What is the Difference Between Combined and Triple Science GCSE?


When it comes to GCSE Science, secondary school students across the UK are faced with a tricky dilemma. They might not realise it, as a lot of schools make the choice for you, but they have been earmarked for sitting either the ‘Combined’ or ‘Triple’ course (and on rare occasions even a single science option) – often before they are even in Year 10. So, what is the difference between combined science and triple science? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that unlike the content delivered in both, understanding the key differences is a piece of cake!

It’s All In The Name

Essentially, the ‘Combined’ science GCSE course is worth 2 GCSEs and covers all three sciences – that’s Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Students who study the Combined course can be entered for either Foundation or Higher. ‘Separate’ Sciences – also known as ‘Triple’ – also cover all three disciplines, but the critical differential here is that this course is worth a whopping 3 GCSEs, rather than 2. Most Triple students will take Higher but it’s worth noting that entrants can be put in for the Foundation equivalent… although this isn’t very common!

But that isn’t the only difference. As you would expect, being worth an additional GCSE comes with its fair share of extra work – as you’ll soon see…

A Case Study

For example, both the AQA version of the Chemistry Combined and Triple courses have a module called “Organic Chemistry” (this is the study of Carbon-based molecules – “riveting”, I hear you say…) and whilst it may therefore appear that both courses have duplicate modules, it isn’t quite the case.

There are certainly similarities between the modules on both courses, but if you scan through the exam specifications for both and compare, you’ll find that whilst Combined learners need to learn about groups of molecules called ‘Alkanes’ and ‘Alkenes’, Triple students need to understand these as well as ‘Carboxylic Acids’, ‘Esters’ and ‘Alcohols’ (and no, the practical involved for this lesson does not involve chugging back some of the local pub’s inventory).

What is the difference between combined science and triple science?

Which Course Is Right For Me?

Unfortunately, there is no set answer. However, there are some things to consider if you do get the option of deciding which course to take (or if you wish to go against the school’s advice and campaign to switch courses). 

Firstly, it’s important to think about it from a practical standpoint. What would an extra GCSE in Science mean to you? Is it a case of vanity or pride making you want to have more GCSEs than your peers? Just think – your GCSE grades unlock the doors towards your chosen Post-16 courses. And whilst it’s fantastic to want to push ourselves, it’s important that we don’t bite off more than we can chew if it’s going to be too much of a struggle.

Secondly, are you looking to take Science at A-Level? If you are, then this is a solid argument for wanting to select the Triple option. As previously discussed, the Triple Science course delves into more detail and teaches you little nuggets that the Combined simply won’t cover. If you went into your A-Level class as one of only a handful who had taken the Combined option, you may find yourself playing catch-up before the course has even begun!

And lastly – and this is certainly worth considering – do you enjoy Science? If you do, then it makes sense to want to learn more about something you are naturally passionate about. But if you don’t, then trust us, doing extra work towards something you aren’t particularly fond of will certainly feel like a drain in the long run.

Now you know the answer to ‘what is the difference between combined science and triple science?’. What Next?

The advice is simple – if you’re still unsure which route to go down, speak with the Science teachers at school. They’ll be best placed to advise you as an individual since they have data and first-hand experience to back up their suggestions.

If you want a second opinion, a general chat to answer any pressing questions about what’s been covered here, or if you’d like a bit of extra support with studying Science at GCSE – please feel free to get in touch and the team at TutorRight will be more than happy to help!

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