When I gave my A level exams I thought they were the toughest thing I had done so far in my life…Until I started University. That’s when things started getting really tough.
My major in university was Computer Science i.e. a STEM major, so that was kind of expected. However, many of my friends were taking non-STEM subjects and for them things were not looking too hard.
In short, University is slightly harder than your A level exams. Students studying STEM subjects feel the jump in difficulty is huge, people doing non-STEM subjects feel A level exams are similar in difficulty to the average university course especially the ones in the first couple of years.
The fact of the matter is compared to other high school exams and universities the British A level exams is quite challenging whereas British universities are similar in difficulty to their counterparts worldwide.
Hence it is the British A level which is difficult and not university easy.
Is University more difficult than A level?
It’s common sense to expect your education to become tougher, as you grow older, especially with more exams, shorter terms and larger class sizes.
However, students taking softer options such as psychology, literature, drama, film and media studies claim that in terms of difficulty they found their universities on par with their a levels exams.
Subjects like those generally have pretty basic courses in the first year and become more challenging in the next couple of years. However, the overall undergraduate degree is not very advanced.
STEM students often complain about university being extremely stressful and challenging. The content taught in an engineering or computer science degree is more in-depth and difficult. There are huge problem sets and very complicated assignments in STEM degrees.
Other reasons why student find their university harder than a level is because they have to do more independent study and have fewer classes and large lecture halls. They are spoon-fed less at university and for many the added inconveniences of living alone for the first time adds to the challenge.
You don’t always get past papers at university. Often you are left to do the bulk of the studying yourself. The huge class sizes and how quickly a semester ends can easily make a university experience challenging and difficult to adapt to.
University is not so much harder though.
But students don’t find university all that hard. Some people actually feel that independent study suits them better. They prefer the flexibility university offers and that they can choose to study whatever they are passionate about.
University allows you to take part in a range of activities and pursue your hobbies which gives you the chance to energize and motivate yourself.
University allows you to identify a focal point, in a levels you have to divide your time equally between several subjects.
Some of those subjects such as mathematics help facilitate your admission to a good university; such subjects are not necessarily the ones you want to pursue in the future but you have to take them…because university applications.
The difficulty in university is often based on the university itself. An undergrad in physics at Oxford would most likely be more difficult than the same degree at a second or third tier university. Universities vary in difficult but the A level exam is standardized.
Although, the content is tougher at university; by the time you start university you are more mature, have a stronger work ethic, understand what learning style suits you better and have probably developed good study habits.
Is university more stressful then A level?
In short, university is less stressful than a level since your entire future depends on your a level exams. Messing up a single a level exam can cost you heavily, however you can easily recover from a bad semester at university.
The mark allocation at university is more consistent and spread out. You have assignments, quizzes, midterms, and final examinations. In A level everything banks on two years worth of exams; if you mess those up you are really screwed.
Year 13 or the second year of A levels is an atmosphere of constant stress. With huge exams looming at the end of the year that have the ability to make or break your future, choosing a university which could heavily influence your life ahead, and filling out tedious university applications can be a really stressful time.
No one in university will kick you out for being mediocre. In A levels our principle told us, ”aim for A’s or don’t bother.” If you don’t get the required grades then your dream university continues to remain a dream. In university a bad semester can easily be covered up, in a level a single bad exam could mess up your future.
A level in general might not be the most academically stressful exam, but the time they happen in and the significance they play in a student’s life is what makes them so mentally draining and emotionally stressful.
Is A level harder than American High School?
In short, A level is significantly harder than American high school, this is because American high school has easier exams, require less in-depth subject knowledge and are only until grade 12, whereas A levels are until Year 13 and are significantly more difficult.
American high school comprises of basic knowledge in several subjects. Only students who wish to take harder courses and get credits for them in university take the AP courses.
Ap exams are slightly easier than A levels because they have less in-depth content, no major coursework, and easier exams, A levels on the other hand have tougher exams and require students to devote their entire time and focus on 3-4 subjects which last 2 years.
The SAT is a standardized exam often given in the junior and senior years of American high school. It requires basic competency in maths and English. It requires some practice but otherwise no other preparation such as strong subject knowledge or in-depth information.
The SAT is one exam that can be given multiple times a year with negligible repercussions if you don’t do well. The a level exams on the other hand have a huge impact on the student’s future and retaking exams can seriously affect the student’s life.
Overall, the A levels are harder than the American high school but not quite at the same level of difficulty as universities around the world.
The gap between softer a level subject choices and university courses is not too significant. In contrast the gap between the STEM majors and STEM related a level subjects is massive. So, the difficulty you face at university is all a matter of the subjects you take and your own unique experience and circumstances.