If you’re just starting your GCSE Maths course, you might be wondering what the difference is between the tiers and whether it matters to you.

The simple answer is that if you take the Foundation Tier papers then the maximum grade you can get is a C, but with the Higher Tier papers the full range of grades A* to G are open to you.

Depending on what you want to do after GCSEs, this could be an important difference. If you want to go on to A Levels and perhaps university, then unless you want to study Maths beyond GCSE a C grade would be enough. Some career paths have raised the game in recent years, requiring a minimum of a B grade Maths GCSE instead of a C. Requirements for courses are reviewed regularly, so if you know what you want to do next, make sure you keep up to date on the entry requirements.

So, does it matter which set you are in for Maths? If you’re in one of the top sets at school and you know you’ll be entered for the Higher Tier papers, then no. If you’re in a lower set and will be entered for the Foundation Tier papers or may be entered for either tier, then yes it does matter.

The reason it matters is that the lower sets generally work at a slower pace, do not cover as many topics as the higher sets, and do not cover topics in the same detail. If you know you’re in a set where everyone will be entered for the Foundation Tier papers, but you know you need a B grade, then you have a problem. The sooner you know about it the better.

Now you know you need a B grade, or you need a C grade as a minimum but want to aim higher, what can you do if you’re in a set that’s following the Foundation Tier course?

  • Let your teacher know as soon as possible what the situation is.
  • Ask your teacher whether there is any possibility of moving up to a Higher Tier set.
  • Ask your teacher what you can and should be doing to enable you to move up a set.
  • See if you can get a copy of the textbook that the Higher Tier sets are working from.
  • Go through the topics in the Higher Tier book as you cover them in lessons, and try to do the exercises.
  • Ask your teacher to suggest extra work you can do on your own so that you try to keep up with the Higher Tier sets.
  • See if there is an after school Maths Club you could go to at your school.

If you need a bit of extra tuition, and your school can’t help, consider going to a private tutor for individual tuition. For those of you who live near Witney, Oxfordshire – I offer individual Maths tuition. For more details please email me or have a look at Maths Tuition and FAQs.