Higher tier

These pages contain guidance and support materials for the Higher tier. There are, however, some overarching points which may help your thinking when preparing students for exams.

The Subject Content section of the specification has a column which highlights all content deemed as Foundation or Higher tier and another column for Higher tier only. Higher tier questions can assess any aspect of the unit content.

The rules on assessment mean that students can mix and match their tier of entry across units, with their combined UMS being the only factor determining their overall grade. A student who only takes Foundation tier assessment will, therefore, not be able to get higher than a Grade C, but a candidate taking any one unit at the Higher tier can access higher grades.

Fundamental number skills permeate the whole specification. We have tried to ensure that Assessment Guidance is as comprehensive as possible.

The weighting of number work at the Higher tier is lower than the Foundation tier and there is a greater focus on algebraic skills. The targeted breakdown for each unit is:


  Number Statistics Algebra Geometry Total Raw
UMS Exam Time (min)
Unit 1H 14 40     54 80 60
Unit 2H 25   41   66 100 75
Unit 3H 7   25 48 80 120 90


Around half the marks on each paper are targeted at the bottom two grades so less able students should be able to access a number of marks and have a rewarding exam experience.

In line with QCDA requirements, 20-30 % of Higher tier marks will also test Functional elements.

These questions often present problems in real life situations. Whilst testing these skills prepares students for the kind of Maths they will use when leaving education, it usually involves greater literacy skills. Experience indicates that candidates become more comfortable with these questions after practice. You will find a bank of Functional Skills questions on Exampro.

Each unit assesses all of the Assessment Objectives, but weightings vary. More detail is provided on subsequent pages, but the past papers and practice papers can be used to prepare learners for the style and nature of questions in live assessment.

The subject content of the specification can be taught in whatever order suits your students and your school or college. The new linear rule for GCSE means that students must enter all three units in the same examination series from June 2014 onwards.