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Exam Board: Pearson Edexcel

What is the course about?

GCSE Combined Science consists of the study of Biology, Chemistry and Physics in equal measure. At the end of the course, pupils will be awarded a double grade that reflects their achievement.

  • The Biology component of the GCSE is the study of all living organisms and their interaction with each other and the world around them. It is a fabulous course that provides great preparation for Biology at A level or for anyone who is interested in the natural world in general and the living organisms that surround us. You will study things that are very small (cells) and learn about how these work. You will see how the different cells within a plant or animal all work together to allow the organism to work well and learn about how organisms interact with each other and their environment.
  • The Physics component of the GCSE is the study of essential scientific concepts such as energy, electricity, the particle theory of matter, atomic structure, forces, waves, magnetism and electromagnetism and space physics will be studied through investigating, observing, experimenting or testing out ideas and thinking about them. This will involve talking about, reading and writing about physical concepts, doing practical experiments, as well as representing Physics in its many forms both mathematically and visually through models.
  • The Chemistry component of the GCSE is the study about the material world around you - what it is made of, what holds it together and why chemical reactions happen. There is so much complexity, and yet once you see the patterns and principles you can appreciate that Chemistry is simple, but certainly not always easy! There is much practical work that we do throughout the GCSE course and this allows you to develop a much deeper understanding of how Chemistry works and where we get our ideas from.

There are a huge range of practicals in all three sciences that we do throughout the GCSE course and these allow pupils to develop a much deeper understanding of how science works and provides a chance to apply their knowledge.

Course overview

Each science has several main areas of study which are broken down into chapters that consist of several lessons.

In Biology there are five topics which are as follows:

  • Cells and organisation: cell structure; cell division; organisation and the digestive system; organising animals and plants.
  • Disease and bioenergetics: communicable diseases; preventing and treating disease; non-communicable diseases; photosynthesis; respiration.
  • Biological responses: the human nervous system; hormonal coordination; homeostasis in action.
  • Genetics and reproduction: reproduction; variation and evolution; genetics and evolution.
  • Ecology: adaptations, interdependence and competition; organising and ecosystem; biodiversity and ecosystems.

In Chemistry there are ten main areas of study over the course. 

  • Atoms, bonding and moles: what is an atom, how it bonds and calculating mass.
  • Chemical reactions and energy changes: reactivity, electrolysis and exothermic and endothermic reactions.
  • Rates, equilibrium and organic chemistry: the speed of reactions, what affects the rate, hydrocarbons and their uses.
  • Analysis and the Earth’s resources: analysing chemicals, the chemistry of the atmosphere and using chemistry for our needs.

In Physics there are four main areas of study over the course, which are:

  • Energy and energy resources: conservation and dissipation of energy, energy transfer by heating, and energy resources
  • Particles at work: electric circuits, electricity in the home, molecules and matter, and radioactivity.
  • Forces in action: Forces in balances, motion, force and motion, and force and pressure.
  • Waves, electromagnetism and space: Wave properties, electromagnetic waves, light, electromagnetism and space.

Do I need to study the subject at GCSE for A levels?

Studying Combined Science is not a barrier to sciences at A level, but if that is the intention from the start then the Triple Science course may be better suited. Most of the topics are covered in the Combined Science award but if you choose the Triple Science course, there are additional topics which are covered. This provides much better preparation for Biology, Chemistry or Physics at A level, but you can still be accepted onto the A level course if you have done the Combined Science course and achieved the required grades.

Whom does the subject suit?

Biology suits those with a natural curiosity about the world around them and anyone who has enjoyed the spectacular BBC productions of Planet Earth and the Blue Planet and others. Others choose Biology because they are passionate about conservation and want to reduce the negative impact we are having on the planet. Others are more interested in the human side and want to find out more about how our bodies work. Some prefer the tiny things, the microbes and minibeasts. This course covers all of those areas, so there is a little bit for everyone.

