Is Physics Harder Than Chemistry? (With Student Quotes)

Whether physics is more difficult than chemistry is a subject of much discussion. Some claim that it’s more difficult since arithmetic is involved, while others contend that the complexity stems from quantum physics’ abstract character.

We’ll examine both arguments in this post to determine which has more merit. We’ll also examine how these two topics stack up against one another to determine whether they truly are as challenging as everyone claims.

I’m going to compare the two courses and explain why I believe physics to be more difficult than chemistry, and vice versa. I’ll contrast the challenges of studying physics and chemistry in high school, college, and graduate school.

Let’s begin!

Physics E=MC2 Mass Energy
Physics E=MC2 Mass Energy

Is Physics Harder Than Chemistry?

Physics is generally considered moderately harder than chemistry because it requires more math and can be more abstract. However, there are some people who believe that chemistry is actually harder than physics. Both statements are true because it depends on what education level you are talking about. 

Chemistry is considered more difficult than physics at the high school level. But once you get to the college and post-graduate levels, physics becomes more complex. The math required in physics involves more abstract concepts and is based on advanced calculus.

In high school, physics is about Newtonian mechanics. But college physics studies the abstract nature of quantum theory. Quantum mechanics is much more complex than classical mechanics.

Let’s start by looking at what makes up each subject.


  • It deals with matter, energy, space, time, forces, motion, and gravity.
  • It uses mathematics, logic, and experimental evidence.
  • It doesn’t generally require memorization of formulas and equations. That’s because the logic and reasoning of how and when to use formulas is difficult.
  • It covers everything from subatomic particles all the way up to black holes.
  • It includes concepts such as conservation of mass, momentum, energy, charge, spin, and angular momentum.


  • It deals primarily with atoms, molecules, chemical bonds, chemical reactions, and catalysts.
  • It uses math, logic, and experimentation.
  • It generally requires memorization of formulas or equations.
  • It is divided into four main branches: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and physical chemistry.

Physics and Chemistry Difficulty at Different Education Levels

So now that we know what makes up each subject, let’s look at the difficulty of studying them in high school, college, and graduate levels. 

Chemistry Periodic Table
Chemistry Periodic Table

High School Level

At the high school level, physics and chemistry courses are typically based on standardized assessments, such as A-levels, AP, and the IB system. The conclusion of each year is often when these exams are administered. Standard exams are provided to students, and they encompass the entire course syllabus.

In high school, the majority of pupils regard chemistry to be more challenging than physics. This is because it necessitates more memorizing. High school chemistry is incredibly difficult, especially if you are taking advanced subjects like Organic Chemistry. You must properly learn and memorize a number of principles.

Because physics does not rely on calculus and there are fewer topics to memorize, high school physics is simpler than high school chemistry. In contrast to high school chemistry, which is more abstract, the concepts are easily applied to everyday circumstances.

According to the College Board and 2021 AP Score Distribution in the Sciences, these are the percentages of students who got a passing grade of 3 or above in each subject: 

  • AP Biology – 59.2%
  • AP Chemistry – 51.3% 
  • AP Physics 1 – 42.1%
  • AP Physics 2 – 65.3%
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism – 69.5%
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics – 73.4%

Aside from AP Physics 1, AP Chemistry scores are lower, signifying that chemistry is harder to pass in high school. 

College and Graduate School Levels

I’ll combine these two because the university you go to will often affect the exact curriculum for each class. 

When getting your bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees, both subjects will be much more advanced than in high school. But once you past high school, physics classes become harder because it becomes more abstract.

The math involved in physics is much more complicated than in high school. It also involves a lot of abstraction. In addition, physics has more applications in everyday life. For example, you could study physics to learn about the laws of thermodynamics. Or you could study physics to help improve your understanding of electricity.

Tim Marcus, who has a Chemical Engineering degree from Stanford, told me about his experiences in college with both subjects. He says “Chemistry was easier to get a good grade because it was more about memorization. Physics was harder because you needed to also understand the underlying principles of what you memorized and how to apply them to problems.”

On the other side of the debate, Erik He, a Chemistry Major from Harvard University, says “chemistry is harder because of the extra work involved with chemistry classes. There’s more time spent in labs and compulsory classes. There’s also extra time spent reading over lectures, doing group work, preparing for labs, processing data, writing lab reports, and more.”

Physics Equations Formulations
Physics Equations Formulations

Why is Physics Hard?

Physics is challenging for people since it is highly mathematical and abstract. The principles are particularly tough to understand at first because they demand strong analytical abilities. But as you continue to study physics, you’ll begin to recognize the connections and patterns that exist among various ideas.

In addition to being a highly mathematical subject, physics calls for students to learn challenging equations and formulas. Using your prior knowledge to comprehend new material is the foundation of physics.

