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Is A-Level Maths Hard? Details About A-Level Maths


Lead Academy

9 Mins Read

Is A level Maths hard? If you’re thinking about taking A-Level mathematics, you might be worried about how difficult it will be. Maths is infamous for being difficult. But, like any other GCSE or A-Level subject, it’s tough depending on the particular student. For example, some students may breeze through A-Level Maths if they are good at analytical ability and problem solving.

Since you’re browsing through A-Level Maths, we’re going to assume you’re done with or in the process of completing your GCSE. So you’ll often find some comparisons with GCSE maths in our blog.

With that said, let’s get started on “How hard is A Level Maths?”

A female students points at maths formula

Is A-Level Maths Hard?

So, again, is A level maths hard? If you compare A-Level Maths with GCSE Maths, it’s definitely more difficult. You’ll have a hard time here if you don’t have a good grade (at least a six or a B) overall in your GCSE Maths exams.

The first year of A-Level Maths is fairly similar to GCSE Maths in terms of difficulty. The difficulty of A-Level Maths increases only in the second year — this is when your mathematical ability will be truly tested.

However, if you only compare pass rates, A-Level Maths has a 96.3 percent pass rate, while GCSE Maths has a 55.4 percent pass rate. Take a look at the following graph of students who got an A* in 2019-2021. The percentage is much higher than in English literature and language, which is supposed to be easier than in Maths.

Two rows shows grades for Maths and English
Image courtesy: TES Magazine

This suggests that students who studied A Level Maths papers are mathematically proficient to a semi-good level. On the contrary, there is no such grade filter at GCSE. Hence the average standard is substantially lower.

With that said, the following are the topics in GCSE Maths (for Edexcel exam board):

GCSE Maths

GCSE Maths Number
Rates of Change

Compare the above with A-Level Maths topics:

A-Level Maths

Pure Maths/

Core Maths

1. Proof
2. Algebra and Functions
3. Coordinate Geometry
4. Sequences and Series
5. Trigonometry
6. Exponentials and Logarithms
7. Differentiation
8. Integration
9. Numerical Methods
10. Vectors
Statistics 1. Statistical Sampling
2. Data Presentation and Interpretation
3. Probability
4. Statistical Distributions
5. Statistical Hypothesis Testing
Mechanics 1. Quantities and Units in Mechanics
2. Kinematics
3. Forces and Newton’s Laws
4. Moments

You can see how much broader A-Level Maths is. Your exam questions will also reflect the same level of diversity in their topics.

The curriculum is similar to GCSE Maths in some ways. However, the topic is much more difficult. On that note, the hardest A Level Maths topics, according to the students, are Integration and Vectors.

In addition, the fact that may make the subject harder for you is that there is a lot more independent study required in A-Level as compared to GCSE. However, study materials are plentiful. Your tolerance for hard work will mostly be the limiting factor here.

Thus, the step up from GCSE is why the requirement to study A-Level Maths is a grade of 6 or a B in GCSE Maths.

The majority of your study will be based on the knowledge you gained in GCSE.

Two detectives examines the crime scene

A Level Maths Exam Questions

A-Level exams and, in turn, the exam papers are typically longer and worth significantly more marks. GCSE Maths questions frequently feature a lead-up paragraph that directs you down the correct route to answer the question.

The paragraph will imply a general concept of what abilities you should use to solve the question. As a result, the only thing that would prevent you from answering the question is if you lacked the necessary abilities- it wouldn’t be that you employed the incorrect Maths skills.

In contrast, A-Level questions often don’t guide you in the proper direction. In fact, to achieve the marks for an A-Level Maths question, you must have not only the mathematical skills but also the ability to decipher which skill to use.

Final Exams

GCSE students will take three maths examinations (1 non-calculator, 2 calculator) at the conclusion of Year 11. The mark schemes for these papers totals 80 for each paper. As a result, the final GCSE Maths score is out of 240. The substance of each paper is nearly the same, and there are no significant differences in question types between papers.

Similarly, A-Level students will take three math papers (all calculator) at the conclusion of Year 13. However, these papers will instead be worth 100 marks each. As a result, the final A-Level Maths marks is out of 300.

