Which is harder: A Levels or a degree?

Lois King on 18 May 2021

Are you wondering how studying at university compares to studying at sixth form? Find out which is harder from students who have been there and done it.

What’s the difference between studying A Levels and studying for a university degree? Is one more stressful than the other? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Whether you’re studying at sixth form or university, it all depends on your subjects and how well you take to them. It also depends on your ability to juggle your time between studying and socialising. But, on the whole, students find university to be more fun and manageable than sixth form or college. Here’s why. 

1. You have more time to study at university 

At sixth form or college, you’re bombarded with lessons covering three or four subjects, with only an hour or two free periods a day. In contrast, at university, you’re likely to have a couple of hours of lectures and seminars, but the rest of the day is yours. Of course, this varies from course to course as more practical, science-based subjects have more class time, whereas the humanities tend to have around 10 hours of classes per week! Spend your time wisely - if it’s between a coffee break or preparing for a seminar, make sure to balance your time. 

2. You’re more passionate at university

Going to university means choosing a subject you love and enjoy learning about. Having removed the subjects you’re not as interested in, you can focus on what excites you. That means you’ll be ‘revising’ without realising it. Whether you’re reading the news, a book on the topic or chatting to your classmates about it, you’re still learning.

3. You’ll discover the joy of ‘Reading Week’

Instead of half-term breaks, universities allow time for dedicated ‘Reading Weeks’. These are weeks in the university calendar designed to catch up on all the work and revision you need to complete before the following week or term. You won’t have tutorials, lectures or seminars in these weeks, so you can truly make the most of your free time. Plus, these blissful weeks are in addition to the typical school holidays.

4. Your exams are all focused on the same subject

Revising for A Levels is tough when you’ve got four different subjects to cover. To make matters worse, it just so turns out that you’ve also got all of your exams within the same week. In contrast, at university you only study one subject. So, even when you’re revising for one exam or preparing for one essay, you’re technically putting in the work for your other modules, too!

5. Learning at university is more practical

At A Level you can get away with memorising your notes, but your degree will require you to use your knowledge and apply it practically. For some students, this might prove trickier than just memorising notes. However, it’s a great way to practise and is a better learning experience. What’s the point in knowing a language if you can’t speak it, or knowing about laws but not knowing how to apply them in various settings? At university, you truly learn how to hone your craft and prepare to use your skills after graduation. 

Although a degree is a higher level of study, for most students studying at university is not harder than studying for A Levels. The mode of learning can be vastly different, and so is the university lifestyle, so it takes some getting used to. However, with more time on your hands for a subject you’re passionate about, you learn skills throughout the degree that contribute to your final classification. 

How do you feel about the transition to university? Sign up to our Student Panel to let us know. Plus, we’ll give you a £10 Amazon voucher for signing up!

Lois King
Lois King on 18 May 2021