It's a really confusing time. You have just become a teenager and you are already being pressured into preparing for huge life decisions - will someone just give you a break?! We hear you!

You will be delighted to know that we have put together this guide to AQA GCSE Art prospectus to do just that; because, as if it wasn't already hard enough identifying which subjects on the curriculum you even like and would consider studying over the next two years of your GCSE course, you also need to put in that extra effort to find out what your course might actually look like, what the exams will assess, and what benefits the syllabus can offer you in the long run.

Most people who think of Art studies assume that art students spend their time doing life drawings. This is so not what the subject is about! This modern course of study is perfectly adapted to the dynamic world of art and business and offers you many opportunities to learn new skills that can be useful in a wide range of professions.

For instance, did you ever think that Art & Design would be your first port of call for pursuing a career in advertising? Or that this pre college course would enable you to follow your dream to make jewellery?

You see, art graduates aren't just limited to displaying art work at exhibitions or art museums. There are numerous layers to an art diploma and each one will offer you something completely different to the other.

You can take online art courses here.

Why Should You Choose Art?

We are not saying that you should simply choose Art because it is a valuable qualification to have whatever career you find yourself in. Ideally, you will already have a strong interest in the subject and have a little bit of artistic flair. The Art curriculum is a challenging yet fulfilling one that is on par with other syllabuses of your higher education, despite what some people may think.

However, please note that you don't have to be an exceptionally skilled artist to succeed on the course and find some appreciation for this stage 4 subject matter , as you will not be marked for your ability to draw or paint (unless, of course, you choose to take this Fine Art route and complete your project around observational sketching). Along the same lines, you don't have to be academically advanced to apply to this course.

If you enjoy being creative, and like to analyse things, then this course could be for you.

As well as letting your imagination run wild, you can expect to demonstrate your research skills whilst finding out more about the history of art using texts and other resources outside of the classroom and also develop your practical skills as you learn to adapt to new media and materials.

The Art syllabus is not all about being creative, you have to do some analytical and research work too.
As well as letting you access your creative side, Art can help you to develop better research skills. Photo on Visual hunt

Art as a subject can therefore really complement your other subject choices, which you will find out more about below.

In the meantime, to find out more about the content covered by this AQA Art GCSE, continue reading below.

Find out more reasons to study art at GCSE level...

What Are My Choices With AQA Art?

The current AQA Art specification for GCSE was first taught in 2016 and is designed to be a vibrant and dynamic programme, allowing students to be inspired and work to the best of their ability. It features a wide range of titles including Art, craft and design, Fine art, Graphic communication, Textile design, Three-dimensional design, and Photography, and this flexibility of its design means that the course can be tailored to each student according to their interests and strengths.

Furthermore, the course has been expertly put together to equip pupils with the skills to continue the subject with confidence at AS, A-level, and beyond (i.e an art foundation course, an art degree or a master in arts).

As we have mentioned above, there are various subject areas that you can choose to focus your attention on.

Below, we have provided a summary of the course content covered by each subtopic. It may be that your school doesn't have the expertise to teach and put emphasis on all of the options listed, however you can check this with your Art instructor or educator if there is an area you feel particularly drawn to.

This programme of study as a whole provides a substantial general introduction to the study of art, craft and design. During your lessons, you will look at different approaches to art and will get the chance to experiment with lots of different media, techniques, and materials to find out what best suits you. You are required to study two or more of the titles below:

Fine art

This module, while focused on fine art, offers a range of interesting areas of study. By selecting this option, you can expect to look at drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, lens-/light-based media, photography and the moving image, printmaking, mixed media and land art whilst also exploring ideas in response to a theme that is personal to you.

Graphic communication

In this module, you will learn how to design visual materials in a way that communicates information, ideas, meaning and evokes an emotional response. Specific topics will include communication graphics, design for print, advertising and branding, illustration, package design, typography, interactive design, (including web, app, and game), multi-media, motion graphics, signage and exhibition graphics.

Textile design

With textile design, you will work towards designing products for woven, knitted, stitched, printed or decorative textiles. If you take a closer look at the subtopics, these will include art textiles, fashion design and illustration, costume design, constructed textiles, printed and dyed textiles, surface pattern, stitched and/or embellished textiles, soft furnishings and/or textiles for interiors, digital textiles and installed textiles.