The first two A-Level Maths examinations are all about pure maths, but the third A-Level Maths paper is all about statistics and mechanics.

Mechanics (paper 3) is very close to GCSE and A-Level Physics. It means that 17% of A-Level Maths is essentially physics-based. As a result, if physics was a particularly weak subject for you at GCSE, it will have a significant impact on your performance in the third A-Level Maths paper, dragging your overall grade down — this might make the A-Level extremely difficult for some students.

This means that how you approach a question in an A-Level Maths paper will be very different from how you tackle a question in a GCSE Maths paper.

Math test concept with cute teddy

Difference Between Maths and Further Maths

Is Further Maths hard? If you’re thinking about taking A-Level Further Maths, just know that it’s possibly the most difficult A-Level available. It’s a significant step up over A-Level Maths and even GCSE Further Maths. The effort is enormous, and the material is quite challenging.

The trouble with Further Maths, at least with Edexcel, is that it introduces a lot of new topics. Hyperbolic functions, complex numbers, polar coordinates, and differential equations are a few examples.

We would not advocate taking this A-Level unless you are a capable student with a strong work ethic. You must have a strong mathematical mind and be familiar with A-Level and GCSE Maths principles.

But your qualifications here will definitely come in handy in your higher education.


Is A Level maths the hardest A Level?

If you go by the past performance of A-Level students, A-Level Maths is quite challenging, but it isn’t the hardest by any stretch of the imagination.

What percentage of people get an A * in A Level Maths?

According to data from the Joint Council for Qualifications, in the academic year 2018-2019, around 25% of students achieved an A* grade in A Level Mathematics.

Is it hard to get a 9 in GCSE?

A 9 in GCSE Maths is a higher mark than an A* because it is intended to distinguish the highest-achieving students. Grade 9s accounted for 6.6% of all GCSE results in England in 2020, somewhat higher than the previous year, but still a tiny proportion.

What are the 3 hardest A-Levels?

It’s difficult to rank subjects (A-Level courses) in terms of their difficulty here. But among the subjects that are quite challenging in A-Level- Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English Literature, Art, Psychology, Computer Programming, Business Studies and Music are just a few.

What are the easiest A levels?

The same logic (A level difficulty ranking) as above applies here. It depends on the students. However, students have commonly quoted Classical Civilisation, Drama, Geography, Textiles, Health and Social Care, Media Studies, Environmental Science, Food Studies, Film Studies, Sociology, Information Technology (IT), and Law to be easier than other subjects mentioned above.

How is A level Maths different to GCSE?

The content you learn at A-Level Maths is generally similar to that which you learned at your GCSE, but more in-depth and complex; it will require you to do additional reading as part of your studying and learning, and you will also need to keep up with your revision. Different exam boards will differ from syllabus to syllabus.

Is Physics A level harder than Maths?

To some extent, yes. A-Level Physics is somewhat difficult to understand without knowing concepts from A-Level Maths. A-Level Physics is a significant step up from GCSE Physics, and it tests even the most talented science students. There is a lot of math, and the material is difficult to understand.

Is Maths A level harder than Biology?

Not necessarily. Biology is more about memorising and learning, but math is more logical. Math will undoubtedly be challenging in the beginning.

What percent of students get an A in A-Level Maths?

The percentage of students who receive an A grade in A-Level Maths can vary widely from year to year, depending on the difficulty of the exam and the qualifications of the candidates.

How much more content does A-Level Maths have compared to GCSE Maths?

Generally speaking, the most recent statistics indicate that about 21% of A-Level Maths students in England achieved an A grade in 2020.

How does the style of exam questions compare between A-Level and GCSE?

A-Level Maths contains far more content than GCSE Maths, requiring students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts as well as the ability to apply them to unfamiliar problems.

How do the final exams compare between A-Level Maths and GCSE Maths?

The A-Level Maths exams are typically longer, more in-depth and contain questions which require higher-level analytical thinking compared to the shorter, more structured questions found in GCSE Maths exams.


So, is A-Level Maths hard? Statistically speaking, it isn’t any more demanding. We even showed that in the blog. Hard work and learning from competent teachers will overcome nearly all challenges in A-Level Maths, so feel encouraged to reconsider A-Level Maths – perhaps it is for you after all?

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