DD is considering doing IB instead of A-levels

(34 Posts)
Themumsnot Thu 08-Nov-12 23:54:28

We have a sixth form options evening coming up so I would like some pros and cons from people who have experienced the IB.
I can see that it might work well for her as she is a true all-rounder who doesn't want to limit her choices so soon but I have a couple of concerns.
One is workload: with six subjects and an extended project it must surely be pretty intense.
The other is university offers as I have bee told anecotally that IB offers can be higher than the equivalent A-level offers.
There is also the issue that the only place where she can do IB is an hour and a half away by train, although our local FE college is so dire that quite a few people make the trek for A-level anyway. But three hours travelling a day is a lot, and the last train home is at 8.30 so she will be limited in extracurricular activities too.
But the main thing is for her to choose the right course. She is hardworking and ambitious, but not sure what direction to go in yet.

sashh Sat 27-Jul-13 11:02:52

There is coursework that takes a huge amount of time but most of the marks (most subjects) come from the exams. These take place in one block over 2 and half weeks at the end. There is nothing stopping an exam schedule (it varies each year) being morning and afternoon for a week solid.

But A Levels are going back to being terminal exams so A Levels could also be in a one week block.

IloveKatieHopkins Thu 25-Jul-13 16:18:05

The IB is way better than shitty A-Levels grin

Indyteach Tue 18-Dec-12 22:51:30

Hello. First ever post, so excuse me if I waver from standard chat routines. I teach IB diploma and A Level too. IB is excellent and A Levels can be too.

There's an important point that not all subjects equate directly to their A Level counterpart. For example many A Levels A* grades are roughly a 7, but Higher Maths is for serious mathematicians only. In other subjects, a 7 might even be easier than an A*.

The IB is hard work, but so is life. It may be easier to get into some courses at some universities with A Levels, but not all. The pattern varies within subjects and univerisities and is often oversimplified. For example, it's very hard to get into Maths at Cambridge with IB, as they want Maths and Further Maths and aren't really interested in anything else. But Maths at Oxford is arguably easier to get into with IB than A Levels.

You absolutely need to get the blinkers on and consider your child's needs and strengths, rather than anything else. If they are not all rounders and are fixed on a career in a field such as Engineering, then A Levels are right for them.

An important thing to consider is that A Level students apply with AS scores, rather than school-based predictions for IB students. This means that A Level students need to be on the ball immediately and cannot afford to slip up, whereas IB students could still get a high prediction to apply with even if they haven't excelled in the Lower Sixth, as the teacher can use their discretion and knowledge of the student to form their prediction. Anything less than all A's at AS at the same stage can close the door on many top universities. There is a myth that A Levels are easier, but I'm not so sure. IB may be more work, but not always harder work.

I had a student who missed their offer and insurance with 32 points, which is a modest score. They got their results at the beginning of July and were able to ring around and secure a Russell Group place in a very competitive subject before the A Level results were even out.

Just a few thoughts, sorry they are slightly rambling. IB and A Level are both strong and most able candidates will rise to the top either way.

Themumsnotroastingonanopenfire Mon 17-Dec-12 15:59:57

Well DD has now applied to the local college for A-levels and the further away college for IB as she still can't make up her mind. She is leaning towards IB though as she has talked to quite a few people from both colleges now and in general the one at the local college are far less positive about the experience.

complexnumber Mon 17-Dec-12 14:29:34

Just to confirm what had already been said on this thread a few times; the IB Dip. really is a better preparation for Uni.

Every year we have past students (normally those who left the previous summer) to come in and talk to our IB students about life after IB, and university life in general.

Year after year the message is clear, they feel they are streets ahead of other non-IB students when they arrive in terms of preparation for higher level education, study skills and time management (Regardless of where in the world they go to Uni).

Phineyj Sun 16-Dec-12 17:49:04

There are teenage boys in the classes I teach organised enough for IB - they just don't ostentatiously show off their colour coded ring binders like the girls! Put it this way though - when do you want your DS to get organised - now, while he's under your eye, or at university costing you 1000s a year? Also with IB the public exams aren't until Y13 so he has a little longer to get himself into good study habits. You will need to make sure he works on his Extended Essay during the 2013 summer holidays.

HappilyDeluded Sun 16-Dec-12 12:51:50

I too am facing the IB/A/PreU dilemma. Ds's school offers all 3 but the hard sell this year is definitely IB. He is definitely sold, but I have a couple of reservations: (1) because I "know" A Levels and feel comfortable with them and (2) the perennial question - is any teenage boy organised enough to do them!

