The New GCSE #1 OCR Paper 4


So with the impending new GCSE, I thought it’d be a good idea to publish a few thoughts on the new specimen papers. What better way to do it than to sit each paper myself, then write down my random rambling thoughts afterwards…

I decided I’d do the OCR Higher papers first. There are three, but I just did Paper 4 (which is paper 1… very confusing). This is a calculator paper, although I didn’t really need one for 95% of the questions.

TIme Allowed: 1 hour 30 minutes

Time Taken : about an hour, during which I ate some sandwiches and listened to Radio 6 and took a phone call.

I didn’t check any of my answers once I’d moved onto another question, and I wrote comments in as thoughts jumped into my head. There are a few notes post-test when I looked over the mark scheme, which I did in red but sadly the scanner was b&w and I forgot!

You might want to open the paper in a separate tab to reference as we go along.

Finally, if the pictures below seem small, just click on them.


The first noticeable difference was that the ‘easy’ or ‘gentle’ introduction from previous years seems to have gone. Even though the first questions are only worth a couple of marks each, they’re harder than in previous papers. Of course, feel free to disagree!


Immediately I noticed that 1(b) required me to re-read 1(a), which in itself will certainly throw a few students off the case. Hopefully not many. Also I know a lot of students who will immediately start the answer to 1(a) as soon as they read the first half of the question, and will miss out the part about leaving your answer in terms of pi.

I was a little unsure what to do with my answer to Q2, so put a rounded integer and rounded 1 decimal place answer. The mark scheme preferred a decimal, although you could get the mark if you put integer with all of your working out (bit weird).

Q3 was straight forward enough.

Q4 asked me to sketch a graph where y is directly proportional to x. I know a lot of students who would not be able to access that question simply because of the mathematical language, which would be a shame as it’s a really easy question. I guess it’s testing your language rather than your mathematical skill.

4(b) was quite a nice question, but I was a little weary about whether they wanted any working out related to inverse proportion:


Turns out I didn’t need it. All marks were for the graph only. I got irritated by the whole length vs width vs height thing, but I’m just being pedantic.

Q5 straight forward.

Q6 I thought was a bit dastardly :


Firstly, the price per litre of both paints is significantly different. Fair enough, but I initially thought ‘that might be wrong’. No doubt plenty of students will think the same but be less confident of their methods. Perhaps not?

But the really tricky bit I felt was that you end up calculating the price of 5 litres (unless you use a different method to me of course), then double it to ten litres. I strongly suspect a lot of students will think they’ve worked out the price of 1 litre, then multiply it by 10, or just leave it as it is.

Q7 seemed suspiciously simple considering we’re approaching midway through the paper. No hidden agenda, just an easy question.

Q8 was the first question I really liked. It was clever and had a fun looping sequence in it. I thought part (b) was particularly tough as there’s no guidance to help you find a solution. I started thinking I’d have to find the nth term then thought better of it:


Q9 annoyed me, because exam boards still insist it seems, on writing really bad links to real life to set up a question. Anna estimates the height of a tree using a ruler. The fuck she does. Who are you kidding?! Either way, straight forward question.


Q10 straightforward.

Q11 Give one reason why 0 is a positive number. Blurgh. I was under the impression there were some sects that disagreed with zero being even. I checked with trusty Dr Math and apparently the world has accepted it’s even. Fair enough.

11(b) isn’t hard, but students hate proof questions.

Q12 was a nice question. A little bit tricky but a nice way of asking a pythagoras question in a puzzley way.


I think Q13 would leave a lot of students baffled, or they’d just skip it. I rushed it a bit with some crude rounding.


I lost a mark for Q14 because I didn’t use a ruler:


I also made a right bloody mess because I assumed they’d want Q1,2,3,4 and they didn’t, making it a kind of homage to Jackson Pollack instead of an answer. However, I think it’s a straight forward question.

I saw a great circle theorems question on one of the AQA papers (we’ll get to it in a different post) so I was disappointed at the boring one they used for Q16 which is a very, very standard circle theorems question:


Then a bizarrely simple question for Q17, which would perhaps have been more suited to page 1 or 2 ?!


