Chemistry 18/04/2023

Chemistry GCSE – Summary of examiner reports


This blog provides a summary of examiner reports for Chemistry GCSE Science papers.

The large amount of content in the 9-1 Science GCSEs was already a challenging experience for both students and teachers, even before the pandemic caused widespread disruption to education. This year’s GCSE Science exams will be the first since 2019 where the full content set will be assessed.

Ofqual is managing a return to normal this summer. It has confirmed that there will be no advance information for GCSE students and expects that GCSE results this summer will be much closer to the pre-pandemic years than those since 2020. Grade boundaries are expected to move back towards levels last seen in 2019. The links below provide tables of grade boundaries that year:

As this summer’s GCSE Science exams will be the first since 2019 where the full content set will be assessed, examiners’ reports from that time will be especially useful as a diagnostic tool to help teachers provide targeted guidance to students.

This blog provides a summary of the examiners’ reports for both the 2018 and 2019 Chemistry papers. Next to each point, we highlight the relevant year. It covers both combined science and the separate sciences, foundation tier and higher tier. We have used the examiner reports prepared for the AQA exam board, but the same lessons apply to students taking Edexcel and OCR exams.


In Chemistry, several topics that were new to the 9-1 specification presented significant problems: this was the case in 2018 and then again in 2019. Many students confidently answered questions on topics which had been part of preceding specifications for many years (e.g. equilibrium and qualitative analysis) but topics which were new to the 9-1 specification were more problematic, including formulations, composites and condensation polymers. [2019]

Also, the new requirement for students to calculate instantaneous rates of reaction from graph tangents has led to confusionbetween this and the use of graphs to calculate mean rate of reaction over a specified time interval. [2019]

We’ve split the examiners’ comments into three categories: ‘Key exam skills’, ‘Graph skills’, and ‘Subject areas for development’.

Key exam skills

Key exam skills were lacking and accounted for a large share of lost marks, according to the examiners. A lack of exposure to basic terminology made it difficult for some students to access questions. There were some common misinterpretations due to lack of familiarity with common scientific terms such as ‘electronic structure’, ‘formula’ and ‘molten’ or ‘liquid’. [2019] There was confusion regarding the difference between a liquid and a solution. [2018]

The examiners commented regularly on errors that could have been addressed by improving students’ exam technique.


Graph skills

The errors above can be addressed by using My GCSE Science to help improve students’ exam technique. My GCSE Science long-form exam-style questions and corresponding mark schemes help students build an in-depth understanding of each topic while at the same time developing exam technique.

Our teachers have also prepared blogs that deal directly with exam skills and maths skills in Biology.


Subject areas for development

Below we outline specific topics in the curriculum which examiners identified as requiring further development.


My GCSE Science

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