How to Achieve Success in your Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE

Posted on July, 2021

Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE – Getting Started

So you’re taking Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE?

It’s a fantastic qualification, that could open many doors for you in the future, but only if you can pass or achieve a top grade.

First, some basic information. If you were to take an Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE, you would only be able to achieve grades 1 to 5. However, if you take Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE, you can achieve grades 1 to 9.

Should I take the Foundation or Higher papers?

Now, some of you may think, why doesn’t everyone just take higher if there is the chance to have access to a higher range of grades?

The first reason is that the pool of students who take foundation and higher papers are completely different. If you were to take a foundation student who achieved a 4, and that student took a higher paper, that student would be likely to fail a higher paper, as he/she would be up against a stronger pool of candidates.

One of the most dangerous (speaking relatively) things a school can do is take a foundation student who is doing well, and then enter him or her into the higher paper late on.

This action will usually result in failure, as the student will have a lot of information to cram in a short period of time. Setting a student up for failure is not recommended.

I’d only recommend entering a student for the higher paper if there is enough evidence that the student can achieve a pass in the foundation by the end of year 10. Foundation papers are therefore a useful gauge for a year 10 higher student, as there should be few areas where the student has difficulty.

Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE – The Content

Naturally, a candidate sitting the Edexcel maths higher GCSE, needs to learn a lot more content in more depth than a foundation candidate. Take a look at the free Edexcel Maths higher GCSE topic list I have included below:

Knowing the topics and understanding which topics you need to learn/review, is crucial for achieving the best result possible. The students who go on to achieve 8s and 9s are usually very aware of the topics they need to learn and have covered in school (here is both foundation and higher) , and have a clear idea of the skills they need to master.

Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE – Five Quick Tips

Here are some quick tips that will help you build towards success at GCSE:

1. Review your core calculation skills in the number part of your maths textbook

The number section is usually the first chapter. If your core skills with number are not strong, it will be difficult to make progress in your higher or foundation GCSE.

Do not become reliant on a calculator. At every level of mathematics, even A-Level and beyond, you are still going to be adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing!

Furthermore, ensure that you have a solid grasp of fractions, percentages and decimals, as mastery over these topics will ensure that your foundations are strong. If you have trouble in these areas, definitely think about purchasing a copy of Peter Robson’s red book.

2. Do not round your answers too early in a question

Students sometimes make the mistake of rounding too early into a question. This is especially the case in calculator papers, where some of the numbers involved can look complicated. For instance, imagine you have a trigonometry paper and you have a value of sin x = 0.5632.

If you had chosen to round this number down to 0.56, then calculated using inverse sine, you would compute an angle of size 34°. However, if you had not rounded, your answer would be a more accurate 35°.

3. Gradate your learning

What I mean by ‘gradate’ is that you need to try questions that follow a logical progression.

For instance, if you are working towards improving your grasp of SUVAT equations of motion, you will need to have practised rearranging formulae before.

Similarly, if you want to master surds, then you need to have a strong grasp of your square numbers. Also, split your learning into baby steps. Start by learning and thinking about the basics before progressing to more difficult aspects of a topic.

4. Understand mark schemes

After you do a practice test, don’t just think that practising the questions is enough. Make sure to either get someone to mark it or mark it yourself and focus on the areas where you have lost marks.

You might notice a few critical mistakes or missed steps in your workings. You should also take a look at the mark scheme and analyse where you can pick up more marks.

5. Estimate your answers

In one of my AS mathematics exam years ago, I realised that I made a key error on one of the questions in the paper. The reason why I was able to identify the error so quickly was because I took a few seconds to approximate the answer.

Estimating the probable answer may only take a few seconds but it could save you a lot of marks. Note that in the exams, there will be plenty of drawn figures that do not appear accurately, so do not feel under-confident if an answer does not look right.

If the numbers, however, indicate that you may have made a miscalculation, then you’ll have the opportunity to get it right.

