Art and Design GCSE

Exam Board: AQA

What is the subject about?

GCSE Art and Design gives pupils the opportunity to develop and extend their creative, imaginative and technical skills. Through experimentation with a range of traditional and digital media, such as drawing, painting, printmaking, photography and ceramics, pupils explore and investigate the visual world. They develop their critical skills, making connections and reflecting on the work of artists and designers, and learn to communicate their own ideas and opinions. Pupils are able to express their individuality through sketchbook research and the development of high quality final responses.

Course overview

We follow the AQA “ Fine Art” specification (8202) which offers the freedom to explore a wide range of materials and techniques and through a mixture of whole class and one-to-one teaching, allows pupils to discover their own strengths and explore and develop ideas of particular personal interest.

There are four main Assessment Objectives:

  • AO1: Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.
  • AO2: Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes.
  • AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.
  • AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates understanding of visual language.

Aims of the course

As well as improving your practical expertise pupils will also:

  • Develop, refine and record their ideas
  • Present a personal which realises your intentions
  • Improve their creative skills through the effective and safe use of media, materials, techniques, processes and technologies
  • Successfully use visual language and the formal elements eg colour, line, texture, tone, form, shape
  • Use drawing skills for different needs and purposes

Course structure

Over the 2 years, pupils will complete:

Component 1: Portfolio (60%)

Project 1: Structures (September -January)
This is a comprehensive project providing a clear and structured introduction to the requirements of the course. It enables pupils to explore and develop confidence across a range of media through supported sketchbook development and the production of resolved final responses.

Project 2: Experimentation (February-April)
This is a series of short, fun, technical workshops, allowing pupils to broaden their experience, through visiting artists, gallery visits, life-drawing, print-making and teacher-led workshops in digital  photography, printmaking and ceramics.

Project 3: Personal Investigation: (May-December)
An extended project where, with support,  pupils choose a theme/ artist/ issue in which they are personally interested. Pupils produce an in-depth body of work leading to a final response using any media or techniques they wish to explore.

Component 2: Externally Set Assignment (40%) (January-May)

The examination is similar to the extended coursework project. Pupils choose and  explore a theme from the AQA question paper. They have approximately 12 weeks in which to prepare sketchbook research and develop their own ideas. The final piece is completed over 10 hours under supervised examination conditions.

Skills needed

  • Above all, pupils must demonstrate and enthusiasm for, and interest in the subject.
  • Some ability to draw, experiment with materials and develop ideas.
  • Imagination, curiosity and a willingness to learn.
  • This is a linear specification and pupils need to be able to sustain a project over a period of some weeks. Independence, self-discipline and resilience are therefore very important.
  • Pupils will need to respond to the work of other artists so some written analysis will be required.

What might the subject lead to?

The Cultural and Creative Sectors are some of the UK’s most successful industries. More people work in the creative industries than in the finance and they are one of the UK’s big success stories. Areas such as Software and Gaming, Publishing, Fashion design, Graphic design, Television, Architecture, Film and Digital Media are set to be of central importance to the county’s future economic well-being.

Art and Design develops the visual awareness required in this field, as well as the transferrable skills of creativity, innovation, problem-solving, adaptability and resilience which will be required in the jobs market of the 21st Century.

Many of our pupils go on to study either A level Art or Photography. From there, the usual pathway is to apply to an Art Foundation Course where pupils have the opportunity to build up a portfolio which is geared towards the specific course they wish to apply for.

Some pupils do apply directly to degree courses and a considerable amount of our pupils have gained places to study the Visual Arts, Architecture, Games Design, Photography, Illustration and Art History at some of the most highly regarded universities.

If you choose not to continue with your studies, the transferable skills you will gain will still be valuable. Problem-solving, creative thinking, investigation, research, communication and teamwork skills and gain the ability to develop and present ideas. Employers and universities regard all of these very highly.


In the 4th Form we have a drawing and research trip to the Oxford Galleries and Museums. In the 5th Form we travel to London to visit the major galleries and current exhibitions.

We also try to invite practising artists into school where possible to give one-off workshops and visits are organised to local galleries where relevant.

Further reading

  • BBC Bitesize GCSE Art and Design
  • The Story of Art - Phaidon
  • The Story of Modern Art - Phaidon
  • The Twentieth Century Art book – Phaidon
  • The Art Book - Phaidon
  • Oxford Dictionary of Art - OUP
  • Oxford Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Arts - OUP
  • Penguin Dictionary of Arts and Artists - Penguin
  • Encyclopaedia of Arts and Crafts - Headline
  • Styles, Schools and Movements - Thames & Hudson
  • Art Today – Phaidon
  • Art Now - Taschen
  • The Shock of the New - BBC
  • 50 Years of Creativity - Thames & Hudson
  • This is Modern Art - Weidenfield & Nicholson
  • A History of 21st Century Art - Flammarion Beaux Arts
  • Women Artists - Aberville Press
  • Gender and Art - Yale University Press
  • The Elements of Design - Mitchell Beazley
  • The Tate Modern Handbook - Tate Publishing
  • V & A Guide to Period Styles - V & A Publications
  • 50 Photographers you should know - Prestel
  • 50 Artists you should know – Prestel
  • 50 British artists you should know – Prestel
  • 50 Contemporary artists you should know - Prestel
  • All Taschen guides to artists
  • Creative paint workshop for mixed media artists - Ann Baldwin
  • Artists’ journals and sketchbooks - Lynne Perella
  • The Decorated Journal (creating expressive journal pages) - Gwen Diehn
  • Extraordinary sketchbooks - Jane Stobart