What are the Most Difficult Math Topics in GCSE Maths?

In my memory, the topic that produced the most difficult questions was vectors. This year's Paper 2 had a vector question on the back that literally 1 in 150 top paper-takers at my school got an answer. A more consistent and difficult topic is tangents to circles, which can involve pythag and trigonometry, which can be difficult to detect. Could it be said that the rules of sine and cosine as well? I don't know, practically everything was easy in GCSE maths lmao. Some numerical topics are usually evaluated fairly procedurally or without context; these include HCF, LCM, prime product, standard form, power and root calculations.

While there is rich and charming content on these topics, it is less likely to be evaluated at the GCSE Foundation. That said, there is very little content in the chapter on number and proportion that can be considered non-essential. In terms of test accommodations, the formula sheet includes the algebraic formula for compound interest, but this is expressed in formal terms, using “principal amount”, interest rate, and the word “accrued”; it may be worth making sure that students are familiar with these terms if they intend to trust the formula given in the exam. At the Foundation level, a significant amount of algebra is evaluated procedurally and without context; this suggests that it is less valuable to spend a lot of vital exam preparation time on issues important to these topics. It is worth remembering that while the complexity and degree of problem-solving expected for algebra at Foundation is relatively low, students find the topics themselves more challenging, so they are not necessarily easier notes.

I would also recommend a lot of coverage on the correct use of mathematical equipment, such as scale drawing work and bearings, as these frequently appear for a good number of notes, and students may have had varying degrees of success working on them remotely. Like algebra, a significant amount of probability and statistics is evaluated in the Foundation procedurally and without context; again, there is less value in terms of exam preparation by spending a lot of time on rich problems. From my analysis of the Foundation, it is clear that there must be a continued strong emphasis on the work of numbers and proportions, particularly in their application in other contexts. Basic arithmetic work should be continually reviewed and practiced, as should standard procedures such as expanding, factoring, simplifying, and using formulas. All the questions on the exam have been inspired by real-life questions that have appeared in previous documents for AQA, OCR and Edexcel GCSE. To ensure success in GCSE maths, students must be confident with some essential skills to be able to access the types of questions that have been included above.

At the GCSE level, a school-wide approach may be needed to determine which skills are critical to successful post-16 studies; this will depend on the individual environment and school demographics. You want to find resources that are engaging and effective, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the material and design of a GCSE math question. To download an article containing this particular question, go to the AQA GCSE maths past article page which you can find here. After all, you can never prepare for a single question because you don't know what is going to come up so it's always better to assume the worst and not leave any mathematical topic intact when it comes to revision. This allows exam boards to produce a distribution of results to calculate appropriate GCSE score limits.

Shahid Lakha
Shahid Lakha

Shahid Lakha is a seasoned educational consultant with a rich history in the independent education sector and EdTech. With a solid background in Physics, Shahid has cultivated a career that spans tutoring, consulting, and entrepreneurship. As an Educational Consultant at Spires Online Tutoring since October 2016, he has been instrumental in fostering educational excellence in the online tutoring space. Shahid is also the founder and director of Specialist Science Tutors, a tutoring agency based in West London, where he has successfully managed various facets of the business, including marketing, web design, and client relationships. His dedication to education is further evidenced by his role as a self-employed tutor, where he has been teaching Maths, Physics, and Engineering to students up to university level since September 2011. Shahid holds a Master of Science in Photon Science from the University of Manchester and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Bath.