A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

Parents information

Twenty First Century Science

Twenty First Century Science is the title of a whole set of courses now being taught in around 1000 schools in England and Wales. Naturally, parents want to know what these courses are like, whether their children enjoy and learn from them, and whether they provide a good foundation for further study.

Why change?

With the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988, all school students studied the same science courses. There were inevitable consequences.

More academic students complained that their GCSE science course was neither challenging enough to be interesting nor an adequate preparation for advanced study. There was far too much routine and repetitive work which was not intellectually stimulating. Practically-minded students, fed a diluted version of the same course, frequently asked ‘Sir, what are we learning this for?’

Twenty First Century Science courses to suit students

Now it is possible for students to pick and mix courses, choosing combinations that suit their interests and future plans.

Almost all students study GCSE Science which has an equal emphasis on key scientific concepts and how scientific knowledge is obtained and used. Students learn about the science that dominates public debates and touches everybody’s lives: such as genetics, air quality, the Earth and Space, food, climate change, and vaccination. They also learn about data analysis and its limitations, and how the scientific community scrutinises new ideas.

Most students also study either GCSE Additional Science or GCSE Additional Applied Science.

Entry level is available for students working towards GCSE.

Students can also study separately GCSE Biology, GCSE Chemistry and GCSE Physics to gain three full GCSE sciences.

The specifications (syllabuses) for all of these Twenty First Century Science courses are available to download from OCR.

Piloted first

The Twenty First Century Science courses were extensively piloted in 76 schools around Britain. The pilot was evaluated, and the final specifications and exams were revised in light of comments from the pilot schools.

Exams and coursework

Each of the different courses comprising Twenty First Century Science has its own assessment, typically several short examinations and some coursework. More information about assessment can be found on the OCR website. Schools can provide further information about when these happen and exactly what is required.


Textbooks, student workbooks and revision guides for each of the Twenty First Century Science courses are available from the publisher, Oxford University Press If you are a private individual you can order OUP textbooks by calling 01536 741727. Pearson Longman also produce resources.

More information

See our FAQs section for a range of questions and answers.