There is no hard evidence to conclude that so-called "soft" A-levels, such as sociology and media studies, are any easier than their more traditional equivalents, according to a new study by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
The findings will do little to settle long-standing staffroom disputes over which subject is hardest, although the study did suggest some might be harder or simply marked more harshly - including modern foreign languages.
The QCA reached its conclusions after conducting four separate studies over four years.
The report says: "There is little evidence that the A-level subjects sometimes described as `soft' subjects are any less demanding than more established counterparts."
The study found psychology A-level was "technically demanding" and on a par with biology. But it also found the standard of work by media studies students at A and E grades was slightly worse than that of English and history candidates.
Sociology was found to be potentially demanding, because of the need to ground judgements in complex academic theory, but in practice a "lenient" marking scheme meant that candidates could gain marks simply through common sense.