IB Maths Vs. A-Level Maths – Which One is Harder?

IB Maths Vs. A-Level Maths – Which One is Harder?

Maths is a subject that can be demanding for many students. It not only requires strong analytical skills but also an ability to handle complex concepts with ease. Students looking to further their mathematical understanding in the pre-university phase often face the question of whether to opt for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program or A-Level Maths.

Is IB maths harder than A-level maths? IB math HL is generally considered harder than A-level maths. IB Math HL is one of the most challenging high school math courses worldwide because it covers complex equations, abstract reasoning, and problem-solving techniques. In addition, IB questions usually focus on real-life scenarios, while IB Math SL covers all of AP Calculus AB’s content and additional IB-specific content.

Read on to explore the differences and similarities between IB maths and A-level maths and whether IB Maths is harder than A-level Maths and why. You might also enjoy reading: Comparing A-Level Maths and IB Math HL: Which one is right for you?

Key Differences And Similarities Between IB Maths and A-Level Maths

A-level Maths focuses on mastering the fundamentals of mathematics, including algebra, calculus, and trigonometry. IB Maths, on the other hand, is a more holistic course that covers a broader range of topics, such as statistics, probability, and discrete mathematics.

Another differences between the two programs is the way they are assessed. The A-level Maths exam consists of three separate papers, each testing a specific area of mathematics. In contrast, the IB Maths exams are divided into two papers, with Paper 1 focusing on algebra and geometry and Paper 2 focusing on calculus and statistics. Due to the wider range of topics covered in IB Maths, students may find the exams to be more challenging.

1- Curriculum

The IB Mathematics program is designed to challenge students with a broad spectrum of concepts, including calculus, statistics, and probability. The A-Level Mathematics program, on the other hand, is more focused and designed for those who have a specific interest in the field.

While both are challenging programs, the IB Mathematics curriculum is broader, and hence, more difficult.

2- Learning Approach

The learning approach in the IB Mathematics program is based on inquiry and discovery, which means students are encouraged to come to conclusions through critical thinking rather than just memorizing formulas.

In contrast, A-level mathematics requires more memorization and application of formulae, meaning this learning approach can prove more challenging for students who have not honed their analytical skills.

3- Examinations

The IB Mathematics program includes both internal and external assessments. Internal assessments include assignments, while external assessments are a mix of written exams and oral examinations.

A-level maths, on the other hand, mainly includes written examinations. The IB program includes a higher number of assessments, which ask for more critical analysis and can be more challenging than A-level maths exams.

Both IB and A-level programs and exams are designed to challenge students and push them to their limits.

4- Depth of Learning

The IB Mathematics program promotes a greater depth of learning where students are encouraged to explore mathematical concepts and understand them more deeply.

A-level maths, however, seeks to build a strong foundation that many students rely on for further studies or careers in maths-related fields. Both approaches are challenging but in different ways.

5- Time Management

Both programs require good time management skills. However, the IB Mathematics program requires students to manage their time effectively for internal assessments, extended essays, and other coursework assignments.

A-Level Maths mainly assesses students through final exams, where time management is crucial to answer the questions correctly.

Is IB Maths harder than A-level Maths?

Both programs have their own unique challenges, and the difficulty level will vary depending on the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning style.

  • If they want to focus on mastering the fundamentals of maths, A-level Maths may be the best choice.
  • However, if they are looking for a more holistic and creative approach, IB Maths could be the right fit.

One key actor that contributes to the difficulty of IB Maths is the internal assessments. In addition to the exams, IB Maths students are required to complete a series of internal assessments, which make up a significant portion of their final grade. These assessments are designed to be more creative and open-ended, requiring students to apply their mathematical knowledge in new and innovative ways, which can be a challenge for students who are used to more structured assessments.

Main Advantages of The IB Maths Program

One advantage of the IB maths program is that it encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills. IB Maths students are taught to approach problems from multiple angles and to think outside the box, which is in stark contrast to A-level maths, which can be very formulaic and focused on rote memorization.

As a result, IB maths students may be better equipped to handle real-world problems and challenges.

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In Conclusion

Both IB mathematics and A-level maths have different approaches and levels of difficulty. The IB Mathematics program provides a broader, more in-depth understanding of mathematics, while A-Level Maths seeks to build a strong foundation in the fundamentals of mathematics.

I encourage you to evaluate your strengths, willingness to work hard and choose the program that aligns with your learning style. The truth is to succeed in either program you will need hard work and dedication.


I am Altiné. I am the guy behind mathodics.com. When I am not teaching math, you can find me reading, running, biking, or doing anything that allows me to enjoy nature's beauty. I hope you find what you are looking for while visiting mathodics.com.

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