International Baccalaureate or A levels? 5 key points to consider

For relocating families already following the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, an IB school in the UK offers the perfect transition.   Leading IB schools in the UK include Sevenoaks and Oakham.  If you choosing between International Baccalaureate or A levels, read our tips below:

The key differences between IB and A Level

The IB offers a greater breadth of subjects.  It is divided into six groups: language, second language, individuals and societies, mathematics and computer science, experimental sciences and the arts.  In addition, pupils complete an extended essay, follow a Theory of Knowledge course (TOK) and participate in the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) programme, which encompasses sport, arts and community work.

Are you a specialist or an all-rounder?

This broad spread of the IB will suit pupils who don’t want to drop from 9 or 10 GCSE subjects down to 3 or 4 A level subjects.  So if you are an all-rounder, not a specialist, this will be best for you.  If, however, you are desperate to drop some of your GCSE subjects, perhaps Maths or French, and to study only three subjects in depth, then you are a specialist.  In this case, A levels are best for you

Weaknesses of both IB and A level

With the IB, all six subject groups must be completed.

The fundamental weakness of the IB is that one weaker subject can drag down an entire IB score. So a low result in an area of the curriculum that a student is not very interested in could have a poor impact.  Conversely, we could argue that the weakness of the A level is that it can mean students specialise too soon and regret this later.

Your free time 

The IB is much more time consuming.   Although most IB subjects are not studied in the same depth as A level, there are more of them.  Some students relish this extra time pressure but others would rather spend their time enjoying their hobbies such as drama, music or sport.

So perversely, the IB exam system designed to create a broader education can sometimes narrow down your free time.

 University options-  UK, US and Europe  

Both IB and A level are accepted in all UK and European universities.  It is true the European universities are more familiar with the IB as a qualification, but they also accept the A level.  US universities are also happy with both and have the additional entry test of the ACT or SAT which all applicants need to complete.

So which one is for you? If we go by UCAS statistics, the vast majority of schools and students are opting for the A-level. But there is no doubt also that the IB can be perfect for certain individuals: genuine all-rounders who enjoy the broader IB curriculum.  Our advice: think carefully about what would best suit you as an individual. Please contact us for expert support with applications to both IB and A level schools in London and throughout the UK.  

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