Some of you may or may not know, but in a matter of weeks, I’m going to be studying Mathematics at the University of Liverpool. So super exciting, but also pretty scary since it’s been a little while since I’ve done actual maths. With Corna and all, my time at sixth form ended quite abruptly, so I never got to finish my courses. Saying that, I would like to think that I still have a lot of knowledge about the subjects I took for A-Level, one of which was Further Maths A-Level.
I feel like there is so much uncertainty surrounding Further Maths A-Level and there really shouldn’t be. So in this post, I’m going to talk all about Further Maths A-Level as well as Maths A-Level. Maths A-Level is super popular, it’s a great subject to do for versatile reasons, yet Further Maths A-Level is often overlooked. So I’m going to talk about both in this post to hopefully answer any questions people may have about the subjects.
Obviously, something to keep in mind, is that everyone measures things different, everyone is unique. What I might find hard, you might find easy and vice versa. I’m going to give my perspective of what Maths and Further Maths A-Level was like for me, but everyone has a different perspective.
Okay, so provide a bit of context, all through high school, maths was my favourite subject. I always knew that I was going to study it at a high level because I enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it too. Even if I didn’t do A-Levels, I was always going to study Maths A-Level, just in case I ever decided to take it further to degree level. However, I eventually decided to do my A-Levels and my high school’s sixth form.
I generally did pretty well in my GCSEs, getting a grade 9 in maths and an A* in further maths, so that definitely prompted me to study A-Levels, with maths being one of them. I then chose to study history, fine art, and economics alongside. Further Maths A-Level never really occurred to me as an A-Level option because I was never really made to feel as though I would be good at it. Although my grades said otherwise, I wasn’t pushed by my teachers to study it, and quite frankly, I chickened out.
When starting sixth form, the first couple of weeks seemed pretty steady to me. Except, I hated economics, mainly because the teacher was so boring, so I dropped it in the first week. After that, I was just doing maths, history, and fine art. They were all going really well, and I didn’t really feel this ‘huge jump’ everyone had told me to prepare for. Especially in maths. The stuff we were learning in my Maths A-Level lessons was basic GCSE stuff. Obviously it was to get everyone onto the same wavelength, but after learning at such a fast pace at GCSEs, I just started to feel like things were moving slowly. This was very personal to me, a lot of people were happy going at this pace, but I started feeling like there is more I could be doing.
So that’s when I started thinking Further Maths A-Level. Especially because one of my best friends recently moved into the further maths class due to other reasons, but I started feeling like it was actually achievable. Anyway, I spoke to my parents about it, they were cool with it. And so next day in school, I spoke to my deputy head and the further maths teachers, and all of them were on board. After a few dramatic changes to my timetable, I was now a Further Maths A-Level student.
Maths vs Further Maths
Obviously every school does Further Maths A-Level differently. In my sixth form, you either did Maths A-Level or Maths and Further Maths A-Level. The Maths A-Level students would have 12 lessons of maths over two weeks and the people doing Maths and Further Maths A-Level would have 18 lessons over the two weeks to study both the maths and further maths courses. Call it weird, but it worked in my school. It just meant that the people doing further maths were learning at a quicker pace.
The main difference I noticed with Maths and Further Maths A-Level was the class sizes. As I said earlier, most people take Maths A-Level, it’s a great subject to do, super versatile and universities love it. This meant that all the Maths A-Level classes were full with about 28 people per class. However, further maths was the polar opposite. Starting out we had 12 people in the class, 2 left, and 6 only did Further Maths at AS Level. Which gives a total of those of us doing Further Maths A-Level to 4. So very small classes. Definitely a huge plus because of the extra help you receive and it is definitely a big boost to make you interact more. I definitely found it intimidating at first, but it is all in your best interest.
The other big difference is obviously pace and difficulty. Further Maths A-Level is hard, but it is tolerable. It’s a big thing people get mixed up. Just because it is difficult in its content doesn’t mean it’s impossible. However, what makes it difficult is the pace it’s taught at. Although we had more classes, we were learning two subjects and so the lessons in further maths were more about getting the theory and content down, so outside of lessons you were expected to do the practicing, the past papers, and all else. However, with maths classes, you would learn the theory, bit by bit, and then spend a lot of lesson time doing the practice questions.
