Which Course is Right for You: A-Levels or IB?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) and A-Levels are two of the most popular qualifications for students looking to pursue higher education. But which one is right for you? It depends on what kind of student you are and what goals you have. Generally speaking, the IB will take longer than the A-levels, and A-level mathematics is more difficult than IB mathematics. To receive the full IB Diploma (IBDP) award, students must successfully complete six subjects, three at the higher level and three at the standard level.

This includes two modern languages, a subject of humanities or social sciences, an experimental science, mathematics or computer science, and another subject that includes the arts. In addition, they complete a two-year course called Theory of Knowledge (ToC), write an extended essay, and participate in Creativity, Action and Service (CAS). A Levels focus on three or four academic subjects, which are studied in depth. There are no compulsory subjects and schools can offer a choice of more than 50 different subjects in any combination.

They are studied over two years, which includes year AS (year 1) and year A2 (year 1). You can study a subject for one year to reach an AS level, or for two years to work towards an A level. If you study an international A level, AS qualifications can be transferred to a full A level in most subjects; this is not the case for GCE level A in the UK, where AS grades no longer count towards a Level A grade. In addition, some schools offer Extended Project Rating (EPQ), along with A-Levels.

As in the expanded IB essay, the EPQ involves choosing a topic, conducting research, writing a 5,000-word dissertation, and giving a 10-minute presentation. University admissions officers around the world don't favor one grade over the other; both degrees are accepted by universities around the world. However, American universities have a better understanding of IBDP, and A-levels are the benchmark by which most universities in the UK set their course access requirements. The IB program also includes an academic core, which consists of a subject called Theory of Knowledge (ToC), an Extended Essay (EE) and CAS (which stands for Creativity, Action and Service, and encourages students to do extracurricular activities). Increasingly, the IB organization is striving to provide a general framework for children aged 11 to 19. There are five full IB schools offering all three programs, including the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) and the IB Middle Years Program (MYP), and the (IBDP).

If you don't necessarily want to go to a university in the UK, the IB is probably the best option. The main options are schools offering the UK curriculum, IGCSE and A or IBDP; schools on the IB continuum offering all three programmes; and schools offering PEP, IGCSE and IBDP. The beauty of the IBDP is that it covers all of these aspects and offers credit for them based on clearly established criteria for achieving success in earning the diploma. The results are published in July and January respectively. If you receive your results in July, you will receive confirmation of your university place well in advance of A Level students; if you need to go through the UK compensation system, you have extra time to plan it. In terms of exams alone, the APs were only a little easier compared to the IB exams, but the A-level and IB exams for STEM SN were quite similar, with A-levels more academically rigorous in a few and IB exams in the other.

Whether at the IB or A level, additional support is a way to position yourself in the best possible position for success. Believe me, I've looked at the A-level mathematics curriculum and literally everything in it is covered in the first year of Further Maths IB. While A-levels have their own difficulties, the extra hours needed to complete the IB really take their toll.

Lucy Tittle
Lucy Tittle

"Lucy Tittle is a seasoned marketing professional and online tutor, recognised for her expertise in driving marketing success across diverse industries. She holds a Master of Arts (MA) in Art History from the University of St. Andrews, where she actively contributed as an art and photography editor for The Tribe Magazine, among other notable roles. Lucy's educational journey also includes A-Levels from Caterham School.With a passion for both education and marketing, Lucy has built a remarkable career. She currently serves as a key member of the Senior Team at The Profs. Additionally, Lucy has held significant roles at The Progressive Technology Centre, Vardags, Dukes Education, and easyCar.com. Prior to that Lucy was a professional Tutor, working with Secondary School age students following 11+, GCSE, IB and A-level courses. "

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