However, I have been involved in graduate recruitment for a number of years and do look at 6th form qualifications as part of the mix. Too many applicants with uni 1sts/2.1s to meaningfully narrow down the selection - and it's not all that easy (or correct) to rank by uni either. And yes an IB does make me think differently about a candidate (there's often little to variance in A level results).

So looking at the long term, I will go with his enthusiasm and try to hold back on my concerns - but I'll be raising the question of "organisation" with his current teachers.

BiscuitCrumbsInBed Tue 20-Nov-12 23:03:40

I did the IB some 12 years ago at a local 6th form college. Just to query one comment from another poster, IIRC, you are not competing with other students in IB exams as they are marked against criteria rather than eg the top 10% getting a 7. May be worth checking this (IBO website may have info?) as it was a long time ago! All my comments may be out of date by now but FWIW:

It was very hard work and full on with CAS as well but I loved it and would recommend to anyone who is academically capable and an all rounder. I think it is arguably 'easier' for those inclined towards humanities subjects as there are 'easy' options for maths and science - maths studies (basically all statistics) and environmental systems.

I had an offer of 36 points from Oxford, worked about as hard as my brother who got 4 As at A level, and got 41 points.

IB is fantastic for making you think, pulling together different subjects, generally broadening your mind and giving you confidence, I felt pretty well prepared for the tutorial system. TOK in particular is a great bonus with students bringing their different experiences and interests to a philosophy type discussion. I loved it!

Phineyj Tue 20-Nov-12 22:45:09

I think 30-50 students is quite a small number and may restrict options, but it all depends which subjects your DD is interested in. It would mean small classes which is often good (obviously not so great for practical subjects like drama or sports science, for instance).

Regarding what Squeezedatbothends said, my (state) school's results stack up pretty well against the international competition. We have had students get the maximum number of points.

squeezedatbothends Tue 20-Nov-12 22:26:06

Consider a couple of things - she will be competing with some of the most wealthy students in the world who have been taught in classes of ten pupils, each with their own iMac and with lots of study support. The international IB schools in China for example are unbelievable. The IB starts when you are 6 with the PYP programme and continues through middle school with the MYP programme, both incorporating an educational philosophy which fosters independence, creativity and an engagement with global politics and culture. Those children, when they get to the higher levels of the IB are well prepared to be autonomous and often have the resources to really go to town with research projects. One child I know in a school in Geneva flew to south America to conduct their IB research after their parents set up interviews with senior politicians and diplomats! Having said that, it is a fantastic qualification. Your daughter will have to think globally, be aware that the other aspects of the course such as Theory of Knowledge are considered hugely important and will need to be very well motivated. I am always impressed when I meet IB students and they do well getting in to top unis as the high numbers at Harvard, Yale, The Sorbonne and Oxbridge testify.

Themumsnot Tue 13-Nov-12 21:56:43

OK. Well the open evening was not particularly useful as the college reps there were mobbed and only giving out the most general information (two of them to deal with 300-odd parents) but there is a college open day coming up soon that DD can go to with school. However she did manage to snaffle a photocopied booklet with a lots more info about the IB than the glossy prospectus contained. Results historically have been quite good, last year may have been a blip so that is comforting. DD is now very keen and so are a couple of her friends which would make the commute more bearable anyway. I am still worried about the Cambridge issue, but I do think DD is the kind of student the IB is made for. She is predicted at least 9A* at GCSE and although she works hard doesn't find the work particularly challenging, so I think she would be in a good position to cope.
PhineyJ - what would you call a reasonable number of students? I think there were only about 30 last year, but I understand there have been up to 50 in the past. Thank you for your suggestion of questions to ask. Right now she plans to take English, History and Chemistry at Higher and Maths, German and Pyschology at Standard but one would hope there would be a little flexibility on that.

Phineyj Tue 13-Nov-12 21:03:36

Oh, meant to say -- I find IB subjects vary a great deal as to how hard it is to get the higher grades, so choice needs to be made with care and the school quizzed about past outcomes in detail. It would be good to ask, for instance, how the school would deal with a Y12 student wanting to change options during the year because of either changed career ambitions or as a strategic decision to boost points at the end of Y13 (for instance students may embark on Higher Level Maths without realising it's very much harder than the A level courses).

Phineyj Tue 13-Nov-12 20:59:56

I teach at a school that is all-IB in sixth form and it does suit well-organised, independent learners (and those who can acquire those skills). I think it is is also good that students continue with Maths, English and a language - avenues in later life may open up with those (we had a scientist who moaned about the compulsory language - now she's at CERN it's coming in handy). Cambridge is a special case - Oxford is more realistic with points offers.

