Despite exam boards being supposedly standardised for all subjects, it’s no secret that there’s still variation between them. This variation means that sometimes they may be seen as easier or harder depending on how you look at them. Even between the most common exam boards (AQA, OCR and Edexcel) this difference is pretty clear.

1. It depends on your personal preferences and strengths

A lot of the time these differences just seem harder or easier due to your personal preferences and strengths. For example OCR being a lot more context based than AQA so for some people they may struggle with applying their knowledge to situations and therefore find it harder. Meanwhile, Edexcel may be seen as easier because they commonly include multiple choice questions in their exams but for some people it can be difficult as they usually require a decent amount of work for just one mark so you could find yourself running out of time in the exam.

2. The availability of materials and resources

The materials available also help to define the difficulty of the exam board. Resources are scarce with the new A level specifications so when an exam board has more materials available it is much more helpful as you can gain a bigger indication of what the exam boards expect you to know for the exam. Speaking to our teachers and looking at the various exam boards (we study at least one subject for all of them) AQA definitely offers the most materials for the courses that they have. This can be really helpful when it comes to revising or even just for teachers to find materials for lessons.

3. The administrative process

Although, the exams are just part of it. It’s not unheard of for Edexcel to write the wrong grades on results slips, forget to mark parts of papers or even give out the wrong results to the wrong people. In this case getting your grade back may be the hardest part of the process! OCR and AQA appear to have much more sound administrative processes, which makes the process of gaining your results on the day much less stressful and much more trustworthy. Even if OCR did almost miss the deadline for marking papers one year, at least you can almost certainly guarantee that the grade you see on the day is actually your grade.

4. The variation between subjects

Of course there is variation between subjects, and what may be the hardest for one could be the easiest for another. And many teachers are of the opinion that with the new A levels, exam boards are more standardised than ever in terms of both difficulty and content. Although, from what we’ve seen it seems common opinion that OCR is the most difficult exam board and has been for a long time- whether that’s just because of the question style or because they don’t have as many materials available. This opinion does not surprise us considering OCR had to withdraw their new language A levels and had to rewrite their GCSE maths papers for the new specification due to them being too hard.

Regardless, we still believe that the differences between exam boards are minor and if they seem easier or harder it is usually just because of your personal preferences or your weaknesses, rather than vast differences in difficulty. Exams go through numerous processes to ensure they’re standardised, so we wouldn’t worry if you think your exam board is too hard or too easy as the fact is that it probably isn’t.