Scheme of assessment

Find past papers and mark schemes, and specimen papers for new courses, on our website at

This specification is designed to be taken over two years.

This is a linear qualification. In order to achieve the award, students must complete all assessments at the end of the course and in the same series.

GCSE exams and certification for this specification are available for the first time in May/June 2019 and then every May/June for the life of the specification.

All materials are available in English only.

Our GCSE exams in Engineering include questions that allow students to demonstrate their ability to:

  • recall information
  • draw together information from different areas of the specification
  • apply their knowledge and understanding in practical and theoretical contexts.

Aims and learning outcomes

Courses based on this specification must encourage students to:

  • engage in a range of intellectual and practical processes in order to solve problems through the production of engineered outcomes
  • develop knowledge and understanding of materials, components and resources relating to engineering
  • develop knowledge and understanding of engineering processes and be able to apply these where appropriate in order to produce a manufactured outcome
  • draw on knowledge, skills and understanding of materials, processes and techniques in order to engineer products which provide a functioning solution in response to a given brief
  • develop an understanding of how emerging technologies (in areas such as materials science, information technology (IT) and communications, energy, medicine and robotics) have changed and will continue to change the way in which engineered products are made and used
  • develop an understanding of health and safety procedures and be able to carry out practical activities in a safe way
  • develop an awareness and understanding of the impact of engineering on the environment and sustainable development
  • develop skills, knowledge and understanding as a foundation for future learning and progression, in relation to engineering and other related disciplines
  • apply their knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts in an engineering related context.

Assessment objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all GCSE Engineering specifications and all exam boards.

The exams and non-exam assessment will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives.

  • AO1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of engineering principles and processes.
  • AO2: Apply knowledge, understanding and skills in different contexts, including through the use of a range of tools, equipment, materials, components and manufacturing processes.
  • AO3: Analyse and evaluate evidence in relation to a range of engineering contexts.

Assessment objective weightings for GCSE Engineering

Assessment objectives (AOs) Component weightings (approx %) Overall weighting (approx %)
Written Paper NEA
AO1 25 0 25
AO2 20 30 50
AO3 15 10 25
Overall weighting of components 60 40 100

Assessment weightings

The marks awarded on the papers will be scaled to meet the weighting of the components. Students’ final marks will be calculated by adding together the scaled marks for each component. Grade boundaries will be set using this total scaled mark. The scaling and total scaled marks are shown in the table below.

Component Maximum raw mark Scaling factor Maximum scaled mark
Written paper 120 x1 120
NEA 80 x1 80
Total scaled mark: 200

Non-exam assessment

Students will undertake a single ‘design and make’ activity, which will arise from investigating a brief set by AQA. AQA will release a new brief on 1 June in the academic year prior to the year in which the NEA should be submitted.

The brief will comprise a broad context and three examples of how the brief might be fulfilled. Schools/colleges and students are free to select one of the examples or devise their own solution to fulfil the brief. Further information on this is provided in section .

This component will account for 40% of the students' overall mark. The NEA project in its entirety should take approximately 30 hours to complete and consist of a working prototype and a concise portfolio including sector-specific drawings and an evaluation of their product.

The portfolio will consist of an investigation into a context; analysis of the problem; relevant research to formulate a range of methods of solving the problem (including modelling); systems diagrams and sector-specific drawings; a final prototype that is fit for purpose, a test plan and a final evaluation.

Students are encouraged to investigate, analyse and evaluate throughout the portfolio and evidence all decisions made. If your school or college chooses to submit e-portfolios, it is advised to submit them either as a PowerPoint or PDF. Students are also advised not to use hyperlinks within their portfolio. Students should provide photographic evidence of the finished outcome along with evidence of the stages of making.

Setting the task

Students will be required to respond to a brief produced by AQA.

The brief will be issued to schools via e-AQA. The brief will change every year and will be released on 1 June in the year prior to the assessment being submitted.

Students must ensure they use the NEA brief for the year in which they will be entered for the exam (eg if a student is taking the exam in 2019, they should complete the NEA for 2019).

Taking the task

With reference to the brief, students will be expected to develop a solution that meets the needs of a user.

When working with the set brief, schools/colleges are free to refine it themselves in conjunction with the student, or to choose one of the provided examples.

Any project can have a wide variety of outcomes. These may vary between very simple solutions and the very complex.

