Exam Board Subject Leader
AQA Mrs J Tiernan

Students at GCSE study either combined science (trilogy), worth two GCSEs, or study separate GCSEs in each of biology, chemistry and physics. Students on the combined science course sit either a foundation or higher tier set of exams. The subjects covered in combined science are:


  • Topic 1: Cell biology
  • Topic 2: Organisation
  • Topic 3: Infection and response
  • Topic 4: Bioenergetics
  • Topic 5: Homeostasis and response
  • Topic 6: Inheritance, variation and evolution
  • Topic 7: Ecology


  • Topic 8: Atomic structure and the periodic table
  • Topic 9: Bonding, structure and the properties of matter
  • Topic 10: Quantitative chemistry
  • Topic 11: Chemical changes
  • Topic 12: Energy changes
  • Topic 13: The rate and extent of chemical change
  • Topic 14: Organic chemistry
  • Topic 15: Chemical analysis
  • Topic 16: Chemistry of the atmosphere
  • Topic 17: Using resources


  • Topic 18: Energy
  • Topic 19: Electricity
  • Topic 20: Particle model of matter
  • Topic 21: Atomic structure
  • Topic 22: Forces
  • Topic 23: Waves
  • Topic 24: Magnetism and electromagnetism



Students undertaking the combined GCSE in science sit six exam papers: two in biology, two in chemistry and two in physics. Each of the papers assess knowledge and understanding from distinct topic areas. The higher tier exams cover grades 4-4 to 9-9, and the foundation tier exams cover grades 1-1 to 5-5. The decision on which tier paper the student will sit will be confirmed in Year 11 and will be made by agreement across all the subject teachers.

Each paper is a written exam lasting 1 hour and 15 minutes. Each paper is marked out of 70 and worth 16.7% of the GCSE. Questions can be multiple choice, structured, closed short answer or open response.

  • Biology Paper 1 examines topics 1-4: cell biology; organisation; infection and response; and bioenergetics.
  • Biology Paper 2 examines topics 5-7: homeostasis and response; inheritance, variation and evolution; and ecology.
  • Chemistry Paper 1 examines topics 8-12: atomic structure and the periodic table, bonding, structure, and the properties of matter; quantitative chemistry; chemical changes; and energy changes.
  • Chemistry Paper 2 examines topics 13-17: the rate and extent of chemical change; organic chemistry; chemical analysis; chemistry of the atmosphere; and using resources.
  • Physics Paper 1 examines topics 18-21: energy; electricity; particle model of matter; and atomic structure.
  • Physics Paper 2 examines topics 22-24: forces; waves; and magnetism and electromagnetism.


Progression and Complementary Studies

Equal emphasis is given to biology, chemistry and physics in the combined science GCSE, and they are taught as separate subjects. Students who follow this course will still be able to access Science at A Level if they achieve high grades (7-6 or higher).