Is A-level more difficult than AP?

Is A-level More Difficult Than AP?

Is A-level More Difficult Than AP?


As students plan their education, one of the most significant decisions to make is whether to take A-level or AP courses. Both qualifications are internationally recognized and can help students get into some of the world’s most prestigious universities. However, some wonder whether one is more challenging than the other. In this article, we will explore the question, “Is A-level harder than AP?”


What Are A-level and AP?

A-level stands for “Advanced Level” and is a UK-based qualification. Students typically take it during their last two years of secondary school and must choose three or four subjects to study in-depth. A-levels are highly specialized and require a lot of independent studying and preparation outside the classroom.

“AP” stands for “Advanced Placement” and is a US-based program run by the College Board. AP courses are equivalent to introductory-level college courses, and students can take exams at the end of each course to earn college credit or advanced standing. AP courses offer a broader range of subjects, and students typically take several exams in different subjects.

How Do A-level and AP Differ?

The primary difference between A-level and AP lies in their structure and focus. A-level emphasizes depth, requiring students to take fewer subjects and specialize in them. In contrast, AP emphasizes breadth, offering a more extensive range of subjects for students to study.

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A-level exams are typically taken at the end of two years of study, whereas AP exams are taken at the end of one year. A-level exams are grade-reliant, meaning they are dependent on the final exam grade. AP exams are score-reliant, meaning the grade is based entirely on the exam score.

Another difference is in the grading system. A-levels use a letter grade system, with A* being the highest grade achievable. AP uses a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest.

Is A-Level More Challenging Than AP?

Yes, an A-level is substantially harder than an AP exam.

A-levels require highly specialized knowledge and are much more difficult to obtain than AP credit. According to data from the College Board, the average score on all AP exams in 2020 was 2.89 out of 5, with only 14.5% earning a score of 4 or 5. In contrast, A-levels have been described by the Independent Schools Council as “a highly rigorous and demanding form of education.”

However, it’s important to note that A-levels are specialized and that they require a lot of independent study and preparation outside the classroom. A-levels have a significant impact on a student’s university application, and students must achieve top grades to get into highly selective programs. AP, on the other hand, offers a broader spectrum of subjects and is typically taken by students seeking to challenge themselves or earn college credit.


Both A-level and AP are challenging and require a significant amount of effort to obtain. A-levels are specialized and focus on depth, whereas APs offer breadth in the range of subjects. When it comes to comparing the two, A-level is generally considered to be more rigorous and demanding than AP. However, every student’s learning experience is different, and which one is right for them will depend on their interests and goals.

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Are A-levels harder than AP?
A-levels vs AP exams
A-level curriculum
AP exams


  1. ThoughtCo
  2. BBC
  3. The Independent

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