Deciding on the most difficult school subject is not straightforward, as different students struggle with different topics based on their skills, interests, and learning styles. However, some subjects like advanced math and science are generally considered more challenging than others.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Advanced math and science courses like calculus, physics, and chemistry are often cited as the most difficult high school and college subjects due to their conceptual complexity and volume of information to master.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the subjects that students and educators alike find most challenging and explain the key factors that contribute to their difficulty. We will also provide tips and resources to help you successfully tackle even the toughest coursework.

Why Math and Science Classes Are Often Considered the Hardest

When it comes to academics, math and science classes are often considered the most challenging subjects. There are several reasons why this is the case:

Complex abstract concepts

One of the main reasons why math and science classes are considered difficult is due to the complex and abstract nature of the concepts involved. Subjects like calculus, physics, and chemistry require students to understand and apply intricate theories and formulas.

These abstract concepts can be overwhelming for some students, leading to a perception that these subjects are the hardest.

Cumulative knowledge

Math and science classes often build upon previous knowledge, meaning that students need to have a solid foundation in order to grasp more advanced concepts. For example, in math, understanding algebra is crucial before moving on to trigonometry or calculus.

Similarly, in science, a comprehensive understanding of basic principles is necessary to comprehend complex theories. This cumulative nature of knowledge can make these subjects challenging for students who struggle to keep up with the pace of the curriculum.


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Problem-solving skills required

Math and science classes often require strong problem-solving skills. Students need to be able to analyze data, think critically, and apply logical reasoning to solve complex problems. These skills can take time to develop and require practice.

For students who may not naturally excel in problem-solving, these subjects can prove to be particularly difficult.

Volume of information

Math and science classes often involve a large amount of information to be learned and understood. Complex formulas, equations, and scientific theories can be overwhelming for students, especially when combined with the need for accuracy and attention to detail.

The sheer volume of information to be processed can make these subjects seem daunting.


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Common struggles and misconceptions

Many students struggle with math and science due to common misconceptions and difficulties. For instance, math anxiety is a well-documented phenomenon that can hinder a student’s ability to perform well in math classes.

Similarly, science classes may present challenges in understanding abstract concepts or conducting experiments. These common struggles can contribute to the perception that math and science are the hardest subjects.


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Other Notoriously Challenging High School Courses

Advanced literature and writing

One of the most challenging high school courses is advanced literature and writing. This course requires students to analyze complex literary works, delve into symbolism and themes, and write thoughtful and well-structured essays.

It pushes students to think critically and develop strong analytical skills. Students who take advanced literature and writing courses tend to have higher reading comprehension and writing skills compared to their peers.

Foreign languages

Learning a foreign language can be a daunting task for many high school students. From mastering grammar rules to memorizing vocabulary, foreign language courses require dedication and perseverance. Moreover, students need to develop listening and speaking skills, which can be challenging for those who are not exposed to the language on a regular basis.

However, the benefits of learning a foreign language are immense. It not only enhances cognitive abilities but also opens doors to new cultures and opportunities. According to a study conducted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, students who learn a foreign language perform better in other academic subjects and have improved problem-solving skills.


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AP and IB classes

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are renowned for their rigorous curriculum and high expectations. These courses are designed to provide college-level content and prepare students for the challenges of higher education.

AP and IB classes cover a wide range of subjects, including mathematics, sciences, humanities, and more. They require students to engage in in-depth research, critical thinking, and independent learning.

According to the College Board, students who successfully complete AP courses are more likely to graduate from college in four years and have higher GPAs compared to their peers.

The Most Difficult College Majors

Choosing a college major can be a challenging decision, especially when considering the level of difficulty each subject presents. While every major has its own unique set of challenges, there are certain fields of study that are notoriously known for being difficult.

Here are some of the most difficult college majors and why they are considered to be so:


Engineering is often regarded as one of the most difficult college majors. The rigorous coursework, heavy workload, and complex mathematical concepts make it a challenging field of study. Engineering students are required to excel in subjects such as calculus, physics, and mechanics.

Additionally, the practical applications and problem-solving skills required in engineering make it a demanding major. According to a study conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement, engineering students spend an average of 19 hours per week studying, making it one of the most time-consuming majors.


Physics is another challenging subject that requires a strong foundation in mathematics and critical thinking skills. The abstract concepts and complex theories in physics can be overwhelming for many students.

Understanding topics like quantum mechanics, relativity, and electromagnetism can be a daunting task. However, physics also offers a sense of wonder and curiosity about the fundamental laws of the universe. It is a major that requires perseverance and a deep passion for scientific exploration.


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Mathematics is often considered a difficult subject due to its abstract nature and the level of precision it demands. Math majors are required to have a solid understanding of advanced calculus, algebra, and mathematical proofs.

The ability to think logically, solve complex problems, and communicate mathematical ideas effectively are essential skills for math majors. However, the beauty of mathematics lies in its elegance and the satisfaction that comes with solving a challenging problem.

Computer Science

In today’s technology-driven world, computer science has become an increasingly popular major. However, it is also known for its difficulty. Computer science requires a strong foundation in mathematics and logical thinking.

