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Is A-level maths ridiculously difficult compared to GCSE?

I'm in a bit of a weird situation, involving a lot of catching up and sitting the GCSE exams in November (retake time), so I'll already have the disadvantage of beginning A-levels late.

I don't know where I'm at to be honest - I quite like maths but I need all Bs for my dream university, which seems ambitious. A-level maths isn't required for the course (marine biology), but I figured it would be more relevant than anything else I'd be interested in. It'll be alongside biology and geography, so quite content heavy.

If my GCSE results don't end up particulaly good, say only a pass, will I be too behind?
Hey man! Good luck on your GCSEs.

The thing is, it depends on YOU. I know that’s cliche, but you know yourself better than anyone. But I can give you more advice.

I am Year 13 doing my A-Levels in a few weeks, have an offer to do Biological Sciences this year so I am in a similar place to you. My A-Levels are Biology, Maths and Product Design. LOVE biology, maths though, ehhhh not so much.

At GCSE I really enjoyed Higher Maths I got an 8, at A-Level it’s a big step up. It’s not super hard, but it is challenging to me and requires a lot of work and practise. it’s different to GCSE.
Thing is, if you love maths, you will enjoy it and find it easy, but myself, it bores me and I hate revising for it.

I am glad I took it though because I needed a second science (maths counts as a science) so I am able to study Biology!! and this is important to you: most biology and science degrees ask for two science A-Level! So if not maths, consider physics or geology (and if you have to chemistry but yuckkk amirite).

Given your position of starting late, I am not going to recommend A-Level Maths, it is hard, but equally if you enjoy it, and think you’re gonna have fun doing lots of it, go for it. It’s a solid A-Level that universities will admire if you have and think yep he/she is smart. Look at some past paper A-Level Maths questions and think if you want to do that ahahaha.

Ultimately, see what you enjoy the most.

ask me any questions if you have any.
Reply 2
Original post by spanishjoe
Hey man! Good luck on your GCSEs.
The thing is, it depends on YOU. I know that’s cliche, but you know yourself better than anyone. But I can give you more advice.
I am Year 13 doing my A-Levels in a few weeks, have an offer to do Biological Sciences this year so I am in a similar place to you. My A-Levels are Biology, Maths and Product Design. LOVE biology, maths though, ehhhh not so much.
At GCSE I really enjoyed Higher Maths I got an 8, at A-Level it’s a big step up. It’s not super hard, but it is challenging to me and requires a lot of work and practise. it’s different to GCSE.
Thing is, if you love maths, you will enjoy it and find it easy, but myself, it bores me and I hate revising for it.
I am glad I took it though because I needed a second science (maths counts as a science) so I am able to study Biology!! and this is important to you: most biology and science degrees ask for two science A-Level! So if not maths, consider physics or geology (and if you have to chemistry but yuckkk amirite).
Given your position of starting late, I am not going to recommend A-Level Maths, it is hard, but equally if you enjoy it, and think you’re gonna have fun doing lots of it, go for it. It’s a solid A-Level that universities will admire if you have and think yep he/she is smart. Look at some past paper A-Level Maths questions and think if you want to do that ahahaha.
Ultimately, see what you enjoy the most.
ask me any questions if you have any.

Thank you for your reply, and congratulations on your university offer!

The marine biology course which is definitely my favourite says "BBB including Biology and at least one from Chemistry (preferred), Geography, Mathematics or Physics". Since I'm doing geography, I'll meet the requirements - I hate the idea of doing chemistry, so that's off the table.

From glancing at A-level past papers for maths, I have to admit I think it would be near impossible for me to get a B.
My other options would be physics or psychology:

Obviously physics includes maths, but I find it easier to understand thanks to the relation to whatever concept. My worry if the difficulty of said concepts, as I know they're notoriously hard and I'm already not the best. I like the idea of doing a number based topic rather than another wordy one, so that's a big part of the appeal.

I think the content of psychology would be more interesting to me, and I know many other universities actually consider it a science. It's an essay based choice which put me off quite a lot - although I'm not particularly bad at English for example, I feel the variety of what I'd be studying would be more narrow as well as less relevant.


What I'm trying to weigh out is, will it be seen as more important to have higher grades or more relevant subjects?
I'm pretty sure I'd so better at psychology than physics, like most, but you never know.

(Sorry for the lengthy, drawn-out question.)
Thanks.

It’s really good your Marine Biology course can have Geography in place of a second science! I have not heard of that. Perhaps Marine Biology is different? My five UCAS Biology (C100) courses only asked for sciences, but there are some exceptions too as every uni is different. So, you don’t have to worry too much about doing another science unless of course your backups don’t ask for geography as well.

So, that’s the first thing - check if most Marine Biology courses are ok with geography then I would suggest disregarding doing maths or another science.

Don’t say things like it would be impossible to get above a B in A-Level Maths, as you haven’t started it yet and you’re year 11 right now! You can do anything. once you’ve learned content, it is alright and not as scary as it looks. BUT, from the sounds of things, you don’t seem like a mathsy person. and, although it may be enticing because it’s just numbers and not content, yeah don’t think that makes it easier. I thought the same when I picked but now, I think a content based subject would be so much easier and fun to learn and revise!!

Because you seem so interested in psychology do consider it! My best friend did it so I can tell you a little about it. yes, it is essay based sadly, but it isn’t all argumentative or subjective as other subjects. there is a bio psychology section where they dissected a brain in one lesson to see the parts of it. I honestly wish I did psychology but not over maths because I need maths for uni of course.

physics, like maths you’d have to enjoy it, and it’s quite a nerdy subject ahaha. if you’re not passionate about it, i don’t think do it, my friends say it’s very hard and looking at what they have to do, i would not want to do that. but again it would be easier once you’re taught it and less scary when you’ve learned it for two years!

and chemistry i agree brother eughhhh what is that brotherrrrr ahahaha

now, to answer your big question:

*first comes relevant subjects, to maximise chance of offers. but it isn’t ALL deciding*

it does depend on every uni, as they are all different, but in general, i am afraid that the first thing they see is what subjects you do, then your predicted grades. and, you haven’t even done your exams yet and predicted grades don’t the world anyway, you could do completely different. (unless you’re applying to a top uni, like edinburgh, bristol, bath, the fancy schmancy ones) then obviously predicted grades are gonna have to be A* and As.

then comes grades, to get in once you’ve secured your offer.

but don’t be mistaken into thinking relevant subjects is the ultimate and only important thing. As i said, it depends, there is no one university and rules and concrete solution.

also, if your third subject isn’t too relevant, as long as you have your two required, you’re fine. remember your personal statement will be your opportunity to express why you want to do your subject. the subject you enjoy doing will make it easier to get better grades however.

so, check what other unis want for Marine Biology, if they all or mostly say Geography is ok, do psychology because you may enjoy it. you can always change to physics or anything in the first months of year 12.

just make sure you CAN change because i got stuck with an A-Level i tried to change but they rejected (Product Design).

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