Deciding whether to study Double Award (Combined Science) or Triple Award GCSE Science can be a difficult decision and one which might influence future A Level and degree choices.
In this article we discuss the differences between Double Award and Triple Award Science, the pros and cons of each and how to decide between these two GCSE qualifications.
What are the Differences between Double Award and Triple Award Science?
All students are required to take core GCSE Science as part of the curriculum, but students also have the option to study Biology, Physics and Chemistry as individual subjects.
- Triple Award Science allows students to study all 3 major Sciences (Physics, Biology and Chemistry) as individual subjects to receive 3 separate GCSEs with individual grades. Students who have chosen to take Double Award or Triple Award Science courses will receive separate grades for each of their Sciences GCSEs, rather than a combined grade for 1 or 2 GCSEs.
- Triple Award Science is generally viewed as a bigger commitment and students taking this option will typically have more Science lessons per week on their timetables than students taking Double Award Science because there is more content to cover.
- Double Award Science comprises of 6 exam papers and the course syllabus consists of around 2/3 of the syllabus covered by Triple Award Science students. Because of this, Double Award Science exams are 1 hour and 15 minutes, as opposed to the 1 hour and 45-minute length of Triple Award Science exams. Students who take Triple Award Science sit 6 exams (2 papers split into Paper 1 and 2) featuring specific topics.
Who Can Take Triple Award Science?
Whether a student takes Triple or Double Award Science is a collaborative decision made by the student, teacher and school. This can vary from school to school, as there is no set rule in place by the government as to who is eligible. The decision can also depend on whether or not the school offers Triple Award Science, as certain schools offer Double Award Science only, with no prerequisite for Triple Award Science to gain entry to A Level Science. The most recent research, however, suggests that most students are not given a choice and that the school commonly determines the pathway.
Here are some questions to think about when choosing between GCSE Double or Triple Award Science:
- Does the student enjoy Science?
- Does the student possess solid literacy skills? Students taking the Triple Award Science route will often sit the higher-tier paper, which features longer essay-style questions, therefore, good written communication skills are advantageous.
- Are they consistently achieving a grade 6 (equivalent to a B grade) or above in Science? If this is the case, they are demonstrating the ability to succeed in the Triple Aware Science course.
- Is the student confident with Maths as a subject? The Triple Award features lots of Maths-related content; therefore, achieving an average of grade 6 in Maths is hugely beneficial when considering Triple Award Science.
- Is the student keen to pursue a Science subject at A Level and, if so, is this possible regardless of whether the student has completed Double or Triple Award Science?
- Is the student hoping to read a Science-related degree at university? If so, Triple Award Science would be a sensible option.
Can Students Take A Level Sciences or Study Medicine with Double Award Science GCSE?
Triple Award Science GCSE is not a prerequisite for taking A Level Science. If students decide not to take Triple Award Science, it does not automatically mean they cannot pursue Science at A Level. Because not all secondary schools offer Triple Award Science, sixth-form colleges allow Double Award Science as the standard for entry onto their A Level courses.
Medicine is a very competitive and sought-after subject at university and the question often arises about whether Oxbridge prefers its applicants to have a Triple Award Science GCSE. However, the good news for students aspiring to pursue careers in Medicine is that Triple Award Science is not a prerequisite for medical and Science-related courses at Oxbridge universities, although perhaps advantageous.
What are the Pros and Cons of Double Award and Triple Award Science?
Triple Award Science can benefit students pursuing STEM careers by equipping them with more scientific knowledge and understanding.
When making this decision, it is vital to consider the next steps after GCSEs. Students may not yet know which A Level subjects they would like to take in the future; however, if they know that they want to study a Science-related subject, then taking Triple Award Science is a safe bet. That being said, Triple Award Science is not strictly necessary to take an A Level Science subject, despite being highly recommendable. It is advisable to browse past exam papers to get a feel for the content and level of difficulty; they can be found on the Edexcel and AQA websites and are extremely helpful for revision resources.
Advantages of Double Award Science
- Less content to cover and more time to focus on other GCSE subjects.
- 2 identical grades being awarded. In Double Award Science, a student is awarded 2 identical grades based on ability across all 3 Sciences. This means that if the student is particularly able in 1 or 2 Sciences, it can raise their overall grades.
- Shorter exam times. The Double Award Science exam is 30 minutes shorter than the exam for Triple Award Science.
- It can also open the doors to the possibility of students taking another optional GCSE as Double Award Science often occupies fewer lessons within the timetable.
Disadvantages of Double Award Science
- A bigger leap to A level. Students sitting Double Award Science miss out on content that Triple Award Science covers, which helps bridge the transition between GCSE and A Level. This may result in the student needing to catch up on key topics in their first year of A Levels.
Advantages of Triple Award Science
- A smoother transition into A levels because the Triple Award Science covers more content.
- It can be looked upon favourably by employers and further education institutions, especially if students plan to study a Science-related subject at university.
- The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries and the government are still promoting and encouraging Triple Award Science, despite it not being offered by all schools.
Disadvantages of Triple Award Science
- Students cover more content, resulting in an increased workload.
- The content is more challenging, therefore, only a small number of students follow this pathway.
- It can be the case that students begin on the Triple Award Science GCSE course but are advised by the school to switch to Double Award Science if they are struggling.
Making the Choice between Double Award and Triple Award Science
The benefit-cost ratio is worth bearing in mind when deciding between Double or Triple Award Science. There is no benefit to Triple Award Science if the student is struggling with the additional workload while, equally, it could also be opportune for a student seeking a future career in the fields of Medicine or the Sciences.
There are no hard and fast answers and rules when deciding upon GCSE course options. The most important factors to determine are what the student enjoys, what they are good at and what they may want to follow as a career path in their future.
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