Learning programming languages and algorithms can be challenging for many students. The field is constantly evolving, requiring computer science majors to stay updated with the latest advancements. Despite its difficulty, computer science offers excellent career opportunities and the chance to work on innovative projects.


Chemistry is a complex subject that involves understanding the composition, properties, and behavior of matter. It requires a solid foundation in mathematics, physics, and critical thinking. Chemistry majors are often required to conduct laboratory experiments and analyze data, which can be time-consuming and challenging.

However, chemistry offers a deep understanding of the world at the molecular level and the opportunity to contribute to advancements in medicine, materials science, and environmental studies.


Biology is a fascinating field of study that explores the diversity and complexity of life. However, it is also known for its challenging coursework and extensive memorization. Biology majors are required to understand complex concepts such as genetics, biochemistry, and physiology.

The field also requires practical skills, such as laboratory techniques and data analysis. Despite its difficulty, biology offers a wide range of career opportunities in fields such as medicine, research, and environmental science.

Factors That Contribute to a Subject’s Difficulty

When it comes to determining the hardest subject in school, several factors come into play. These factors can vary from one individual to another, as everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some common factors that contribute to a subject’s difficulty for many students.

Conceptual Complexity

One of the main factors that can make a subject difficult is its conceptual complexity. Some subjects, such as advanced mathematics or physics, require a deep understanding of abstract concepts and complex theories.

These subjects often involve intricate problem-solving techniques and require a high level of critical thinking. The complexity of these concepts can make it challenging for students to grasp and apply them effectively.

Cumulative Knowledge Required

Another factor that contributes to the difficulty of a subject is the cumulative knowledge required. Certain subjects, like history or foreign languages, often build upon previously learned information.

Students are expected to remember and apply knowledge from previous lessons or units to understand new concepts. This cumulative nature of the subject can make it challenging for students who struggle with retaining large amounts of information over time.

Volume of Content

The volume of content covered in a subject is another factor that can make it challenging. Some subjects, such as biology or literature, involve extensive reading and memorization of facts, theories, and literary works.

Students may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they need to absorb and retain. This can lead to difficulties in managing time effectively and comprehending all the material thoroughly.

Necessary Study Skills

Effective study skills are crucial for success in any subject. However, certain subjects may require specific study techniques or skills that students may not have developed yet. For example, subjects like chemistry or computer programming often involve problem-solving and analytical thinking.

Students who haven’t honed these skills may find it more difficult to grasp the subject matter and perform well.


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Quality of Instruction

The quality of instruction can also impact the difficulty level of a subject. A skilled and engaging teacher can make even the most challenging subject more accessible and interesting for students. On the other hand, a poorly taught subject can leave students feeling confused and unmotivated.

The teaching methods, resources, and support provided by the instructor play a significant role in determining the overall difficulty of a subject.

Understanding these factors can help students and educators identify the challenges they may face in different subjects. By recognizing the specific difficulties associated with each subject, appropriate strategies can be developed to support student learning and improve overall academic performance.

Tips for Mastering Challenging Subjects

Stay organized

One of the most important tips for mastering challenging subjects is to stay organized. This includes keeping track of assignments, deadlines, and important information. Creating a study schedule and sticking to it can also help you stay organized and ensure you allocate enough time to each subject.

By staying organized, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and better manage your workload.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re struggling with a challenging subject. It’s important to seek clarification and understand the material thoroughly. Asking questions not only helps you grasp difficult concepts but also shows your teachers that you are engaged and eager to learn.

Remember, there are no stupid questions, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Find a study group

Studying with others can be a great way to master challenging subjects. Joining a study group allows you to collaborate with classmates, share knowledge, and discuss difficult topics. Explaining concepts to others can also enhance your own understanding.

Additionally, studying in a group can provide motivation and support, making the learning process more enjoyable.

Get extra help when needed

If you’re struggling with a challenging subject, don’t hesitate to seek extra help. Many schools offer tutoring services or have teachers available for additional support. Taking advantage of these resources can make a significant difference in your understanding of the subject.

Additionally, online resources, such as educational websites and video tutorials, can provide additional explanations and practice materials.

Practice regularly

Regular practice is key to mastering any subject, especially challenging ones. Set aside dedicated time each day to review and practice what you’ve learned. This could involve solving problems, completing practice exercises, or revisiting difficult concepts.

Consistent practice not only reinforces your understanding but also helps you identify areas where you may need further improvement.

Don’t give up!

Lastly, it’s important to remember that mastering challenging subjects takes time and effort. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand something right away. Keep a positive mindset, stay motivated, and persevere.

Remember that even the most difficult subjects can be conquered with dedication and persistence. Believe in yourself and don’t give up!


In summary, advanced math and science courses are most frequently cited as the hardest subjects due to their abstract concepts, problem-solving requirements, and vast amounts of information to learn. Literature, foreign language, and accelerated classes also pose significant challenges for many students.

No matter the subject, adopting strong study habits, utilizing available resources, and persisting through difficulties can help you succeed.

While some subjects may come more easily than others, putting in the time and effort to truly master any challenging material is worthwhile. Developing these academic skills will serve you well in future endeavors, so don’t become discouraged.

With the right strategies and support, even the most difficult subjects can be conquered.

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