If you’re in year eleven and coming towards entering sixth form or college, then you probably have heard a million people tell you that A levels are ten times more difficult than GCSEs. Whilst this is true, the main difference is not in the difficulty of the content but rather the way you apply it and how much there is.

1. Twice as much content

A level courses typically contain twice as much content as your GCSE course and whilst this may seem daunting at first, your teachers will help guide you through it. Teachers have taught these courses for years so they know that it is possible to learn everything in the given time and they are experts in managing the time you have to learn it. Keeping up with the content is relatively easy providing you are willing to put in the work to recap things you learnt in the past every so often.

2. More extended answers

The vast course content also has an effect on the type of exam questions you’re asked. They typically ask for more extended answers for all questions, for example a 2 mark biology question may be explaining a process in detail, which would have been worth up to 4 marks at GCSE. The key to managing this is to learn the exam technique required to get the marks, which includes things like the level of detail expected and the amount of points required in order to fulfil the marking criteria.

3. Independent study

Above all though, the main difference at A level is the amount of independent study that is required. Due to the huge amount of course content it is basically impossible for it to all be taught during your lessons, which means that the duty often falls to you to take responsibility and make your own notes on less essential parts of the course. This is also why the volume of homework tends to increase- teachers do not have time to go over parts of the course in lots of detail so it is important to solidify your knowledge by doing your homework and researching around the topic.

All of these things do mean that A levels really are a huge step up from GCSE, but they’re not impossible. The time management and revision skills you (hopefully) learn when revising for your GCSEs are a huge help when it comes to managing the workload and demand of A levels. If you put the effort in and keep on top of things then it is perfectly realistic to do well and have an enjoyable two years. Just remember not to panic because you can do it.