If you are interested - perhaps fascinated - with the key questions of what makes up the world that we live in and how stuff works, Chemistry is for you. It is the beginning of a journey via A level, and university perhaps, into a huge range of possible careers. These include not only material science research and development, but also many of the medical paths such as medicine itself and treatment development, biochemistry, chemical engineering, atmospheric studies - cutting edge ideas, and others that really make a difference in life. You could even become a Chemistry teacher!

Physics suits both girls and boys who have a curiosity about how and why things are the way they are or why they work the way they do. If you have watched TV programmes such as “The Planets” presented by Professor Brian Cox, or the Horizon episode “Hubble: The Wonders of Space Revealed” or “Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity” and found yourself engrossed in them - Physics is undoubtedly for you. If your passion for Physics is not like that but you want to understand more about the physical world you live in, then Physics is also for you.

What skills should I have?

A “can do” attitude is extremely important in Combined Science along with a good grasp of the English language and an ability to learn new terms quickly. You need to be able to think in a logical manner and communicate your ideas using precise scientific words. Having good mathematical skills is key for Physics and Chemistry and is also very useful for Biology. You will also have to follow instructions carefully to carry out practicals in a safe and scientific way.

What might the subject lead to? (careers/university etc)

Combined Science GCSE will help you build on skills including data interpretation, critical thinking, precise and thoughtful communication and that’s without mentioning the amazing knowledge of the processes that the world is built on.

The natural step from any science GCSE is to study it at A level which can lead to a number of careers. A level Biology can lead to botany, zoology, genetics, sport and exercise science as well as being a useful foundation for medicine, veterinary science, psychology and more. Physics can lead to careers in architecture, engineering, computer science and even space exploration! Studying Chemistry can open doors to research, forensics, medicine and helping develop consumer products such as cosmetics, toothpaste and chewing gum.

Whatever career path you are interested in, the skills and knowledge you learn in studying science will equip you to work collaboratively, apply good investigative techniques, analyse results, and solve problems. These skills are in high demand and useful in non-scientific sectors as well, including banking and finance.

What trips are involved?

The annual trip to the Big Bang Fair in the fourth form is not just a spectacular Science fair with some awesome shows but introduces pupils to the vast array of careers that use Biology.

What else should I consider before choosing?

Triple Science is a challenging course and should not be chosen as an option just because the other options in the option block don’t appeal. This is because this subject is demanding and is not an easy option. It is a great option if you are prepared to work very hard from the start, but it is a very tricky subject if you are not completely happy to choose it.

Combined Science has slightly less material to cover in the same time, so you are able to study the course at a slightly slower pace, which should enable you to get a really good understanding of all the concepts. This is key as it should give you the best possible position to maximise your potential in the subject.

Both courses give an insight into how the world works through the eyes of science and will give you the chance to see microscopic cells, watch chemicals change before your eyes and observe the effects of forces on objects in front of you.

What books should I read?

There are a selection of magazines that would be very helpful in supporting your learning outside the classroom. These include National Geographic For Kids, Science Focus and The New Scientist.

The KHS library also has some good journals available online and in print. These include the Review Magazine series, which is more geared towards A-level sciences but applies scientific concepts in real life situations. Issues considered in the Physics Review Magazine include “What is the quickest route to Mars?” and “How is BB-8 constructed?”. In the Biology Review Magazine there are topics such as new genetic technologies, how treatments for disease work and even an article on how and why birds run! For Chemistry, there is also a monthly magazine called Catalyst which is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and is at just the right level for GCSE. There are many more interesting articles on the RSC website at rsc.org.

Another great resource is the Science and Health pages in the news. A good place to start can be on the BBC website, although some of their Science correspondents are sometimes a little sloppy with the language they use.

There are also some really interesting science books, many of which are in the school library. A few examples that we would recommend include The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, What if? by Randall Munroe, The Science of Everyday Life by Marty Jopson and The Body: A Guide For Occupants by Bill Bryson.

Who will teach me?

You will have three teachers in the fourth form: For Biology you will either have Mr Miller or Mrs McFarlane or Mr Blackie; for Chemistry you will have either Mr Lane or Mr Blackie; and for Physics you will have either Mr McFaul or Mr Petra.