exam hall for a-levels

10 Hardest A-Levels For Students

A-Levels can be the most important exams in your life, as getting the best results gives you the best chance of getting into university. They can be a huge step up from GCSEs, and require a lot more independent study, which prepares you well for university.

This article will delve into the 10 hardest A-levels, to give you an indication on what’s in store if you decide to choose these tricky subjects.

1. Maths

Although quite a common subject, this A-Level is surprisingly challenging. For this subject, you’ll learn 3 main areas of maths: Mechanics, Pure, and Statistics 1. It goes without saying, but the year 2 topics are more advanced than their year 1 counterparts. Year 2 Mechanics is deemed particularly tricky, as the content is vastly different than anything you’ve practiced before.

However, A-Level Maths can be extremely rewarding given that many employers look at A-Level Maths as a necessity for employment.

2. History

This A-Level is similar to its’ GCSE counterpart, except harder! It involves memorising lots of dates and events, which are to be used in high mark questions and essays. The content of this A-Level can be difficult to deal with, so if you’re not 100% committed you may find the content a bit boring. However, if you can get through it, this A-Level can lead to great further education and some high paying jobs.

3. Computer Science

This A-Level is becoming more and more popular every year. Computer Science has shown to be quite the task with just under 5% of students failing the course in 2018, making it one of the most failed A-Levels 1. This course is split into 2 categories: Programming and Theory. The Programming aspect teaches you to programme in one of the languages the exam board supports, which will be decided by your college and school. The Theory section teaches you about how computers work, what they do, and how they can be used.

4. Biology

It won’t surprise you to see this A-Level here, as all the science subjects are very difficult. To put it into numbers, this A-Level is at least 2 to 3 times as hard as its’ GCSE equivalent 1. This is because the course is a lot more independent, with less support and less resources that you can use to your advantage. On the brighter side of things, this A-Level is a facilitating one, which means it’ll make the process of getting a university placement a lot easier.

5. English Literature

This A-Level is awfully difficult due to the content and the vast amount you have to write. Not only do you have to memorise the content from books, but you also need to revise the context, and feature it in your answers. This often proves difficult for most students as it can be hard to develop these skills during independent study. Because of all of these reasons, I would only recommend this A-Level if you achieved a 6/B or above at GCSE level 1.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel though, as like Science A-Levels, this subject is also facilitating. Giving you an increased chance of further education and finding employment, as like Science A-Levels, this subject is also facilitating. Giving you an increased chance of further education and finding employment.

6. Physics

From all the sciences, this one definitely contains the most maths at an enormous 40% of the content 1. This means that there is a lot less overall theory behind this subject, and more manipulation of numbers and use of equations. A-Level Maths is a common accompaniment of this subject, and is extremely useful in helping you understand certain concepts. If you want to be successful in this subject, you must have an interest in Physics and Maths, alongside the ability to work hard.

7. Chemistry

This is the hardest science-based A-Level on the list, and for good reason! As well as there being a huge amount of content you need to learn, the content itself is completely new, and rarely tends to follow on from its’ GCSE level. The course content involves periodic table trends, organic chemistry, and electrolysis 2. However, with 86.4% of students receiving at least a C grade in 2021, it is definitely possible to do well in this A-Level 3.

8. Further Maths

It is recommended that you achieve an A/A* in GCSE level Maths to even consider taking on Further Maths at A-Level 1. The content covered is the same as Maths which has been previously discussed in this article, in addition to Discrete Mathematics which is an elective module 2. The most common error students make with this subject is that they go in under prepared, and therefore find the coursework difficult to understand. More often than not, this will cause students to drop out, so make sure you’re confident in yourself before taking this subject.

9. Psychology

This is probably an A-Level you didn’t expect to see on this list, but in reality it can be deceptively difficult. This is because there is an element of extended writing which can catch students out. Psychology A-Level also involves a large amount of writing in a short amount of time, so if you can’t write fast, I’d stay away from this subject. You must be confident you’re going to enjoy the course content, as this subject has one of the highest drop-out rates amongst A-Levels 4.

10. Modern Foreign Languages

This consists of Spanish, French, and German, all of which are in part derived from Latin. Learning any language takes a lot of time and effort, with lots of practice. Part of learning a language consists of divulging yourself in the culture and practising with other speakers. However, it can be hard to achieve this when living in the UK. Any foreign language A-Level is leagues above its’ GCSE counterpart, so don’t fall into the trap thinking it’s going to be easy because you waltzed through the GCSE.


1. Think Student - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hQp78x-B_M

2. Oxford Summer Courses - https://oxfordsummercourses.com/articles/easiest-a-levels-ranked/

3. Student Performance Analysis - http://www.bstubbs.co.uk/a-lev.htm

4. Ofsted - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/426646/A_level_subject_take-up.pdf