download.



Related posts:

GCSE Maths Revision: Calculator Paper

GCSE Maths Non-Calculator Paper

How to Pass GCSE Maths

GCSE Maths Games to Keep You Motivated

How to Study for GCSE Maths

GCSE Maths Activities

GCSE Maths Revision Tips

GCSE Maths Help: Tips for the Exam

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