To put the pace into a bit of content. My Further Maths A-Level class finished the first year of Maths A-Level from September to December. Whereas the Maths A-Level classes finished the first year of Maths A-Level from September to May/June time. So that just highlights the significant change of pace when doing Further Maths A-Level.
Maths A-Level consists of three sections. Pure Maths, Mechanics and Statistics. Pure Maths is the main topic, contributing to 2/3s of the A-Level course. Further Maths A-Level is a little different. Everyone is required to do Core Pure Maths, but then you have lots of different options you can pick after that. Core Pure Maths is worth 1/2 of the whole A-Level and you pick two other options, each being worth 1/4. So in my case we did Further Statistics and Decision. Each school will be different depending on what the teachers are qualified to teach and what they think is easiest. But that is the general layout.
Maths A-Level is hard. You learn a lot of new methods and advanced calculations which you need to be able to execute perfectly. The thing with Maths A-Level is that, if your basic understanding isn’t strong, you will struggle to do the more advanced topics. If you did Further Maths GCSE, you will definitely find the transition to Maths A-Level much easier because the topics are repeated, so you will have a bit of a head start. But generally, with Maths A-Level, you need to have a really good foundation and a great understanding to do well.
Further Maths A-Level is also hard. Obviously, it is all relative. But you could be the smartest person in your school and you will still struggle. The thing with Further Maths is that you will ALWAYS find a topic that you find difficult or challenging. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get there, you’ve just got to work a bit harder. The topics are much more abstract and require you to think out of the box. You definitely need to think creatively for both Maths and Further Maths A-Level, it’s a given because the questions try to deceive and challenge you.
What makes Further Maths difficult though is the pace. Not the content itself necessarily. It’s hard but you can definitely get there, given the right amount of time. But it is the lack of time you have that makes it difficult. You need to be able to identify your strengths, your weaknesses, and apply your focus into the topics that need it.
I will also mention is that Further Maths makes your regular Maths A-Level content so much easier. What would be 5 marks in a Maths A-Level question would be 1 mark in a Further Maths exam. So you definitely get a lot quicker at difficult applications in Further Maths which means you can take that into your Maths A-Level, and it will be loads easier. You might not think that there is much overlap, but trust me. Further Maths A-Level definitely gets you better at Maths A-Level without even realising it.
Homework & Revision
Quite frankly, because Further Maths A-Level has a lot of content, you tend to not be given as much homework. Mainly because they expect you to be doing practice questions all the time anyway. However with Maths A-Level, they definitely expect a lot of homework and to a high standard too because of all the practice you’ve put into your lessons.
With revision though, it’s always difficult for maths because it is all about application. What I did, starting out, was making flashcards of all of the example questions, which I would then test myself on. This created the basic understanding I needed to then apply to questions. I would then do practice questions from the textbook, but topic to identify what I was good at and what I needed to practice more. Once I felt like my understanding was nice and even across all areas, I would then do practice papers. Then looking at what went wrong in those practice papers and going back to practice more within that topic. This was my method of revision for Maths and Further Maths A-Level. It was super effective for me, but do what works best for you.
What I will say is that don’t put a lot of time into your notes. Maybe jot down key information that you need to remember like formulas or values. But don’t make pretty notes instead of practicing questions. Your application is what is going to get you marks, so focus on hitting all of the mark scheme’s points.
Particularly doing 4 A-Levels, I found this hardest part of Further Maths. But it goes for all A-Levels, there is always something more you could be doing. With doing Maths and Further Maths, it’s all about prioritising. Getting the homework done first, then the practice questions, if you need it, and then onto the revision material. Personally, I probably should have done more work outside of lessons, but never mind. I would say though on average, I’d be spending between 4-8 hours a week on Maths and Further Maths combined. However, when exam season came around, I would be doing 3-4 hours a day. This would be filled with a range of things from making flashcards, to doing timed past papers, to reading mark schemes, to watching videos about each topic.
