How Hard Are GCSEs

GCSEs are exams that students in the United Kingdom sit at the end of Year 11, just before they start college. This article will help you decide for yourself how hard are the GCSE exams.

How hard are the GCSEs

The GCSEs are moderately hard exams as they only require students to memorize the subject content and have a basic understanding of the concepts. The GCSEs do not have tough questions or difficult topics. Instead, the GCSE subjects are relatively easy to pass.

GCSE subjects are designed to be straightforward and simple. The examiners develop the syllabus in a manner so as to include a wide array of topics but keep the complexity of the content relatively uncomplicated.

GCSEs cover the fundamentals. Luckily memorizing the content will be sufficient to get decent grades. You do not need to have an in-depth understanding to get a grade say between 1-6(up to a B). However, the upper spectrum of the GCSE grades such as an A or A* (or 7-9 ) are reserved for students who have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the subject.

The difficulty students experience in their GCSEs is strongly dependent on the subjects they choose. A combination revolving around the traditional sciences (such as Chemistry and Physics), Maths, and Further Maths will surely find students grasping at straws! The list of the Hardest GCSE Subjects will help you determine how difficult each subject is.

However, if you want to take the easy path in your GCSEs then this list of the Easiest GCSEs will guide you in the right direction. Not wanting to surround yourself with textbooks is understandable, especially at this age. Nevertheless choosing easy GCSE subjects which have no affiliation with your A-levels, university courses, and career goals is not advisable.

GCSEs serve the purpose of providing you with a thorough introduction, and a feel of the difficulty, complexity and workload involved.

The average student takes 8-10 GCSEs, but only 3-4 A-levels. The GCSEs narrow your subject choices and help you transition to your A-levels. For instance, you might take both Commerce and Science subjects for your GCSEs but over the course of two years, you may feel that commerce is not for you. In such a case, you can simply pursue science subjects for your A-levels.

How hard are A-levels Compared to GCSEs?

A-levels are significantly harder than GCSEs because A-levels have tough exams, complex concepts, require an in-depth understanding of the subject matter and call for a great deal of critical thinking to solve difficult questions. In short, GCSEs are much easier than A-levels.

The transition from GCSEs to A-levels is something most students struggle with. Most students find themselves unequipped to deal with the intensity and independent study required at the A-level. One of the major reason for students retaking their A-levels is that they were unable to make the shift from the GCSEs to the A-levels.

A-levels build upon the foundations of GCSEs. Students take three times fewer A-level subjects as compared to the GCSEs. Fewer A-levels means more dedication and time devoted to each individual subject. As a result, A-levels are extremely detailed and have highly complex content.

The A-level examinations have very challenging questions. Unlike GCSEs, mere regurgitation of the textbook will not be enough to secure decent grades. Critical analysis will be needed to get good grades in your A-levels. Several A-level subjects also demand a high mathematical ability in order to succeed at the subject.

The A-level Syllabus is enormous. You will need to use resources other than the assigned textbook to cover the entire specification. Utilizing Youtube, Websites, Resource Books, and PastPapers is the norm. The sheer size of the A-level Syllabus can leave any student bewildered.

How hard is it to Pass the GCSEs?

Passing the GCSEs is quite an easy task to achieve. 4 is a standard pass whereas a 5 is considered a strong pass at the GCSEs. Getting a passing grade is not hard as long as you revise the textbook, attend the classes, and have a basic understanding of the GCSE syllabus.

The examiners design the syllabus in a manner so that students learn to balance their time across various subjects. Examiners do not want students spending an unproportionate amount of time on a single subject.

The GCSE level is all about studying many subjects and exploring different options. If any individual GCSE subject was too difficult then it would encourage students to drop some of their subjects. This is not something colleges and universities want.

Instead, they hope students have got a chance to experience many fields (at the GCSE level) and then choose the subjects they are the most inclined towards.

However, colleges and universities do not want students to have unrealistic expectations of the subjects at GCSE. The difficulty in acquiring a mathematics or an engineering degree is mimicked in GCSE Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics albeit to a lesser degree.

Hence passing GCSE with a Grade 4 or 5 is a relatively easy task. As long as you are consistent in attending the classes and revising the textbook from time to time, then passing your GCSEs should not be an issue at all.

How hard is it to get a 9 in your GCSEs?

Getting a 9 in your GCSEs is an extremely hard task. Less than 7% of the students who sit for their exams manage to get a 9 in their GCSEs. Getting a Grade 9 in your GCSEs is so difficult because it requires a nearly flawless exam, an in-depth understanding of the content, and complete knowledge of the syllabus.

A 9 in your GCSEs is considered more highly than an A* in the new grading system. Fewer people get a 9 in their GCSEs than they get A*. A 9 demonstrates complete mastery of the subject.

The new grading system helps universities and colleges select the best and most competent students for that particular subject. Top tier colleges and universities use the new grading system to handpick students for extremely competitive fields such as Medicine and Engineering.

How hard is it to get a 9 in your GCSEs?

Most of the GCSE exam can be solved quite easily by the average student. Examiners however sprinkle a handful of extremely tough questions in each GCSE exam that require a great deal of critical analysis and thinking out of the box. Such questions require students to use their prior knowledge in unfamiliar contexts.

You must remember practically everything in the specification in order to get a 9 in your GCSEs. You should also have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. You will also need a bit of luck as more than one or two incorrect answers in an otherwise flawless paper will be pushing your grade towards an 8 instead of a 9.

Are GCSEs Harder than Mocks?

GCSEs are equally as hard as the Mocks. School teachers want to keep the difficulty of the Mocks consistent with the GCSEs to give students a realistic experience. Some students might find the mocks harder because it is their first time giving exams that cover the entire specification.

Mocks are the first time you will be experiencing exams that cover the entire syllabus in a time-restricted environment. Moreover, your preparation for your GCSEs will be far superior to your mocks as you will have more time for revising and practising the past papers.

These factors explain why some students find Mocks harder than the actual GCSEs even though they are quite similar in terms of difficulty.

On the flip side, some students may find the Mocks less stressful and relatively easier than the GCSEs as the outcome of the mocks will have little to no future implications. On the other hand, GCSEs play an important role in determining the colleges and universities you get accepted to.


The GCSEs are moderately hard exams. They focus on the fundamentals of a particular subject. An in-depth understanding of a particular subject is required at the A-level and University level studies. Most students manage to get decent grades despite not hitting the books regularly.

If you find your self struggling in your GCSEs don’t worry. It will take some time to get used to the subject and the examiner’s style of questioning. You don’t need to be a genius to get good grades at the GCSE level. Regular and consistent studying will help you achieve good grades.

Best of Luck!