Find "art classes near me" now.

Three-dimensional design

If 3-D design, i.e. the design, prototyping and modelling or making of 3-D products using practical methods, interests you, then you may like the opportunities offered by this module: for example architectural design, sculpture, ceramics, product design, jewellery and body adornment, interior design, environmental/landscape/garden design, exhibition design, three-dimensional digital design and designs for theatre, film and television.


Photography will consist of you producing images using light-sensitive materials. You may focus on portraiture, location photography, studio photography, experimental imagery, installation, documentary photography, photo-journalism, moving image: film, video and animation, fashion photography.

See the best resources for primary school art.

You can learn more about producing photos with light-sensitive media.
Photography is one of the options you can choose to focus on at Art GCSE. Photo on Visual Hunt

How Will You Be Assessed?

When it comes to assessment, this Art & Design course is structured as so:

There are two compulsory components. Students must complete both components.

Component 1: Portfolio

A portfolio that in total shows explicit coverage of the four assessment objectives. It must include a sustained project evidencing the journey from initial engagement to the realisation of intentions and a selection of further work undertaken during the student’s course of study.

See further details below on how this component is assessed:

No time limit
96 marks
60% of GCSE
Non-exam assessment (NEA) set and marked by the school/college and moderated by AQA during a visit. Moderation will normally take place in June.

Learn more about the GCSE sketchbook component... 

Component 2: Externally-set assignment

Students respond to their chosen starting point from an externally set assignment paper relating to their subject title, evidencing coverage of all four assessment objectives.

See further details below on how this component is assessed:

Preparatory period followed by 10 hours of supervised time
96 marks
40% of GCSE
Non-exam assessment (NEA) set by AQA; marked by the school/college and moderated by AQA during a visit. Moderation will normally take place in June.

As you can gather, the majority of your final grade will be given in conjunction with your coursework, i.e your sketchbook or portfolio (i.e. the work that you complete throughout the two-year period) whilst 40% will be based on how you perform in your final assessment and the final piece of artwork that you produce as a result of those 10 hours of supervised work.

Learn more about the 2018 final piece criteria here...

While marked separately, the examiner will look at both components in relation to one other.

You can check out the grading system for GCSE here.

Where Does Art AQA GCSE Fit In With My Other Subjects?

As we have already touched upon, Art is a really good subject to take alongside other study programs because of the creative, practical, and analytical aspects involved. Art helps you to develop, refine and record your ideas clearly and then present these in a meaningful and purposeful way.

Why not review some of these resources for creating primary school art to see if you can pick up a few hacks...

Moreover, you can improve your communication skills by developing your visual language, like commenting on the use of colour, line, form, shape, tone, and texture. Your understanding of such formal elements will help you to use your own drawing skills for different needs and purposes. For instance, you'll recognise when a detailed, scaled drawing is required (for architectural purposes) and when a free-flowing, emotional sketch applies (for putting across ideas for an advertising campaign, perhaps).

Another very important skill you can expect to add to your repertoire as a result of studying Art & Design at school and in your further education is problem-solving. Not only will useful skills like this help you throughout your tuition years and your time at work, they will also be really handy in life in general.

Find an art tutor now.

Where Can AQA Art Take Me?

With Art, you don't just have to go into a career within the creative industry. However, an Art qualification is a must if you do want to be a creative professional. Art at GCSE is such a varied subject covering all forms of visual arts which means that you can apply the techniques and lessons you have learned in numerous situations in work and life.

Did you know that a larger percentage of people work in the creative industries than in the finance industry?

But even the most serious of businesses are in need of some artistic flair from time to time, so don't think that you are restricting yourself to a job as a freelance artist if you specialise in this field!

Interior design is just one branch of Art.
Art GCSE can be a great subject to have on your CV if you wish to become an interior designer. Photo on Visualhunt

One thing is for sure, with an art qualification under your belt, there will be no shortage of jobs available to you when you finish college or university.

Art and design opens the door to a long list of exciting career options, like an animator, advertiser, artist, architect, illustrator, fashion designer, interior designer, hair stylist, jewellery maker, publisher, museum curator, graphic designer, journalist, teacher and more!

Now learn everything there is to know about the GCSE Art syllabus... 

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.