KS4 Options

Science is a compulsory subject at GCSE.  There are, however, some choices to make when considering how you wish to study Science in Year 10 and 11.  The difference between the two choices mainly comes down to your enjoyment and dedication in Science and also how this balances with your other subject choices.

Both Triple Science and Combined Science have two tiers - Foundation and Higher.

We begin studying topics that transition from Key Stage 3 to GCSE in the Spring term of Year 9.  The topics and skills covered in Year 9 apply to both Combined and Triple Science courses.

Pupils who are studying on Pathway 3 are automatically opted to study Combined Science.

Combined Science

This is a popular course that many students opt for to give them a solid grounding in science with the option still open to do A-Level science in the future if they wish (dependent on grade).  This is a good option for those students that are unsure what they want to do after their GCSEs as it keeps all options open for both A-Levels as well as other post-16 qualifications and careers.  Students opting for this course would be following the AQA Combined Science: Trilogy course.

How is the Combined Science structured?

Combined science is a course that is worth 2 GCSE grades upon completion.  The students would be taught by 3 specialist teachers with an even balance of each branch of biology, chemistry and physics per week.  There is an emphasis on practical work and investigation in combined science.  There is no controlled assessment or coursework in GCSE science.  Instead, students will complete 8 key practicals per subject.  These practicals are then assessed through questions as part of the final GCSE exams.  The course is assessed by 6 exam papers at the end of Year 11.  Each of these exams is 1 hour 15 minutes and is worth 16.5% of their overall grade.

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Triple Science

GCSE Biology, GCSE Chemistry and GCSE Physics

Triple Science is an option that students with a passion and interest in science should seriously consider.  We would also recommend Triple Science for any student who has a firm commitment to A-Level science or science-based degree options.  Strong performance lower in the school is preferable, but not essential for students wishing to do Triple Science.   It is however essential that students who opt for Triple Science can demonstrate a commitment to learning out of lesson, self-reflection and independence in their studies.  High levels of engagement and motivation are keys for success in Triple Science.

How is the course structured?

Students opting for Triple Science will receive more lessons per week of Biology, Chemistry and Physics – owing to the course being worth 3 GCSE grades rather than 2.  They are taught by 3 subject specialists for these lessons, predominately in our laboratories.  Students opting for Triple Science should expect to take part in many practical investigations throughout the programme of study.  There is no controlled assessment or coursework in GCSE science.  Instead, students will complete 8 key practicals per subject.  These practicals are then assessed through questions as part of the final GCSE exams.

Biology, Chemistry and Physics are each assessed with 2 exam papers - each at the end of Year 11.  These exams are 1 hour 45 minutes, with each being worth 50% of the subject grade.


Studying Science enables students to develop many transferable skills including being able to work with and analyse data or evidence, how to plan effectively, drawing evidence-based conclusions, evaluating evidence on both its quantity and quality as well as being able to consider moral and ethical dilemmas that affect our lives considering points of view outside of our own.

Students who have studied Science go on to study courses at college, sixth forms such as A-Level Biology, Chemistry and Physics alongside other courses like Psychology or Engineering.   These courses contain a combination of coursework and controlled assessment done prior to terminal exams.

Other students can opt for Science T-Levels.  These are courses that are equivalent to A-Level and last 2 years.  The course covers core content with the chance to study specialist content in one of three areas: laboratory sciences, food sciences and metrology sciences.  

A third option for students wishing to pursue Science after Fernwood is a Science Apprenticeship.  These are work-based courses offering the chance to get qualified while working but also see the direct link between what you learn and the working world.  These courses can be at Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) or Level 3 (A-Level equivalent). 

At university, students have gone on to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as degrees in Microbiology, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, Medicine, Biochemistry, Genetics, Astronomy amongst many others.

Students who have studied science have access to a wide range of careers and employment opportunities in areas including nursing, medicine, scientific research, engineering and architecture, criminal science, dentistry, optometry (study of the eyes), environmental science or ecology.  There are too many to list here!  


Do I have to study Science at GCSE?

Yes, Science is a ‘Core subject’ alongside English and Maths. You can however choose, how you want to study it, either through Combined Science (2 GCSEs) or Triple Science (3 GCSEs)

Does Science have any coursework or controlled assessments?

No - there is no coursework or controlled assessment in Science. Both Triple and Combined Science are assessed 100% by exams at the end of Year 11.

I have heard about required practicals - what are those?

Required practicals are investigations that the exam board have specified all students taking the course should experience. These practicals help the student’s understanding of scientific methods and techniques while also boosting their understanding of the concepts being taught. These required practicals will also form the basis of some questions in the GCSE exams.

Are there different tiers in GCSE Combined and Triple Science?

Yes, for both Combined and Triple, there is a Foundation and Higher GCSE exams. The Foundation exam assess from Grades 1-5. Higher Grades from 4-9. We will work with parents and pupils to help decide which tier of entry will give the best chance of success. As a guide, we would want to see consistent performance at Grade 5 before considering entry into Higher tier Science. The tier of entry for Combined Science must be the same for all the papers. For Triple Science, each Science can be entered for a tier independent from the other.

How does the grading work for Combined Science?

Combined science is worth 2 GCSEs. The grades a ‘paired’ together and are generated from the total score across the 6 exams. You sit 2 exams for each Science subject- so Biology, Chemistry and Physics all contribute equally. The higher your total, the higher up the grade ladder you go, e.g. 5-5 to 6-5 to 6-6 and so on. You cannot get for example grade 6-2. This does not exist.

Is Triple Science only for clever people?

No. Triple Science at Fernwood is given the full teaching time it needs to cover 3 GCSEs worth of content. This is why you have 3 other options choices with Triple Science rather than 4. This means you should do just as well studying Triple Science as you would choosing any other subject at GCSE.

Which option should I do if I want to be a doctor?

For most courses, it does not matter which GCSE Science option you pick- as long as you do well at it. For a select few courses, such as Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinarian studies, we would recommend you pick Triple Science as increasingly Universities are using GCSE grades to help decide on entry.

I think I might want to do a Science A-Level, do I have to pick Triple Science?

No, for all the local colleges and 6-Forms, they will accept both Combined Science or Triple Science to get into A-Level Science courses. Most require a grade 6 for entry to A-Level Science.

Are science lessons set at GCSE?

We do try and group students together that are working towards either Higher (Grade 4-9) or Foundation GCSE (Grade 1-5) grades but we understand everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways so we do not rigidly set. We do not therefore have formal ‘sets’. What we do endeavour to do it make sure everyone is the best group to allow them to flourish. We do have a smaller Science Combined class that is aimed at more specialist support from 2 Science teachers for students on the Foundation learning pathway.


The Fernwood School
Goodwood Road, Wollaton
Nottingham, NG8 2FT

0115 9286326