6. Aim for Mastery of the Topic

Building mastery in a topic means that you are able to apply your knowledge to exam-style questions. If you’re aiming for grades 7-9, you will need to be take areas of the curriculum and use strategies to solve multistep questions.

Here are some examples of us tackling some GCSE Edexcel Higher Mathematics questions:

An Algebraic Fraction

A Quadratic Inequality

A Geometric Proof

7. Show your Workings

Mastery of a maths topic and aiming for a top grade should also involve care and attention to detail. One aspect of this is showing your workings effectively and step-by-step.

If you have trouble with this aspect, ask your mathematics teacher in school, or a tutor to help you.


Angle Question:

In triangle ABC, angle A is twice angle B, and angle C is 20 degrees more than angle B. The sum of the three angles is 180 degrees. Determine the measures of each angle.

How a student could present this:

Given Information:

  • Angle A = 2 * Angle B
  • Angle C = Angle B + 20
  • Angle A + Angle B + Angle C = 180 degrees


  1. Express Other Angles in Terms of x:
    • Angle A = 2x
    • Angle C = x + 20
  2. Write the Equation Using the Sum of Angles in a Triangle:
    • Angle A + Angle B + Angle C = 180°
    • 2x + x + (x + 20) = 180
  3. Combine Like Terms:
    • 4x + 20 = 180
  4. Isolate x:
    • 4x = 160
    • x = 40
  5. Find the Measures of Each Angle:
    • Angle A = 2x = 80°
    • Angle B = x = 40°
    • Angle C = x + 20 = 60°


Therefore, in triangle ABC, Angle A measures 80 degrees, Angle B measures 40 degrees, and Angle C measures 60 degrees. The sum of these angles is indeed 180 degrees, satisfying the conditions of a triangle.


There are many resources that can help you build your understanding of mathematics and will help propel you towards top grades.

The two textbooks I’d recommend as core reading are the Michael White Essential Maths series higher textbook and the official Edexcel endorsed Pearson textbooks.

Michael White Essential Maths

The Michael White textbook is effective because of the way it presents concepts. It is easy to follow and is well-gradated.

I also think that this book provides excellent value for money, as it is quite a thick textbook, offers a great deal of practice and quite clear explanations.

We actually use this textbook a lot with our students as an additional resource for question practice.

Pearson Textbooks:

The Edexcel endorsed textbooks gives students access to plenty of questions that follow an Edexcel-style. They are worth the money in the grand scheme of things, for the extra exam style practice.

Revise GCSE Maths Edexcel Student Guide:

If you haven’t got much time and you need to get through the curriculum fast, the main revise textbook can be a useful guide, as many topics are covered quickly.

I would not recommend this as a main textbook simply because it does not really have enough practice questions, but it is ideal if you want to go over topics quickly during the revision period.

Also, if you’re going for grades 7-9, I think the previous resources are far better for acquiring the subject master that you will need.

Flashcard Sets

Although I haven’t personally used flashcards with any students for Edexcel GCSE Higher maths, I think that flashcard sets could fit well into your revision if you need to diversify it.

Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE Past Papers

You can download the previous past papers, specimen and sample papers free using the button below:

If you have exhausted the past material and want to work on some additional papers check out the Revise papers, as I think they are quite decent:

Career Paths for Edexcel Maths Higher GCSE

As mathematics is a core subject, it is a subject that opens the door to many different career paths. Colleges will also look favourably upon those who apply with a pass or high grade in mathematics. If you intend to take A-Level mathematics, you will usually be required to reach a minimum standard (dependent on your college).

In our experience, students who achieve under an 8 or 9 grade at GCSE, struggle a lot in A-Level mathematics, so if you’re serious about taking maths to A-Level, it is crucial that you have a very firm grasp of the GCSE curriculum.

Many jobs and careers require basic mathematics, but some career paths require students to take maths to a high level. This page from the BBC is helpful if you want to find out more information.


If you have any more questions about GCSE Maths, feel free to visit us or get in touch.

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