AO2 and AO3

Assessment Objectives – AOk

The Assessment Objectives for GCSE Maths have been rewritten. No longer based on content, they now focus on skills. Assessment Objectives define the types of question that are set in the exam:

Example of AO2 and AO3 style questions - click for bigger version.

AO1  – Recall and use knowledge of the prescribed content

What this means: Ordinary questions testing knowledge of each topic.

Worth 45-55% of marks in the exam.


AO2 – Select and apply mathematical methods in a range of contexts

What this means: Problem-solving – find the ordinary maths you need to get you to the correct answer. The question will often give you a hint.

Worth approx 25-35% of marks in the exam.


AO3 – Interpret and analyse problems and generate strategies to solve them

What this means: A step up from AO2. There could be more than one way to tackle these, and there may not be any hints in the question.

Worth approx 15-25% of marks in the exam.

The proportion of marks available in the exam varies with each Assessment.

…So it’s worth making sure you know how to do AO2 and AO3 questions!

 You can get the full story at


What does an AO2 question look like?

Check out the Teaching AO2 page for examples.  


What does an AO3 question look like?

Check out the Teaching AO3 page for examples. 


Learning about problem solving from the Additional Maths pilot

The resources developed for the pilot Additional Maths are also relevant and of interest.  Here’s what AQA has to say about the problem solving approach – “In developing problem solving in mathematics throughout school, including in GCSE classes, teaching is likely to focus on general strategies that could be useful for any question, such as:

  • thinking of the properties that the answer will have;
  • formulating and testing hypotheses;
  • eliminating options (paths or outcomes); 
  • representing the cases, relationships, features or examples symbolically, algebraically or diagrammatically”

Check out the Additional Maths pilot Teacher Guide here.


Note – Quality of written communication

There are a few extra marks to be gained in the exam if you take care to write your working ‘properly’:

  • write legibly
  • use correct and accurate maths notation and vocabulary
  • write logically in an organised sequence that the examiner can follow
  • when you’re asked to write an explanation, check your spelling, grammar and punctuation to help the examiner understand your work
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