It’s definitely about finding a balance though and being good at making a priority of things. Especially when balancing Maths and Further Maths content, you will find yourself putting 99% of your time into Further Maths. Mainly because it’s difficult. But don’t let that panic you about your Maths content, because when you look back at it, you are going to find it so much easier, because of what you’ve been studying in Further Maths.
Answering your questions…
- Why did you switch to Further Maths A-Level in the first place?
Being completely honest, I just wanted more of a challenge. Although I was keeping up with Maths A-Level, I wanted something that was a little more fast-paced. It definitely isn’t that case for everyone, but because I was so interested in Maths and I enjoyed the subject, it felt like a good decision for me.
- Did Further Maths GCSE make it easier?
Yes definitely. I think if you took Further Maths GCSE then you should definitely do Further Maths, at least at AS Level. The transition from Further Maths GCSE to Maths A-Level, I found, was quite small and so unless you really struggled with the GCSE, you would find Further Maths AS Level challenging, but very achievable.
- Did everyone do Further Maths GCSE in your class?
No, not at all. The majority of us did, I can’t lie, but some didn’t and they still did amazing, I think they just found it more difficult in the beginning.
- What exam board did you do?
Edexcel for both Maths and Further Maths.
- Was it the hardest A-Level that you did?
At AS Level, definitely not. I really struggled with History A-Level in the beginning, so I found that much harder than Further Maths AS Level. But when it came to second year, Further Maths definitely did get a lot harder. Mainly because the content became more confusing and required more time.
- What is your biggest tip for revising Maths/ Further Maths?
Past papers and practice questions. It’s no good reading your notes and the theory if you can’t apply it to a question. It doesn’t matter how little you think you understand, until you sit a do practice questions, learning where you went wrong and what to fix for next time, you won’t do well.
- Is there a lot to remember for Maths/ Further Maths A-Level?
I wouldn’t say there is much for Maths A-Level. It’s mainly just some formulas that can be remembered quite easily. The methods definitely do take some practice for you to remember though. Further Maths definitely has a lot to remember. There are a lot more formulas and that formula booklet will become your best friend. And that isn’t even mentioning the applications you need to remember.
- Did Further Maths make Maths easier?
Yes, 100%. When it came to revising for my mocks at the end of year 12, I did very little revision for Maths which I was stressing about. But I did a few past papers, realised that it was easier than I thought, and ended up doing fine in the mock. The main difference I found was that the mark scheme was so much more generous.
- Why did you decide to study Maths at uni?
It seemed like the most sensible choice for me. To me, it is the subject that I not only enjoy but am also pretty good at. So it’s something that I know I will be motivated to study but also enjoy. It also has so many benefits when thinking about after Uni because of how versatile the subject is and how crucial it is to so many industries.
- Do you need Further Maths A-Level to study Maths at uni?
No. I have spoken to loads of people on my course and a lot of them didn’t do Further Maths A-Level. Because everyone did different things in Further Maths too, the university will be starting everyone off at the same level so no.
- How many people took Further Maths?
In my school, 10 of us did the AS Level exam but it would have been 4 of us doing the A-Level exam.
- What do you need in Maths GCSE to study Further Maths A-Level?
It will be different for every school but we needed a grade 8 to study Further Maths and a 7 to study Maths. I think…
- Who would you recommend Further Maths A-Level to?
Literally anyone who enjoys maths and the challenges it brings. If you enjoy the subject, you will be motivated to work hard for it. Obviously, if you’re good at it, know how to revise for it effective or did Further Maths GCSE, they are huge incentives too. But if you like Maths and want to be challenged, it’s a great subject to do.
- Do you have any regrets taking Further Maths A-Level?
Only that I didn’t do it when I first started year 12. I definitely let my own insecurities stop me in the beginning and I’m just glad that I bit the bullet. I also regret not finishing the course when we went into lockdown… but let’s not talk about that.
Okay so this is the longest blog post I think I’ve ever written and it’s taken me a solid two hours to do, so I really hope you enjoyed. If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments of DM me on Insta. Or if you have questions about my other A-Levels or Uni, let me know as well!
Lots of love,