You frequently have to adapt your understanding of previously learned concepts to new circumstances when solving physics challenges. For instance, you should be able to use the concepts of Newtonian mechanics to comprehend what happens when two objects collide if you have studied that subject.

In physics, memorization won’t help you much. In order to forecast events, you must comprehend why things occur. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity are needed for this.

Read more What Makes Physics Hard.

Why is Chemistry Hard?

One of the hardest academic disciplines is chemistry, according to many people. Because of this, many people think that it is equally difficult as or even more so than physics.

Not all of chemistry is about remembering facts and formulas. It also involves improving your capacity for rational and critical thought. The fundamental ideas guiding chemical processes and reactions must be understood. You’ll have to conduct an analysis and make judgments. And to solve difficulties in the real world, you’ll need to put those skills to use.

Atoms and molecules are the subject of chemistry. The interaction of the chemical elements is the main subject of this text. The physical characteristics of materials and substances are another topic covered in chemistry.

Inorganic chemistry investigates elements without carbon, whereas organic chemistry deals with substances that contain carbon.

The area of chemistry known as biochemistry is concerned with life sciences such as molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, and microbiology.

Learn more about What Makes Chemistry Hard.

Chemistry Lab Group Project
Chemistry Lab Group Project

Is Physics the Hardest Science?

Physics is usually considered the hardest science because of the advanced math and abstract concepts involved. The other branches of science like biology, chemistry, astronomy, biochemistry, geology, and psychology are easier to learn compared to physics. 

Physics may seem like an easy subject to study because you just need to memorize formulas and equations. But if you think about it, there are many different kinds of physics. There is classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and general relativity.

Each of those fields requires its own set of formulas and equations. And each of them is very complex. Even though you might be familiar with Newtonian gravity, you still need to understand Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. You also need to understand the Standard Model of Particle Physics. That’s a lot of information to remember.

That’s why physics isn’t about memorizing formulas and equations as much as understanding how to use those tools to answer questions.

What is the Hardest Topic in Physics?

The most difficult subject to comprehend is quantum mechanics since it requires a strong background in both mathematics and physics. To properly understand quantum physics, which is a very difficult subject, takes a lot of time and effort.

The study of subatomic particles like electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, mesons, photons, and gluons is known as quantum mechanics. Only specialized equipment known as particle accelerators can be used to view these tiny particles since they are so small.

All matter is composed of minuscule particles known as elementary particles, according to the fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. There are three categories of elementary particles: fermions (like electrons), bosons (like photons), and force carriers.

Quantum mechanics also includes antiparticles in addition to these fundamental particles. For instance, the antimatter equivalent of an electron is a positron. They are similar in mass but have the opposite electric charge.

Is Physics Harder Than Calculus?

Calculus is easier than physics. Physics builds on a variety of mathematical topics, including calculus. In addition, physics makes use of partial derivatives, wave functions, potentials, vector spaces, tensors, differential equations, integral equations, linear algebra, probability, trigonometry, statistics, Fourier transforms, Fourier series, and Fourier analysis.

If you wish to go through more advanced physics, you must learn calculus because it serves as the underlying arithmetic for many of the more complex topics.

Math is only one aspect of physics. Additionally, science, engineering, and technology are discussed. You’ll need to comprehend ideas from the fields of thermodynamics, probability, statistics, and calculus. Any job route benefits greatly from a background in physics.

Which is Better Physics or Chemistry?

Physics is a moderately better subject to study because it can prepare you for a job in a wider variety of fields. Chemistry is a better choice if you want to become a chemist.

Physics majors have studied a lot more math and have developed strong critical reasoning and analytical skills. This makes them competitive candidates for many types of jobs.

Physics majors often go into engineering, computer science, and even finance careers. Chemistry majors have fewer choices due to their specialization.  

Physics vs Chemistry vs Biology – Which is Hardest?

Of the three sciences, biology is the most simple. The second-easiest science is chemistry. The most challenging of the three sciences is physics. The most complex arithmetic and abstract ideas are used in physics.

In order to solve problems in physics, one must comprehend the underlying principles, unlike in biology and chemistry, which require greater memory.

The most practical subject in terms of daily living is physics. Physics aids in our ability to construct things, communicate with one another, and comprehend how the world functions.

Physics vs Chemistry Final Thoughts

The exception being high school, when physics is more difficult than chemistry. The more you study physics, the more challenging it becomes. Once you get to college, the arithmetic is more challenging and sophisticated.

Consider physics if you want to major in a rigorous science that will provide you additional job-specific abilities. Consider studying biology if you want to work in science or medicine. Consider studying chemistry if you want to undertake research.

Learn more about these subjects and majors: 

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Written by:

Chris Wood
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University. I’ve been working as a Software Engineer for the past 5 years. While working in this field I’ve had the pleasure of developing software in a wide variety of industries. I look forward to using my experience in order to find a role where I can utilize my creativity and passion for solving complex software engineering problems.

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