Schools/colleges will need to consider the level of demand at this early stage. Setting too simple a task may restrict a student’s ability to satisfy the top mark band descriptors, whilst attempting an overly complex task may result in incomplete or non-functioning outcomes. It is important to match any task with the student’s known capabilities, allowing them to demonstrate what they can do, without needing additional support.

The examples provided are not compulsory and schools/colleges will need to use professional judgement when deciding how to offer the brief to students. In order to ensure students are free to be creative, they are able to either devise their own solution to the problem or select one of the examples given. There is no additional credit available for devising their own solution rather than choosing one of the examples provided.

When considering the specimen assessment materials for this specification, in the case of a litter pick, a very simple solution may consist of a simple pole (to prevent stooping) with a spike on the end to pierce the litter. Although this would satisfy some of the requirements, it has numerous disadvantages. There is, for example, no easy way to remove the pierced litter from the spike, it cannot grip differently shaped objects and lacks any ability to control the force required to pierce a range of materials. This solution would not be deemed to be demanding but could allow some students to access some marks. Areas in which students marks may be limited if they choose a simple solution are, for example, the use and explanation of multiple systems, the range of engineering drawings they produce and the range of materials they use to create their solution.

At the other end of the scale might be a more complex solution that is able to grip, possibly hold a small number of items, and is capable of releasing the litter when required, without anyone needing to handle the litter. A further enhancement might be the addition of a light to help locate litter or an indicator showing fully open or closed positions when operating a grip.

It is important to note that as the descriptors are progressive in nature only the most able will be able to satisfy the requirements of the top mark band completely.

AQA cannot approve product proposals but you should contact your subject adviser or email if you have any questions about the suitability of a proposal.

The marking criteria requires students to create a product that integrates different types of systems. Students are expected to produce and work to both mechanical and electrical/electronic drawings so their product should utilise both types of systems to produce an integrated product.


Students must produce a written or digital design folder clearly evidencing how the assessment criteria have been met, together with photographic evidence of the final manufactured prototype outcome.

When presenting their evidence, students should organise their work in a way that explains and confirms the processes, materials, tools and equipment used. The evidence should contain all the information necessary to enable a competent and skilled third party to manufacture the product. This could take the form of:

  • a manufacturing diary
  • production plans that are appropriately annotated and, for the higher marks, self-documenting (an approach that identifies and explains different production methods as appropriate, alternative material possibilities and production methods, and the quality control methods that could be adopted). Annotation may include narrative text alongside photographs and flow charts
  • evidence of the solution that is made clear in detailed photographs of the product.

The evidence submitted, when taken together should, for the higher marks, provide:

  • a developed and well-planned annotated design with sufficient detail so that a fully working solution could be developed from the design
  • a detailed explanation showing an understanding of what the problem involves and how the proposed solution meets the needs of the user
  • explanations of where the user has to select appropriate settings (operator input), further explanations as to how the system functions as it was designed to do, and explanations of where systems may require the operator to make quality control judgments
  • explanations of any specialised knowledge required to develop or understand a particular type of manufacturing system and explanation of processes used to produce outputs in a controlled manner
  • a test plan which explains the purpose of the test
  • evidence that the tests have been carried out with the results being documented
  • any remedial action (if any was needed) that has been taken as a result of testing.

Students will not be expected to submit their practical outcome for moderation but should supply adequate evidence of their working solution (eg detailed photographic evidence).

Time limits

Students should spend approximately 30 hours on their NEA unless there are specific access requirements that should be considered. We expect students to be selective in their choice of material to include, and to manage their time appropriately.

Marking the task

Six criteria are produced for assessment. Each band should be viewed holistically when marking assessments. Students who produce no work for a criterion, or who produce work below that of GCSE standard, should be awarded a mark of zero.

The criteria should not be viewed as a linear process to be followed in a step-by-step manner. Rather, students should be encouraged to cross reference the criteria throughout, and assessors encouraged to award marks where they are deserved and can be evidenced.


Students are free to revise and redraft a piece of work before submitting the final piece for assessment. You can review draft work and provide generic feedback to ensure that the work is appropriately focused. In providing generic feedback you can:

  • provide feedback in oral and/or written form
  • explain, if necessary, the context of the task
  • give general advice on how the task could be approached
  • advise on resources that could be used
  • remind students of the key areas that should be covered in their project (problem-solving, drawings and conventions, applying systems technology and testing and evaluation)
  • provide support if the student is not able to carry out sufficient work at one stage to enable them to progress to the next stage (if such support is given to students then this must be recorded on the Canididate Record Form and the student’s mark should be adjusted accordingly).

