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How hard is physics a-level? Is it harder than maths, or what about the other sciences like chemistry and biology? 

Most students decide whether or not to take a subject based on how hard they think it will be. However, this isn’t always the best way to make your decision because “hard” subjects might better prepare you for university-level education. 

That’s why we go to incredible lengths to help our 13-18-year-old Physics summer school students develop the necessary skills to succeed better at the university. Our tutors use 1:1 personalised tutorials with expert tutors to maximize their learning experience. 

We’ve also created this guide to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to take Physics A-Level. Is A-Level Physics harder than maths? Or chemistry?

Read more to find out!

What Is The Pass Rate Of A-Level Physics?

According to Ofqual Analytics, the A-Level grades for students in England in 2022 are:

GradeStudent Percentage
A*16.4%
A22.1%
B20.7%
C17.9%
D13.1%
E7.4%
Physics Pass Rate:97.60%

Hence, the pass rate of A-Level Physics is 97.60% 

Is Physics A-Level Harder Than Maths?

Yes, Physics A-Level is harder than Maths. Here’s the A-Level outcome for Mathematics 2022:

GradeStudent Percentage
A*22.8%
A24.3%
B16.2%
C15.1%
D12.0%
E7.4%
Maths Pass Rate:97.80%

A-Level Physics is harder than Mathematics because:

PhysicsMathsDifference
A*16.4%22.8%6.40%
A22.1%24.3%2.20%
Pass Rate:97.60%97.80%0.20%

From the table above, notice how: 

  • Maths has 6.40% more students who achieved grade A* than Physics
  • Maths also has 2.20% more students who got A than Physics
  • And Maths has a greater passing rate than Physics by a difference of 0.20%

Hence, Physics A-Level is harder than Maths.

Which Is Harder, A-Level Physics Or Further Maths?

Physics is harder than A-Level Further Maths based on the difference in passing rate. Check out the A-Level outcome for Further Maths in England 2022: 

GradeStudent Percentage
A*39.7%
A27.5%
B15.4%
C9.3%
D5%
E2%
Further Maths Pass Rate:98.90%

Here are the differences between A-Level Physics grades compared with Further Maths:

PhysicsFurther MathsDifference
A*16.4%39.7%23.30%
A22.1%27.5%5.40%
Pass Rate:97.60%98.90%1.30%

You’ll notice from the above that:

  • Further Maths has 23.30% more students who achieved grade A* than Physics
  • Further Maths also has 5.40% more students who got A than Physics
  • And Further Maths has a greater passing rate than Physics by a difference of 1.30%

Thus, Physics is a harder A-Level than Further Maths. 

Is Physics A-Level Harder Than Chemistry?

No, Physics A-Level is easier than Chemistry, but only by a small margin. Take a look at the table below containing A-Level Chemistry grades in England 2022:

GradeStudent Percentage
A*13.6%
A24.4%
B20.3%
C17.1%
D13.4%
E8.7%
Chemistry Pass Rate:97.50%

If you compare A-Level Physics grades with Chemistry, here’s what you’ll get:

PhysicsChemistryDifference
A*16.4%13.6%-2.80%
A22.1%24.4%2.30%
Pass Rate:97.60%97.50%-0.10%

You’ll observe the following from the information in the above table:

  • Chemistry has 2.80% fewer students who achieved grade A* than Physics
  • Chemistry has 2.30% more students who got A than Physics
  • Lastly, Chemistry has a lesser passing rate than Physics by 0.10%.

So A-Level Physics is a bit easier than A-Level Chemistry to achieve an A* or have a passing rate.

Why Is A-Level Physics So Difficult?

Here are some reasons why A-Level Physics is so difficult:

Takes Practice

Physics requires excellent problem-solving skills due to its maths-based problems. And the only way you can sharpen that skill is to practice. So reading and memorising texts and writing essays are not sufficient like they usually are with other subjects.

Physics Is More Than Maths

While Physics contains core mathematical principles, it also involves many scientific theories. What does it mean? It means it’s not enough to practise plugging in values in mathematical formulas.

You also have to properly understand which formula applies to which problem! And the explanation as to why you think so. Hence why, critical thinking skills are essential to nailing A-Level Physics.

But don’t let the difficulty discourage you. The upside is that you develop two of the most sought-after skills employers seek: problem-solving and critical thinking.

Do you want to know what career opportunities await Physics university graduates? Then, check out this article on what career paths are there for physics degree students.

Professors May Focus On One More Than The Other

Due to the complex nature of Physics, some professors might focus more on the mathematical side. In contrast, others focus more on scientific theories. Unfortunately, this can confuse students as they need to know both to understand what’s happening. 

As the old saying goes, “The student is only as good as their teacher.” Suppose you choose to pursue Physics in higher education. In that case, we strongly recommend that you apply to any of these Top UK universities for Physics

Studying at any of the best universities in the UK exposes you to some of the best Physics experts in the world. Helping you increase your mastery of the subject. 

But even more importantly, studying at Top Schools will give you better chances of success in your future career goals.

Each Topic Builds On The Previous

The more you move forward in Physics, the more you’re exposed to an increasing number of formulas. The most challenging part? Some of the new formulas are derived from the previous ones. 

So if you want to understand the new topic but haven’t yet caught up with the previous one, you will have to backtrack! 

Backtracking while trying to grasp the current topic can be confusing and time-consuming. So make sure you keep up with each topic as you progress through the course.

A-Level Physics is undoubtedly a challenging course. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get good grades in it. It just takes a lot of practice, focus and determination.

So if you’re up for the challenge, then go for it! We promise you won’t regret it. Physics is a fantastic subject that can lead to a very successful career. So just make sure you put in the effort, and you will do great!

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