All you need to know about taking a DT GCSE!

3 mins
May 10, 2022
If you're fascinated by the way things work, you're constantly picking things apart only to put them back together and you love the idea of improving the world (and systems!) around you, then the Design and Technology GCSE could be for you.

The time to confirm your GCSE options is fast approaching, so we're here to help you decide. In this article, we're listing the pros and cons of the design and Technology GCSE! So let's get started. 

What is the Design Technology GCSE?

The Design and Technology GCSE aims to prepare students to participate in an increasingly technological world. By taking the GCSE, you'll gain an in-depth understanding of Design and Technology, including the historical, social, cultural, environmental and economic factors behind it. 

What do you do in the Design and Technology GCSE?

The Design and Technology GCSE is split into three main sections*: 

  • Section One: Core technical principles
  • Section Two: Specialist technical principles
  • Section Three: Designing and making principles

These can then be broken down further; let's take a look!

Core technical principles - this section covers new and emerging technologies like the positive and negative impacts new products have on the environment. You'll discover how energy is generated and stored, and you'll be introduced to new (sometimes smart!) materials and their working properties. Finally, you'll cover some physics by looking at force and movement in relation to mechanical devices. 

Specialist technical principles - this section builds on the core knowledge you have acquired in section one. You'll be asked to consider the commercial and environmental reasoning behind material choices (this could be the cost of products and their functionality or the ethical implications of using specific materials). You'll also cover the intersection between commerciality and design by looking at scales of production and how products are sourced. To top this section off, you'll research specialist techniques and processes like brazing, milling and extrusion (they sound complicated now but soon you'll be rattling them off in your sleep!).

Designing and making principles - this section is geared to giving you all the knowledge you'll need to succeed in your NEA. It's about understanding how the prototype you develop must satisfy the wants or needs of the end-user and be fit for its intended use. This sounds challenging, but essentially it's about researching the demand for your product, applying your knowledge of design and materials to develop the product and using your practical capability to make the product. You got this!

How do you revise for GCSE DT? And how long is the exam? 

The best place to start when it comes to revision is looking at the exam structure and format; it can help focus and streamline your studies, so you're not wasting time on things that won't help you get the grade you want. How you are assessed (and how that assessment is delivered!) varies depending on what exam board your education provider chooses. In this article, we're using the AQA as an example, but we strongly recommend that you check what exam board your school uses and research how they'll assess you. 

The Design and Technology GCSE is split into two assessment areas; one is a written exam, and the second is a Non-Examination Assessment (NEA). Here we're going to explain a little more about the format of each assessment. 

The written exam is 2 hours long and makes up half of your GCSE! It's split into three sections covering one of the principles we listed above*. It aims to test your technical knowledge and understanding. There is a mixture of multiple-choice, short answer and extended response questions.  

The NEA is approximately 30-35 hours and is worth 50% of the GCSE. In the NEA, you'll be tasked with designing and producing a prototype; you'll also have to document the design and build process. You'll be assessed on your practical capability, which your teachers will mark. 

Is the DT GSCE hard?

If you love to get creative and traditional written exams send nervous shivers down your spine, the Design and Technology GCSE could be an excellent option for you as it allows you to get half your grade through coursework. However, a lot of coursework can be hard to manage. 

We spoke to a couple of students that took the course, and they recommended setting a strict schedule for your DT coursework and sticking to it. They also said that the DT GCSE could be a great escape from other more academic subjects, but if you're struggling in those, you might want to save all the time you can get to pour into your non-optional GCSEs. Your GCSE options are up to you, but it's worth considering how much time you think each will need! 

Is DT a good GCSE?

When thinking about your GCSE options, you'll want to ensure that you're picking the best subjects for you, but what are the best subjects for me!? Good GCSE subjects are ones that you'll: 

  1. enjoy (remember, the GCSE is a two-year course!)
  2. have the ability to get a good grade in (how much input is needed from you?)
  3. Need to have to get you where you want to go (what do you need for your future career?)

If your GCSE choices can satisfy these criteria, you can probably answer the 'is it a good GCSE?' question with a yes. Congratulations! 

How can we help? 

We hope this article helped and you're one step closer to working out whether the Design Technology GCSE is the right choice for you. Now that you know a little bit of the theory required, why not try to apply it by taking our Construction virtual work experience programme? You'll be able to take part in quizzes and activities that cement your understanding, and you can question industry professionals to see what your career path could look like! Register your interest here

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