In providing generic feedback you cannot:

  • correct a student’s work
  • provide templates, model answers or writing frames
  • provide specific guidance on how to solve the problem
  • provide specific feedback to students on how to improve their projects to meet the requirements of the marking criteria
  • provide feedback where a student has produced an incomplete stage and this is sufficient to allow progression to the next stage
  • tell students what types of tests they should be completing as part of the Testing and Evaluation section.

Whilst students may be guided in general terms, the final outcome must remain their own. Advice can be used to evaluate progress to date. A clear distinction must be drawn between providing feedback to students as part of work in progress and reviewing work once it has been submitted by the student for final assessment. Once work is submitted for final assessment it cannot be revised. It is not acceptable for you to give, either to individual students or to groups, feedback and suggestions as to how the work may be improved in order to meet the marking criteria.

In accordance with the JCQ Instructions for conducting NEA, any support or feedback given to individual students which has not been provided to the class as a whole must be clearly recorded on the Candidate Record Form and the student’s mark must be appropriately adjusted to represent the student’s unaided achievement.

The use of provided programs

There may be circumstances where it is thought necessary to provide either a part or full solution to a section of the project for a student in order that they can progress with their project.

The use of CAD-CAM or CNC machining is a likely area. If the software provided automatically generates the machining, with no intermediate intervention by the student, then this is classed as a 'provided' program and should be treated in the same way as any other piece of work that is not produced by the student and not given any credit.

If the student edits the intermediate stage, by altering the G and M codes or by using an editing facility within the software, perhaps by changing the steps in the STL file then this should be given credit.

Students who have used a provided program can still gain marks for any machining that they complete based on the instructions generated by the program.

Assessment criteria

The assessment criteria for NEA are split into six sections as shown below.

Guidance on applying the marking criteria

Level of response marking instructions are broken down into levels, each of which has a descriptor. The descriptor for the level shows the average performance for the level.

Before you apply the mark scheme to a student’s engineering product, review the product and annotate it and/or make notes on it to show the qualities that are being looked for. You can then apply the marking criteria.

Start at the lowest level of the marking criteria and use it as a ladder to see whether the product meets the descriptor for that level. The descriptor for the level indicates the different qualities that might be seen in the student’s product for that level. If it meets the lowest level then go to the next one and decide if it meets this level, and so on, until you have a match between the level descriptor and the product.

You can compare your student’s product with the standardisation examples to determine if it is the same standard, better or worse.

When assigning a level you should look at the overall quality of the product. If the product covers different aspects of different levels of the mark scheme you should use a best fit approach for defining the level and then use the variability of the product to help decide the mark within the level, ie if the product is predominantly level 3 with a small amount of level 4 material it would be placed in level 3 but be awarded a mark near the top of the level because of the level 4 content.

Problem solving - 15 marks

In this section students will be required to demonstrate their ability to analyse a given problem, imagine solutions to that problem, use a range of modelling techniques, produce a prototype and communicate their ideas clearly. Students should use sketches or modelling to show technical concepts and the initial steps in generating a functional solution. More detailed drawings/models using conventions should not be credited in this section, but rather in Drawings and Conventions which deals directly with using sector-specific conventions.Students should provide (as appropriate):

  • a written description of the task that clearly defines what the problem is
  • organised work that communicates ideas
  • evidence of a completed prototype of the design solution.
Level/mark Problem analysis Problem solving ModellingCommunicating Production of a prototype
3 (11-15 marks) The problem has been analysed thoroughly, resulting in a comprehensive and accurate description of the problem to be solved including consideration of relevant variables that may affect the engineered solution. A range of alternative, well-explained methods of solving the problem is considered in detail. Choice is justified with reference to the demands of the problem resulting in an appropriate solution being selected and developed fully. Excellent modelling is demonstrated using a range of techniques including 3D, graphical and mathematical. All aspects are well-explained and demonstrate that the final outcome should function as desired. All information is consistently well-organised and presented in an appropriate format. All aspects of decision making are well conveyed. A fully functioning and high quality prototype of the solution has been produced.
2 (6-10 marks) The problem is accurately identified with most aspects of the problem having been analysed. Consideration of other methods of solving the problem is limited to a single alternative suggestion with some detail, or a small number of methods that lack development. A mostly appropriate solution is chosen for further development. Good modelling of several aspects of the development is demonstrated. Some drawings or records of other forms of modelling are annotated and it is clear from the drawings that the majority of ideas are workable. Most information is organised and presented in an appropriate format. This conveys some aspects of decision making but not all choices are explained. A functioning prototype with some non-critical flaws has been produced.
1 (1-5 marks) The problem is accurately identified but inconclusively analysed. A single method of solving the problem is generated. Choices are stated but not followed through sufficiently to solve the problem. Incomplete or partially effective modelling is demonstrated. An attempt at annotation of drawings/modelling may have been made but it is not always clear from the descriptions or explanations that the ideas are workable. Information is confused and not always presented in the most appropriate format. The reasoning behind why decisions were made is unclear. A prototype that does not function adequately has been produced.
0 Nothing worthy of credit

