Every student likes to claim that their exam board is the hardest, but which really is the toughest for A levels? Looking at the specimen papers for the new chemistry A level from 4 exam boards (AQA, WJEC, OCR and Edexcel), we’re going to decide once and for all which is really the most difficult.

1. Question styles

The main variation in the test papers was their question styles. Three of the four papers- AQA, Edexcel and OCR- featured either a completely multiple choice section or a high amount of multiple choice questions. This makes it easier if you struggle with longer writing tasks or putting things into words, which could lose you marks on your typical short and longer answer questions.

All of the exam boards also had a large proportion of your typical short answer questions and the amount wasn’t hugely different between the boards. They all also featured calculation questions, but there was not a great difference between them on each exam board.

Finally the last type of question that we saw was the long answer questions. WJEC had only one of these questions at six marks. Edexcel had the highest amount with 3 long answer questions, accounting for 16 marks in total. OCR and AQA both had two longer questions, but AQA’s had much higher marks attached to them.

Looking at this single specimen paper, we would put WJEC as the hardest exam board, but we couldn’t honestly say this was the answer. Yes, not having multiple choice questions does make it harder, but each syllabus is similar regardless of the exam board, give or take a few topics, and it had less long answer questions which could balance it out. It may also not apply to other years or subjects due to the fact that you can never truly predict what the exam will be like, especially as this was just a specimen.

2. It comes down to your strengths and weaknesses

We feel that the difficulty of a paper comes down to your strengths and weaknesses: if you struggle with essays or longer writing tasks then Edexcel or AQA may be the most difficult as they contained more long answer questions, but if you find developing an explanation easy then these may be easy marks for you to gain.

If you’re looking for the easiest exam board to do your exams with (if for whatever reason you are lucky enough to have that choice) then we’d suggest the following things:

  • Look at the same one you used for GCSE (if possible). The questions will likely have a similar style so you won’t have to get used to what they are asking you and how to answer them.

  • Work out your strengths and weaknesses. Exams that focus heavily on written answers rather than multiple choice are not a good idea if you’re a slower writer or have trouble getting your thoughts onto the page.

  • Look at the revision materials available. A levels are tough so if one exam board has amazing materials available then that is a huge bonus and it will help when you come to studying for your exams.

And whichever board you’re doing, good luck and keep studying!