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A Level v IB: What is Best for Your Child?

by Antonina Kudrova | January 05, 2023

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A Level v IB? Choosing which curriculum to follow can seem like a daunting decision. Especially if your child goes to a school that offers both A Level and IB options.

Key Differences

At A Level, students study three or four chosen subjects. Whereas an IB student studies six subjects. This includes a compulsory programme consisting of the Theory of Knowledge, an Extended Essay and an evaluation of a student’s CAS (Creativity, Action and Service). To be awarded with a diploma, a student has to pass this programme as well as achieving good scores in their six subjects.

Each A Level subject tends to be not just specific in content but in the discipline of study, too. IB is broader and more interconnected. Therefore, A Level is often spoken about as having depth whereas IB has breadth. Still, to reduce the A Level v IB debate to a simple matter of depth v breadth does a disservice to both curricula and to what your child wants to achieve.

Despite IB’s increasing popularity, A Levels are still the standard curriculum of 6th Form education in the UK. Both are very much valid and internationally recognised forms of study with varying strengths. This should be consulted on a case by case basis considering what it is that your child needs.

Essentially, neither course is ‘better’ than the other. Many students succeed highly on A Level courses and IB courses. The choice is a personal one. Some parents want to know which curriculum universities prefer. The reality is that Universities will consider applicants from both programmes based on their individual ability, the suitability of their preparation for their chosen course and above all, their results.

Why Choose A Levels?

It’s a myth that IB is for the brightest and the best, whilst A Level is for everyone else. For instance, a talented mathematician looking to study maths or a related subject at university would be better suited to A Level. A Level would allow your child to explore a smaller range of fields in much greater depth which provides a more specialist approach. This is the perfect preparation for higher education. So, if your child plans to study maths or medicine at Oxford, A Levels – perhaps Maths, Further Maths and Physics for a student who particularly dislikes free-time – is still the best route there.

If there is a particular subject group your child wants to focus on, we would usually advise that A Levels is better suited to your child. While the challenge of IB might be gaining status and recognition. An avid reader wanting to study Literature at University might struggle expending their energy and efforts on the labour-intensive IB. The students that look forward to their A Levels are the ones that feel ready to specialise.

Why Choose IB?

IB demands either raw ability or grit, or both. It does not offer the choice that A Level does. It allows students to focus on a range of subjects but both maths and a language are compulsory.

IB can be suitable provided they are up to the workload. For example, a student that wants to focus on multiple new areas whilst still nurturing a strong maths ability. Weaker mathematicians can choose Maths Studies which is the easiest of the three IB Maths options. Students are able to start a language for the first time on an IB course if they did not excel in a second language previously.

IB promotes a philosophy of study that engages with knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Many of the students that study on an IB course advance to top universities. The work-load is demanding and it can overwhelm the wrong kind of student. However, it is ideal for a student wanting to target top universities. The Theory of Knowledge programme often encourages analytical and philosophical thinking. If your child ponders questions such as “What is science?” or “How can logic be applied?” then IB would be suitable for your child.

Struggling with the A Level v IB Decision or Selecting Subjects?

Our expert team will consider your child’s current qualifications and achievements, strengths and weaknesses, and future aspirations in depth to advise you on the best academic route – A Level or IB. We use cutting edge, data-powered assessments to predict which subjects you would receive the best results in. Our expert team have knowledge of university course subject requirements and preferences. Our experienced consultants can help you select the right subjects which fit your aptitude and plans for the future. Receiving the best grades you can in A Level exams (and predicted grades beforehand) is crucial for your university offer. Juno can provide support across multiple subjects and managing anxiety in an exam setting. Get in touch today and we will be more than happy to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your needs in detail.