Drawings and conventions - 15 marks

In this section students will demonstrate their ability to develop illustrated design ideas that conform to sector-specific conventions, use CAD effectively and clearly annotate their drawings.

The drawings in this section could include:
  • orthographic (including sectional views)
  • isometric
  • assembly
  • schematics.
Students should provide (as appropriate):
  • a development and explanation of a detailed, annotated design idea using appropriate engineering drawings
  • drawings that comply with sector-specific standards and conventions
  • detailed CAD drawings for presentation.
Level/mark Development drawings Computer aided design Conventions Annotation Information
3 (11-15 marks) Develops, justifies and evaluates a detailed and fully annotated solution that uses comprehensive and appropriate engineering drawings. CAD has been used, with effect, to produce accurate drawings of complex parts and rendered 3D presentations. Drawings consistently conform to sector-specific standards and conventions. Drawings are annotated clearly, accurately and appropriately, and are easy to follow providing all required detail.

All information is consistently presented in a clear and logical manner that ensures understanding.

2 (6-10 marks) Develops and partially evaluates an annotated solution using some engineering drawings. CAD has been used to present adequate information of shape and size or the function of components to allow development to progress. Drawings generally conform to sector-specific standards and conventions with occasional errors or omissions. Drawings have annotation for most important features, but lack sufficient detail. Most information is presented in a clear manner. Some detail may be missing or be confusing.
1 (1-5 marks) Develops a solution using a limited range of engineering drawings. CAD has been used to attempt to present a limited amount of simple information about shape or size. Drawings use conventions to a very limited extent or inaccurately. Drawings lack any annotation other than brief descriptions or labels. Information is difficult to understand and lacks clarity.
0 Nothing worthy of credit

Production planning - 15 marks

In this section students will demonstrate their ability to produce and follow a production plan and explain the stages of production, consider repeatability and use CNC, explain the quality control measures taken and consider health and safety.

Students should produce (as appropriate):
  • a detailed production plan
  • an explanation of each of the stages of production
  • an explanation of the quality control techniques used to produce the product.
Level/mark Producing and following a plan Explaining the plan Ensuring repeatability and using CNC Sequencing and quality control Health and Safety
3 (11-15 marks) Produced and followed a detailed production plan, covering most aspects of production using information contained within engineering drawings or circuit diagrams. A comprehensive and detailed explanation of all of the stages in the production of an engineered product is provided.

Planning includes detail related to the use of jigs/fixtures to ensure repeatability.

Detailed evidence that jigs or fixtures and/or CNC programming have been used.

Identifies all stages and explains the sequence of processes and the quality control techniques used to produce the product. Comprehensively details the application of health and safety procedures in all processes.
2 (6-10 marks) Produced and followed a simple production plan using information contained within engineering drawings or circuit diagrams. A clear and detailed explanation of the main stages in the production of an engineered product is provided. Evidence of the planned use of jigs, fixtures or CNC programming, to enable repeatable outcomes. Identifies the main stages/processes and an important quality control technique used to produce the product. Details the application of health and safety procedures in the main processes.
1 (1-5 marks) Followed a simple production plan using information contained within engineering drawings or circuit diagrams. An outline plan that identifies limited aspects of production is provided. Evidence of the use of a provided jig/fixture or machining of a part on a CNC machine, using a provided program. Identifies the main process(es) and mentions the need for quality control when producing the product. Adheres to health and safety procedures.
0 Nothing worthy of credit

Engineering skills used - 15 marks

In this section students will demonstrate their ability to use safely a range of materials and equipment and explain their choices, consider quality control and work to tolerances.

Students should produce (as appropriate):
  • evidence of the selection and safe uses of appropriate materials, parts, components, tools and equipment required to make their product
  • an explanation of the processes used
  • evidence of the quality control measures taken.
Level/mark Skill Use of a range of processes and materials Quality control and working to tolerances Level of demand Explanation of processes
3 (11-15 marks) The outcome shows a high level of skill across a number of processes, with work completed accurately.

