Top 5 hardest A Levels

Top 5 hardest A Levels

Advanced Level qualifications (known as A Levels) are the traditional progression route for students after they’ve studied GCSEs. A Levels are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, a higher-level apprenticeship or work. Students usually study three subjects over two years.

The transition from GCSEs to A Levels can be quite a big jump and choosing which subjects to study, depending on your interests and strengths, is challenging. Plus, we all know that most forms of study, especially after GCSEs, are tough. But what are commonly known as the hardest A Levels?


There’s no debating it, Maths is hard unless you have a gift for numbers! Those who dare to tackle this A Level can expect to study algebra, geometry, trigonometry, graphs, sequences, and calculus. Students should be aware that there is a big difference between GCSE and A Level Maths because the depth of knowledge and understanding needed is far greater.

Although Maths is a testing pathway, many students want to study it because it prepares them for mathematics-related degree courses such as Engineering, Economics, Physics and Actuarial Science at university. Did you know that A Level Maths is highly regarded by employers and is the A Level that is rewarded with the greatest salary on average!

So, if you have the determination to tackle this challenging subject — go for it! The skills you will learn and the benefits of achieving an A Level in Maths can be highly rewarding.


Like Maths, Chemistry is also a huge jump in difficulty from GCSE to A Level, which can be a shock to some students. You’ll study topics such as Atomic and Molecular Structures, The Mole, Formulae and Equations, Spectroscopy and Chromatography. Even the names of these concepts are overwhelming!

Studying A Level Chemistry requires significant brain power. You will be required to memorise a LOT of content and — most importantly with A Levels — you will have to show a deeper understanding of topics and know how to apply that knowledge. Many concepts in the Chemistry A Level specification will be completely new for students, meaning that they will have to go through a steep learning curve to grasp the fundamentals.

If you loved GCSE Chemistry and achieved a minimum of a grade 6, this may be the course for you!


Psychology is a fascinating subject which combines different skill sets — you need to be both scientific and literate! If you are confident in Science and English you will have a good chance of grasping this difficult but challenging A Level. The course involves biological, computer and forensic science as well as humanities such as sociology, philosophy and even literature. It will introduce the study of theory, empirical evidence, and practical applications, including statistical techniques to the student.

To crack this subject, you will need a sharp memory to retain the abundance of case studies, memory models and theories as well as the brainpower to turn those facts and figures into well-written essays showing a high level of understanding. Psychology is a popular course which has exciting career routes, including the Police service, Social work, Counselling and Sport.

English Literature

If you found reading and writing about Shakespeare’s Macbeth at GCSE level mind-numbing, then strike A Level English Literature off your list! Alternatively, if you love writing and enjoy reading compelling literary works, then it could be for you.

A Level English Literature is a difficult subject due to the amount of content you are expected to read, understand, write and revise. Students must be prepared to form original arguments and to express these arguments persuasively in response to a range of literary material.

The course is demanding yet rewarding and will occupy at least five hours of independent study per week — as do most other A Levels. But with English Literature, there is the added amount of time that you must spend reading. This is regarded as a facilitating subject and is held in high esteem by universities and employers.


Debatably one of the hardest A Level subjects, Law combines learning about legal rules and how and why they apply to real life, while also developing students’ analytical ability, decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. If you are interested in the judicial system and can handle lengthy exams with an extensive syllabus, this course could be for you!

Studying A Level Law is a good choice for those wanting to progress to university to study any number of degrees. But did you know that you do not have to have an A Level in Law in order to progress to a degree in Law — or even to become a lawyer? It will help you gain employment in the legal sector, but it is not a necessity. Career options include qualification to become a solicitor, barrister, or legal executive. Previous students of NCC who studied A Level Law have gone on to careers in the civil service, local government, teaching, banking and the police force.

Whether you are considering studying one or more of these hardest A Levels, or you simply want to enhance your knowledge and skills in a particular subject, New City College can help you achieve your goals. With our focus on helping learners realise possibility, NCC provides students with the tools and confidence they need to succeed in their studies and beyond.

So don’t wait! Apply for our A Level courses now and start preparing for your fantastic future with New City College.