Maths Foundation and Higher GCSE

Red calculator and yellow pencil against a white background

Mathematics GCSE is an essential qualification. It will help you meet the requirements for college and university, vocational training, apprenticeships and work opportunities. This course is one of our new Gold Star GCSEs. Find out more about them here.

NEC’s expertly produced GCSE Maths course is designed to help you learn so that you can achieve the qualification you need. You can choose whether to study at Foundation or Higher level and, with feedback from your work on the course and from your tutor, you can switch levels during the early sections of the course. This means that by the time you need to register for exams, you can be confident that you have chosen the right level for you.

What and how you’ll learn
The course is made up of 37 topics (two are at Higher level only) that are grouped into 10 sections. Topics, such as Working with numbers, Beginning Algebra, Angles, Patterns, cover the syllabus. Each topic has important features designed help you learn and prepare for the examination. Key features are:

  • clear step-by-step explanation of concepts, backed up with examples and solutions, and guidance on where it is all too easy to go wrong. We show you how the ideas and techniques you are learning apply to real world situations and how to solve problems
  • typically about 100 questions in activities and self check quizzes in each topic. Activities give you extensive practice and feedback as you work through a topic, so you can build your skills and confidence and are able to answer the more intriguing problem-solving questions at the end. Self check questions at the end of each topic show how you are learning and applying the concepts and techniques you need
  • a tutor-marked assignment at the end of each section (10 tutor marked assignments plus an introductory assignment) gives you the opportunity for individual support and guidance from your tutor
  • the option to choose Foundation or Higher level. This flexibility is valuable – you can decide on the level that’s right for you, based on how you get on with your studies and on the feedback you get from your tutor
  • discussion forums that allow you to ask questions and discuss your work. Tutors and students can all participate.

A lot of people find maths difficult, often because they haven’t grasped the core concepts that they need to learn right from the start. So the first three sections of this course have been designed to give you a firm understanding of the fundamental principles. In these sections the course uses text, images and videos blended with online quizzes providing comprehensive feedback to give you a head start in your study of maths.

Course materials developed by experts
Heading a team of experienced maths writers and teachers, Stephen Webb came late to maths and had to struggle with poor materials to teach himself. He went on to achieve a First Class Honours Degree at UMIST and to teach maths at the Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies. As a result of his experiences, Stephen wanted to write maths materials ‘that I would have been able to understand, and that would explain things I didn't 'get' when I was at school’.

Course fee payment plan
You can pay for your course in full or by instalments. See ‘Course info – How to enrol’ in the tabs below for more details.



Entry requirements

No previous knowledge is required for this course.


This course follows this specification: Pearson Edexcel Level 1/Level 2 GCSE (9-1) in Mathematics (1MA1). It covers both Foundation and Higher requirements. You can find full details and download the specification on Edexcel’s website.

Hours of study

This course is being taught over three years in some schools. However, we suggest you allow two years for studying the course. As a guideline, allow for between 120 and 175 hours of study time, plus time for completing assignments.

You will have tutor support for a period of up to 24 months from the date of enrolment.

Exams and assessment

The Edexcel Level 1/Level 2 GCSE in Mathematics is a tiered qualification. There are two levels or tiers:

  • Foundation tier – grades 1 to 5 available – Grade 5 is the highest grad you can achieve at this tier
  • Higher tier – grades 4 – 9 available. Grade 9 is the highest award you can achieve at this tier.

You must choose which tier to enter for.

Three exams:

  • 1 hour 30 minutes, 33.3% of marks (non-calculator)
  • 1 hour 30 minutes, 33.3% of marks (calculator)
  • 1 hour 30 minutes, 33.3% of marks (calculator)

Non-exam assessment (NEA):

  • None

All exams must be taken in the same session.

NEC's tutor-marked assignments:

  • 1 introductory assignment
  • 10 assignments


Additional information

Your course is delivered online through learn@nec, so it’s important that you have access to a computer and the internet. We recommend that your computer is using one of the following operating systems and browsers to improve your experience of using learn@nec:

Operating systems:

  • Windows 7 or later
  • Mac OSX 10.7 or later
  • Google Chrome OS
  • Android 4.4 or later, using the Chrome browser
  • iOS 6 or later, using the Safari browser


  • Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Mozilla Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari 6 or later
  • Internet Explorer 10 or later (excluding IE11)

learn@nec may work on other operating systems and browsers with some restrictions. You can see full details of the system requirements by clicking here.

How to enrol

How to enrol
There are several ways to enrol with NEC:

  • Click the ‘Enrol now’ button above
  • Telephone us on 0800 389 2839 or +44(0)1223 400200 and speak to our course advice team
  • Ask us to send you an enrolment form which you can complete and return by post.

How can you pay?
It’s your choice: you can pay in full at the point of enrolment, or you can spread the cost over monthly instalments with our finance offer. To pay in instalments you will need to enrol by telephone.

Representative example:

Course fee:  
Amount of credit:  
Monthly payment:  
Duration of agreement:  
Total repayable:  
Rate of interest:  
0% APR representative.  
  6 months
  0% (fixed)

The National Extension College (NEC) is the trading name of the Open School Trust, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 676788). Finance is provided through the Deko platform by a number of lenders. You will be offered the best rate available based on your credit history and the lenders’ credit decision policies.

Deko is a trading name of Pay4Later Ltd who act as a credit intermediary. They are registered in England and Wales (company number 06447333) and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 728646). For more information please go to or visit

Section 1 topics:

  • Working with numbers
    Directed numbers

Section 2 topics:

  • Decimals
  • Percentages and ratios
  • Beginning algebra
  • Angles

Section 3 topics:

  • Patterns
  • Coordinates and straight lines
  • Shapes and symmetry
  • Factors, Multiples and Primes

Section 4 topics:

  • Probability
  • Quadratics
  • Presenting data
  • Using graphs

Section 5 topics:

  • Indices and surds
  • Using data
  • Length and area

Section 6 topics:

  • Constructions and diagrams
  • Estimations
  • Pythagoras’ theory

Section 7 topics:

  • More graphs
  • Shapes and solids
  • Trigonometry

Section 8 topics:

  • Enlargements
  • Compound measure
  • More trigonometry

Section 9 topics:

  • Transformations
  • Variation
  • More probability and statistics
  • Vectors – Higher level only

Section 10 topics:

  • Similarity
  • Everyday calculations
  • More algebra
  • Circle theorems (proof) – Higher level only
Including area code and country code (if outside of UK)

What our students say...

"I have to say that [my NEC tutor] Graham is a supreme help. I've been in touch with LOTS of questions and he's been able to help walk me through problems and furthermore has responded really quickly whenever I've asked him for anything."

— NEC Maths student