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A Levels vs IB. Which high school curricula is best for your child
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A Levels vs IB: What is best for your child?

If your child goes to a school that offers both IB and A Level, choosing which curriculum to follow can seem like a daunting decision. Some of the questions parents often ask us are addressed below, as it can naturally seem like an impossibly difficult choice for your child.

Key differences

To break down some of the key differences for you: At A Level, students study three or four chosen subjects, whereas an IB student studies six subjects and 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 IB vs A Level debate to a simple matter of breadth vs. depth does a disservice to both curricula and even more so to whatever it is your child wants to achieve. Despite IB’s increasing popularity, A Levels are still the standard curriculum of 6th Form education in the UK. So, it is fair to say that both are very much valid, internationally recognised forms of study with varying strengths that 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 and many students succeed highly on A Level courses and IB courses. The choice is a personal one. While some parents might want to know which curriculum it is that 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, providing a more specialist approach; 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?

So who should choose IB? IB demands either raw ability or grit or both. While not offering the choice that A Level does, it allows students to focus on a range of subjects but making compulsory both maths and a language. For a student that wants to focus on multiple new areas whilst still nurturing a strong maths ability, IB can be suitable supposing they are up to the workload.  

Weaker mathematicians can choose Maths Studies which is the easiest of the three IB Maths options. Students who might not have excelled in a second language previously can start one for the first time on an IB course. 

IB promotes a philosophy of study that engages with knowledge for knowledge’s sake and all whilst dispatching many of the students that study on an IB course to top universities. The work-load is demanding and for the wrong kind of student, could leave them overwhelmed. But for a student wanting to target top universities, whilst also pondering questions like ‘what is science?’ or ‘how can logic be applied?’ – The Theory of Knowledge programme often encourages analytical and philosophical thinking – then IB would be suitable for your child. 

Struggling with choosing between A Level and IB or selecting subjects?

By considering your child’s current qualifications and achievements, strengths and weaknesses, and future aspirations in depth, our experts will advise you and your child on the best academic route: A Level or IB.

We use cutting edge, data-driven assessments to predict which subjects your child would receive the best results in. Combined with our knowledge of university course subject requirements and preferences, our experienced consultants can help your child select the right subjects which fit your aptitude and plans for the future.

Get in touch today, we will be more than happy to set up a free consultation to discuss your child’s needs in detail.