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What Are the Hardest A-Levels in 2024?

14/05/20249 minute read
What Are the Hardest A-Levels in 2024?

If you're gearing up to tackle your A-Levels, you might be wondering which subjects are currently making students break out in a cold sweat. Well, fear not, because we've delved deep into the academic realm, spoke with our expert strategists and researched data and popular opinion to determine the hardest A-Levels of 2024.


Generally speaking, A-levels are not easy - you’ll need to be dedicated and study hard for all A-level subjects. While there's no objective way to determine the hardest A-level subject, we can look at data and surveys to get a sense of what subjects are giving students the most trouble in 2024.

Based on insights from our experts, as well as surveys of others tutors and data from gov.uk, we determined that these are the hardest A-levels:

  1. Further Mathematics
  2. Physics
  3. Chemistry
  4. Biology
  5. Mathematics

How We Determined Our Ranking

In order to determine the hardest A-levels, we considered a few different factors. 

  1. We consulted with our strategists at Crimson to see what they think is the hardest A-level based on their experience as consultants working with students.
  2. We considered the research and analysis conducted by Ofqual (www.gov.uk). Ofqual made an inter-subject difficulty comparison to measure which A-level is the most difficult. This includes looking at the average grades scored by different students for each subject. 
  3. We considered a survey conducted by TutorChase, where 200 teachers and university lecturers were asked about what they think the hardest A-level subject is. 

Combining these three different sources, we found that all 3 align on what the 5 most difficult A-levels are with little variation. 

The Hardest A-levels 

1. Further Mathematics

Further Mathematics involves abstract algebra, complex numbers, and advanced calculus. From matrices to differential equations, every concept demands razor-sharp analytical skills and a knack for problem-solving that borders on the supernatural.

In OfQual’s difficulty comparison report, they found that A-level Further Mathematics has the highest mean difficulty score, with a large gap between it and the next most difficult A-level, Physics. This was consistent over 4 years, as they found Further Mathematics to be the most difficult A-level from 2019 to 2022. 

In the teacher/tutor survey, about 36% of the teachers and university lecturers voted A-level Further Mathematics as the most difficult A-level, significantly higher than any other A-level, and about double the percent that voted for Physics, the second highest A-level.

2. Physics

A-level Physics covers concepts that are simultaneously mind-bogglingly abstract and yet deeply rooted in empirical observation. Whether it’s the complexities of quantum mechanics or the laws of thermodynamics, Physics demands a blend of mathematical prowess and conceptual understanding.

In Ofqual’s report, A-level Physics was found to have the second highest mean difficulty based on grades. This result was not always consistent between 2019 and 2022, with A-level Chemistry having a slightly higher difficulty score in 2021 and 2022. With that said, the years in which A-level Physics scored higher than Chemistry on difficulty had a larger gap. 

In the teacher survey, about 17% of respondents chose Physics as the most difficult A-level, the second highest percentage.

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3. Chemistry

What makes Chemistry particularly challenging is its multifaceted nature. It requires you to master not only theoretical concepts but also practical skills in the laboratory.

Balancing equations, predicting reaction outcomes, and understanding the intricacies of molecular structures are just a few hurdles you'll encounter on your journey through this subject.

Chemistry is ranked as the third most difficult in the survey conducted by TutorChase, and fluctuated between second and third most difficult in Ofqual’s inter-subject comparison.

“The hard sciences such as Physics and Chemistry come close to Maths as the most challenging. These are subjects that require not just a large volume of factual information to be learnt, but require analysis and manipulation of information in unseen and often complex contexts. ”

- Stuart Thomson, Senior Strategist Consultant at Crimson Education

4. Biology

From the intricate workings of cells to the interconnected web of ecosystems, Biology encompasses a vast array of topics, each more fascinating (and challenging) than the last.

Whether it's the intricacies of genetics, the physiology of organisms, or the dynamics of ecological systems, Biology demands both a keen eye for detail and a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of life.

In 2022, only 12.8% of students taking A-level Biology scored an A* grade, and it’s still an especially challenging subject to score a top grade in.

In fact, once upon a time, A-level Biology might have been the most difficult A-level. In a study conducted by ​​Association for Educational Assessment in Africa in 2014 to measure the difficulty of each A-level, it was found that A-level Biology had the highest relative level of difficulty in 2009.

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Relative subject difficulty, A-level national examinations, 2009 and 2010

5. Mathematics

From algebraic structures to geometric configurations, Mathematics encompasses a diverse range of topics, each demanding precision, clarity, and ingenuity.

Mastery of this discipline cultivates not only mathematical proficiency but also critical thinking skills, empowering learners to tackle complex problems with confidence and creativity.

While A-level Mathematics might be relatively simpler than Further Mathematics, it’s still almost universally seen as one of the hardest A-levels. In Ofqual’s inter-subject comparison, they found that Mathematics had a significant jump in difficulty after 2019 - scoring significantly higher than A-level Computing.

In the teacher survey, about 7% of teachers and lecturers chose Mathematics as the most difficult A-level, the 5th highest number.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right A-levels can be a daunting task, especially when considering their varying levels of difficulty. The subjects listed here—Further Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics—are consistently recognized as some of the most challenging due to their complex content and rigorous academic demands.

That doesn't mean you can't get the perfect score - you can ace your A-levels by working with our experts at Crimson.

We have some of the best tutors and teachers worldwide who have worked with over 2,000 students, many of whom are now studying at the world’s best universities, including the Ivy League.

Crimson students are 7x more likely to gain acceptance to their dream college!

Remember, you don't have to navigate this journey alone. Crimson provides a comprehensive suite of services, from academic mentoring and test prep to essay assistance, extracurricular guidance, and career mentoring, ensuring a holistic approach to your college preparation journey.