• Aba Amponsa

GCSEs vs A-Levels

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

For most subjects the difference between A-levels and GCSEs can seem huge and almost impossible, especially when you hit your first set of mocks and experience A-Level style questions for the first time.

To be better prepared, here's a list of major differences between GCSEs and A-Levels as a whole!


During GCSEs, just knowing the content and being able to recall it in exams was enough to get you a good grade but unfortunately that's not how it works at A-Level, as much as I wished that was the case honestly. Almost everything you learn will have to be applied in a way you probably haven't seen before. When learning the very content you are being tested on-it is rare that the answer is so black and white in exam questions. Often you may not even know what part of the subject you are being tested on. Thats why it is so important to be doing practice questions throughout your study so that you are used to seeing topics come up in an unusual setting.


You walk into the exam hall ready to sit one of your GCSE papers (well...not the 2020 cohort...) still not quite knowing what photosynthesis is or how SOH CAH TOA actually works. A question comes up and you wing it, writing some parts of the photosynthesis or the SOH CAH TOA equation correctly and you probably score 1 or 2 marks. At A-Level, even if you get these equations right with the right words or numbers alone, you probabaly haven't even scored a mark yet. In A-Level style questions, a lot more detail and clarity in your answers is required to get those initial marks.


The content itself can be harder to grasp at A-Level than at GCSE. Often you are building on what you already know, but also learning about complex topics such as integration at A-Level maths (maths students good luck...). Jokes aside, you will be fine as long as you are revisiting the topics you didn't quite understand the first time. ASK your teachers when you don't understand, go to them privately if you have to but just ASK. You won't come across as "stupid" or "dumb" but rather, "curious" and "engaged" with your learning, something your teachers will pick up and may use when they write your reference for university or apprenticeship if thats your plan.


A-Levels require you to be very independent with your learning. You will get taught the most important parts of the content however it’s up to you to go and further your knowledge as there is not enough time for your teachers to teach you every single little detail of the spec unfortunately. A lot of the time, if you don't get through enough in class, you may be asked to finish it off in your own time using your textbooks or any set work. In the next lesson you may cover it briefly before moving onto something different. Make sure your textbook becomes your best friend since it will contain the answers for anything you may be asked in your exams!

A-Levels may seem scary and your journey, both physically and emotionally, will most definitely look like this -> -> ->

However it will be rewarding at the end of the 2 years when you see your hard work reflected on results day!


Hi, I'm Aba and I started The Student Scope to give other students advice on their academic journey. Have a look around and enjoy!

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