A quite nice perimeter problem for Q18, but nothing a little bit of thought can’t handle:


And the back page is where I dropped another 2 marks, although probably error carried through, so 1 mark. Just a simple error I would hopefully have picked up had I checked through the paper. For final questions on a paper, these seem easier than in previous years. Has the ‘progressively difficult’ thing gone now?? Not convinced I’d get full marks for Q20 either, but piss off I’m totally right. :p


In summary: not as hard as I was expecting. One or two creative questions, but mostly same same. A few tricky questions with no real guidance that will trip up some students. I’ll draw up a comparison table as we go on!

15 thoughts on “The New GCSE #1 OCR Paper 4

  1. I would love to share this with my largely american followers. Just one question : ‘Higher’ describes the level for the “would have done GCE maths”, with grades from A to D or E. Is that correct? I am watching the comments, or you can email me at

  2. That’ll be a thing too. In 20 years, some applicants to jobs will have “9s”, but they’ll have since been usurped by 10’s and 11’s, so the 9 will seem lower even though it was highest at the time. Although I suppose that already exists with A / A*.

  3. Also, I’m going to expand this series to look at international maths examinations at and around Age 16. What is the American one? Is it ‘Common Core’ or is that different? Do you have links to specimen papers etc?

  4. Reblogged this on Saving school math and commented:
    Perhaps you all want to know what goes on in England. Here is a sample GCSE maths exam, taken at the end of year 10, or later, or still later. 3 exam papers in all. This is at the “higher”level and it shows what is expected by any student wanting to go on to higher education (University). Of course, more is required of those wanting to study maths, hard science or engineering. For the rest, maths stops here. These papers are taken by the upper 30% of students. There is a foundation level as well, in which the top grade is deemed OK for college.
    Check this for the same stuff from another examining company:

    Interestingly, Pearson has got its sticky fingers into the UK game as well.

  5. The american system has for quite a few years required all kids to take maths up to “Algebra 2″ (details later) in order to get a high school diploma. A new set of standards, as they are called, I would call it a syllabus, called “The Common Core” is being rolled out. I think it is very good (mostly), but it has been burdened with “high stakes tests” for evaluation not only of the kids but the individual teachers and the schools and the school districts. The mess is unbelievable. The rows and complaints and criticisms are everywhere. It appears to be a monumental cock up, way beyond what the UK has managed. Here is a link to what it looks like on the ground, from a 7 year old:
    and here if you have a few hours to spare is the Common Core document:
    The kids are tested twice each year, from kindergarten to 10th grade(16), in addition to school tests, school district tests and state tests, (at least 3 full weeks worth in a year), and kids are spending so much time preparing for tests that there is no time for Art, History, play, etc.
    It is so depessing.
    When I started my blog it was to offer corrections to the nonsense contained in math curricula and in teaching approaches, but I have found myself sucked into this controversy.
    Have fun !
    I am pleased to find that the GCSE exams are still marked by humans. When Pearson and Gates get a grip on the UK, as they have over here, keep your head down.

  6. Wow, so in essence a student may be subject to a school district test, a state test, and two common core tests each year… all on top of typical school “end of term” type tests? Forgive me if i’m getting this wrong, it’s my first exposure to this system!

    • Not only “based”, it appears that these must be taken into account, and teachers are expected to show an improvement in the kids scores (4 categories only) from one year to the next. I cannot figure out if this means that this years kids did better than last years kids, or that the kids with me this year showed an improvement on their performance last year (with a different teacher). The system is bonkers and ub=ntenable. There will be a collapse probably. It is all dricen by big business in the form of Microsoft, Pearson, and others.

  7. I have seen some of the other new GCSE papers as well, and they are much harder than the current GCSE papers. But, I feel there are two points you have to keep in mind. Firstly, these are specimen papers, which are always harder than actual papers. Secondly, you also have to consider the grade boundaries. If the grade boundaries are low, i.e. you don’t actually need that many marks for a ‘9’, or a ’10’, then it doesn’t really matter quite as much how hard the paper is.
    It will be interesting to see a real paper, and how the grade distribution works out.

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