Used safely a wide range of appropriate:

  • materials
  • parts
  • components
  • processes
  • tools
  • equipment.

Applied the planned quality control to all stages of manufacture to make their product.

The engineered product meets the tolerances stated.

Makes a complete, high-quality engineered product with a high level of demand.

Clear and detailed explanations of which alternative processes were considered, justifying why particular methods have been used.
2 (6-10 marks) The outcome shows an acceptable level of skill across a number of processes, with most work completed accurately.

Used safely a small range of appropriate:

  • materials
  • parts
  • components
  • processes
  • tools
  • equipment.

Applied the planned quality control to a limited number of stages.

The engineered product is made within some of the tolerances stated.

Makes an incomplete, high level of demand engineered product or a complete low level of demand product.

Simple explanations of why particular processes were used.
1 (1-5 marks) The outcome shows a limited amount of skill with little work completed accurately.

Used safely a very limited range of:

  • materials
  • parts
  • components
  • processes
  • tools
  • equipment.

Applied quality control to a single stage.

The engineered product is not made to any stated tolerances.

Makes an incomplete, low level of demand engineered product. The processes that have been used are stated.
0 Nothing worthy of credit

Applying Systems Technology - 10 marks

In this section students will demonstrate their ability to identify and explain the systems they have used and produce block diagrams to represent them.

Students should provide (as appropriate):
  • representations of technological systems used in their product in diagrammatic form
  • block diagrams with explanations of the systems operating within their product.
Level/mark Application of systems technology Explanations of systems technology
5 (9-10 marks) Identifies and explains in detail two or more of the systems and technologies used in the engineered product to organise and control the function of the product. Detailed block diagrams are produced for multiple systems with all sub-systems and feedback explained.
4 (7-8 marks) Identifies and explains one or more systems technology used in the engineered product to organise and control the function of the product. A complex block diagram for one or more systems with sub-systems or feedback explained.
3 (5-6 marks) Explains in general terms a single systems technology used in the engineered product and how it operates. A systems block diagram, including an explanation of each of the blocks as a system or shown diagrammatically with explanation.
2 (3-4 marks) Displays a basic understanding of the systems technology used in the engineered product. Descriptions lack accuracy. A linear systems block diagram where more than one operation is described.
1 (1-2 marks) Shows a limited awareness of the systems technology used in the engineered product but descriptions lack any detail. A simple systems block diagram is produced consisting of a single input/process/output operational structure.
0 Nothing worthy of credit

Testing and Evaluating - 10 marks

In this section students will demonstrate their ability to undertake testing of their product and evaluate its effectiveness. They will also be expected to provide an honest evaluation of the product and make recommendations for improvements.

Students should provide (as appropriate):
  • evidence of a range of appropriate testing of the product
  • an analysis and evaluation of the completed product, with further explanation as to how and why it could be improved.

Teachers should note that evaluation is considered to be 'how well does the solution work and how could it be better?'.

Students should consider and asses how well the solution meets the requirements of the problem and how the solution could be improved if the problem were to be revisited.

Level/mark Testing Evaluating
5 (9-10 marks)

Undertaken detailed and objective testing of all aspects of the product using a variety of testing techniques to compare with a comprehensive specification.

An explanation of how quality is maintained through testing, detailing methods that ensure the work is within tolerance.

A comprehensive analysis and evaluation of all aspects of the completed product, both systems operation and manufacture.

Well-reasoned suggestions made for how and why possible improvements could be made.

4 (7-8 marks)

Undertaken appropriate testing of most aspects of the product and provided an informative comparison to the product specification.

Quality control methods applied consistently to ensure all aspects of work are within tolerance.

A detailed analysis and evaluation of the completed product, explaining how and why either systems operation or manufacture could/needs to be improved.
3 (5-6 marks)

Undertaken a range of basic testing on the product using a variety of techniques comparing the results to the product specification.

An explanation of the method used to ensure quality is maintained.

An analysis and evaluation of the completed product, explaining why it needs to be improved.
2 (3-4 marks)

Undertaken testing of limited aspects of the product with comparison to the product specification, using a single technique.

Some quality issues addressed.

A limited analysis and evaluation of an aspect of the completed product, stating why it needs to be improved.
1 (1-2 marks)

Undertaken testing of a single aspect of the product with comparison to the product specification.

Has a minimal awareness of quality issues.

Limited analysis and evaluation of an incomplete product.
0 Nothing worthy of credit