A-Levels vs GCSEs: What’s the Difference?

GCSE and A-levels are the two main important exams of one like. Both exams are important and will help you to get into good colleges and universities. They will also help you to get your favourite job role. However many students do not know what is the main difference between the exams.

Quick Takeaways

  • The main difference between both of them is that GCSEs are usually taken before taking up A-levels. GCSEs are the base for you to get prepare for your A-levels.
  • You will have to take 3 A-levels whereas you need to take up to 9 GCSEs.
  • Also, the pass rate for A-levels is generally higher than for the GCSEs. However, it does not mean that the A-levels are easier than the GCSEs.
  • Generally, you will be spending 2 years for A-levels and 5 years for GCSEs.

Further, you must read till the end as we have discussed the differences in detail for your better understanding.

A-Levels vs GCSEs: What's the Difference?

What is the difference between A-Levels And GCSEs?

Following are the points at which both GCSE and A-levels can be differentiated-

1. Time of Taken

GCSEs are taken at the time when you are around the age when you are of 11-16 years. They help the colleges to know which students to choose. At that time you are in year 11 and it will end in mid-late June. Whereas, if we talk about the A-level, it is the one which is taken between 16-18 years. A-levels will help you to enter your preferred university and your preferred job company.

2. Course content

Your GCSEs are the first step in your career and thus it is important for you to know their importance. Although you will be taking at least 10 GCSEs and 3-5 A-levels, you may think that GCSEs are tougher. But the reality is that GCSEs are way much easier than your A-levels. This is because your A-levels will involve much deeper content than your GCSE. You will be covering most of the content like GCSE but it’s an advanced version. Your GCSE is much easier than your A-levels. There are many easy GCSEs that you can take before your A-level. Though one thing that you must take care of is that if you are choosing the easiest A-levels and difficult GCSE then the course content may be of the same difficulty level.

A-Levels vs GCSEs: What's the Difference?

3. Amount of Work

The amount of work in both GCSE and A-level subjects is almost equal and thus GCSEs are hard in nature. If we talk about GCSE, you will be spending 25 hours of lessons per week in school. Most GCSEs will require almost no amount of self-study if you are taking your classes very seriously. Though for your A-levels you will be spending 13.5 hours of lessons per week. With it, you will need to spend 13.5 hours of your self-learning. This gives you a total of 27 hours which is just 2 hours more than the GCSEs.

4. Level of the exam

Now, this is one thing that will depend upon which subject you are taking your GCSE or A-level for. Suppose, if you are taking GCSE in Geography and A-level in Geography then of course the A-level will be much easier than the GCSE. Whereas if you take an A-level in English and GCSE in Further math (which gives you 1 GCSE) then your GCSE will be harder. It will also depend upon how many A-levels are you taking as taking up 3 A-levels will be equal to your 10 GCSEs.

A-Levels vs GCSEs: What's the Difference?

5. Pass rate

If we talk about the pass rates, it is quite surprising that the pass percentage of A-levels is quite higher when compared to the GCSE. The percentage rate for A-levels is 97.6% and for GCSEs is 66.9%. By seeing the pass rate you might get confused if A-levels are actually harder than GCSE or not. Well, the first reason is that the passing grade for A-level is A*-6 and for GCSE is A*-C which is quite higher than the A-level.

The second reason why the pass rate of A-level is higher is because of the choices of the students. The students who take A-levels, take them by their own choice. Though this is not necessary with the GCSEs. 

6. Your independent study

When you are taking up your GCSEs, you will get teachers who will be there for you to help you get a pass in it. Your GCSE result is due to your teachers. If you are studying a subject like GCSE maths, and want to have result faster, you must take it online. Thus in these exams, you will not need to do a lot of independent studies. But this is not a similar case for your A-levels.

During your A-levels, you will get both types of teachers helpful as well as those who will not be so determined towards your A-levels. At such times it is your duty and responsibility to take care of your grades. You will need to do a lot of independent study at such times. There are two years in completing the A-levels and you will have to do independent study for both years.

A-Levels vs GCSEs: What's the Difference?

7. Extra Help

The next difference is about where you can find extra study material for your exam. Your independent studies have a great impact on your exams. But to study independently it is important to have related material. You will find a lot of study material for both the GCSE and A-level online. Along with it, you will get a lot of textbooks that you will get to study. Though you can find A-level study material more easily as that are the exams that require a lot of independent studies. However, you must remember that you will have to study it for further education.

8. Time taken

Generally, GCSEs are the subjects that you will be studying for 5 years through your schools. Whereas, A-levels are generally taken for 2 years and you will have to study 3 different A-levels. This means that to complete your GCSEs you will need to spend extra time than you will be spending completing your A-levels. You can also retake this qualification at any age you want to.


Both GCSE and A-levels are tough exams. They are the base to enter your college and university respectively. Having good grades in your A-levels and GCSE also helps you to get your dream job as well. Though these are important exams there are various differences like the level of the exam, when they are taken, time completion, etc. Also, both exams are quite tough, however, it also depends upon which A-level you are choosing. Choosing tough A-levels will take your more independent study time than the easy ones and the same is the case for GCSEs.

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