Hardest A Level Subjects List

Still searching for a hardest A level subjects list? At Acrosophy students often ask us for help in deciding their a level choices – expecting that we have a magical list of A level subjects in order of difficulty. As you can imagine the truth is a bit more complicated than each subject being clearly harder or easier than another. Before we move on, here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you are making your final A level choices. Only then do we recommend looking at the difficulty list at the end of the article.


A levels are not GCSEs

We’re not sure how students can still make this mistake. There is a reason you only pick 3 or 4 A levels compared to the pile of GCSEs you have to study for. The area of study and the depth you go into is greatly increased. Although interest in a subject now likely means you will enjoy the next stage make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for. This is especially true if you want to pick an A level that isn’t available at GCSE level. Do your research.


Certain courses require specific A levels

This may seem obvious but don’t let the fine details catch you out. Even if you get the best grades possible not having the right qualification could bar you from entry to your uni course choices. Of course to study English for example you usually have to have English literature under your belt. What you may not realise without doing your due diligence however is that some universities want English language instead, and some are happy as long as you have either.

Some choices then become less clear. You may think that to study Economics you would need to pick up an economics A level at school but in fact this is rarely asked for, only preferred. Instead you need to ensure that you have a Maths A level (and a good result too!).

Check out this list of university courses to make sure you will have the right qualifications for your desired course and university.


Study a Core Subject

Core subjects, or facilitating subjects are the first to look at when making your A level choices, especially if you don’t know what to choose. Facilitating subjects are a group of subjects favoured by universities. If you include at least two of these in your choices then you will be able to apply to a wide variety of courses. The following are commonly asked for in entry requirements if you are unsure of what to study:

  • The Sciences: Physics, Chemistry, Biology
  • Languages: English, Modern foreign and Classical
  • Maths
  • Geography
  • History


Limit Non-Core & Similar Subjects

This will require some research once you have an idea of the course you want to study. Go to several university websites and read if they have any preferred or even ‘non-preferred’ subjects. Some choices may seem similar to you but don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by ignoring specific university preferences.

This also extends to non-core subjects as well. While these subjects are all important in their own right, picking only from the following list could damage your application:

  • Media Studies
  • Sociology
  • History of Art
  • Government & Politics
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Classical Civilisation


It’s Not All About The Grades

We’re all about personal statements here at Acrosophy. While you won’t be getting far with very poor grades at A level, on the upper end of the scale straight As don’t necessarily beat lower grade applicants every time. Universities want to see enthusiastic people joining their team, someone who puts their all into their course and contributes to wider university life. If this is plain to see and you come across as a well rounded, balanced person you are a much more attractive prospect to the admissions team than someone with no interests and perfect grades.

We’ve helped hundreds of students secure top places with our Personal Statement Service and we feel that working hard on your personal statement can make or break your application. Checkout our blogs on writing a great personal statement or sign up to our newsletter to get our free personal statement quick start guide.


It’s Not Too Late

Are you reading this article in a panic because you have already submitted your choices? There really is no need to worry. While your A level choices will dictate to an extent what you can’t apply to now, that doesn’t mean the choice is made for you. If you failed to study a science A level then you can’t apply directly to study medicine for example. But there are a whole host of courses that accept a variety of different A level combination. These aren’t weak courses either, they simply draw from multiple disciplines, for example:

The list goes on. The take home message is if you are still confused about which career you want to pursue in the future you won’t get locked into one choice at this early stage. Make sure you pick at least one or two core subjects and your options will stay relatively open until you can make a decision.


Hardest A Level Subjects List

So why look at the list of hardest A level subjects? You may think that choosing from the easier end of the list will get you better grades at the end of the day. If you can find this list however then you can bet that universities are already aware of it too. It is much better to pick what interests you anyway rather than trying to game the system.

Choosing the right subjects for your future career and subjects which will hold your interest through A levels and beyond will put you in a much stronger position to succeed rather than picking arbitrarily from a list. That being said there are some gender differences which you may want to be aware of when confirming your choices.

Girls seem to excel at subjects which carry more points from coursework whereas boys do better in subjects that focus more on examinations. In 2018 girls did better at psychology, media and ICT whereas boys did better in languages and chemistry. These results will be influenced by a number of factors however and are liable to change from year to year.

Durham university have actually gone to the effort of analysing both GCSEs and A levels to see if any were more difficult than the others. The study was done statistically rather than on hearsay and anecdote and the results may surprise you. One of their main conclusions was as follows:

“Statistical differences are meaningless. The criticisms of the various approaches used to identify…differences are sufficiently serious to render any valid interpretations of the differences impossible. It makes no sense to say that one subject is harder than another.

Read the full report here.

Don’t worry, we we still let you know what the subjectively hardest A levels are. The Joint Council for Qualifications have released the top ten subjects which attracted the least A* or A levels:

hardest a levels bar chart

Don’t let the above chart put you off however. Nobody is graded in isolation, so if you have picked ICT, Media and P.E. (the hardest A levels according to the above) your competition will have had similar difficulty in their exams. If you still are curious you can also take a look at this predictive chart released by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring. It is based on the average student, who gains at GCSE an average of Bs across the board.


expected a level grades

Let us remind you at this point that picking ‘easy options’ from the left hand side of the chart would pretty much exclude you from applying to the sciences so be careful how you decide. As we have mentioned before, you can have all the statistics in the world but pursuing what truly holds your interest will always be the best option.


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