We have found that while points offers can be high, universities are more likely to take IB candidates who have missed their predictions than A level students - and the IB students have an advantage as their results come out earlier.

To me the major sales point is that it's a better preparation for university, and therefore, rather than having a massive adjustment to university-level study, IB students can enjoy their first year. Having said that, some of the features of IB -- academic rigour, public exams only at the end of the second year, restricted retakes etc were features of A levels when I took them...!

You should only consider schools with a reasonable number of IB students though, otherwise classes will be small, there may be a restricted range of options and as the poster above pointed out, staff may lack expertise.

I would have loved to do it at school, personally, as I could have carried on with a language and done Music as part of CAS rather than doing a stressful A level in it, when I only really wanted to play music.

Theas18 Mon 12-Nov-12 07:38:08

Oi! Don't diss A levels as a " soft option" yet again LOL. It purely depends of the courses taken and what else the child does at school and outside.

My "outsider" take on it is that and allrounder with a really good language aptitude is likely to do very well, but the levels expected may be higher than the equivalent A level grades for the same course at top unis.

The interesting observation I have is the co-ed local selective school that offers both IB and A levels started doing that when we looked around for DD1 (now 19) and she chose single sex selective mostly because of the uncertainties around IB (whether they'd drop the A levels , how it would be seen by uni etc) . 10yrs on that school still offers both choices, so it is very clear there isn't an "answer" for all kids.

Yes you can have a lazy time at A levels and do "OK" , but depends on subject choice and where your " OK" lies grade wise etc.

At the kids schools the A levels offered and chosen are all academically rigorous and things like AQA bacc/EPQ are pretty normal too in order to gain the self directed learning skills and offer " something extra" to unis.

A 90 minute commute for a 6th former would be a really difficult one and the school would have tyo offer her amazing things that would really e to her advantage. Basically she is exchanging much of her opportunities to do anything other than school for the IB. She will find a social life either at the new school or with her " home" friends hard and hobbies/music/sport/volunteering would really have little time .

complexnumber Mon 12-Nov-12 06:35:40

* I wouldn't contemplate sending one of our children to an establishment that averaged 33 points*

I think the global average is about 30 points. But there are several other factors that need considering, a major one being whether the school is selective or not.

I would not dismiss an average of 33 points without looking a little deeper into the background of the school.

marriedinwhite Mon 12-Nov-12 05:59:42

Actually two thoughts mumsnot. There may be less competition for university places with the ratcheting up of the fees. And something DS's school told us was that once at university the proportion of IB students taking a first is higher than for those who have done A'Levels.

To put things in perspective DS got 11 A*s (and an A - for maths which he hates but which is compulsory). He is on target for 40-42 points (fingers and toes crossed). That is at a leading IB provider - his school was top in the UK last year I think.

Themumsnot Mon 12-Nov-12 01:15:56

Thanks everyone. I am armed with a lot of questions for open evening tomorrow. I honestly don't know what to do for the best. She is bored at school at the moment, and wants to be doing something more interesting. She feels IB will be more intellectually challenging than A-levels and I can't disagree but I worry about the implications for university entrance.

marriedinwhite Sun 11-Nov-12 23:22:24

Our DS is in the U6 of a leading IB school which gets a very high point score but is also very selective. DS is not really an all rounder but opted to stay at the school he loves where he has been since he was 8. Interestingly they are reintroducing A'Levels from next year. We though DS would have been better doing A'Levels but didn't want to rock the status quo. He has had to work incredibly hard for the IB but appears on track to achieve over 40 points and expects to go to a leading university. The school liaises well with the universities.

TBH to succeed at the IB incredible teaching is required and an inside out knowledge of it by the staff. I wouldn't contemplate sending one of our children to an establishment that averaged 33 points. If your daughter can't do it at Sevenoaks or KCS or somewhere very similar I would go for A'Levels.

eatyourveg Sun 11-Nov-12 19:40:26

The very same question was posed in today's Sunday Times. Chris Woodhead recommended A levels if you knew what you wanted to do and IB if you were a good all rounder. Still think A levels make getting into uni easier and at the end of the day thats what (most) people want them for.

Dozer Fri 09-Nov-12 20:51:47

I do 1.5 hours commute for work, and it is awful, would not recommend for school-age pupil tbh, however good the course. A-levels can be broad too.

fraktion Fri 09-Nov-12 20:16:28

I would say IB is not for the lazy. I slacked and got 3 As at A-level, DH wouldn't have been allowed to slack that much (my MIL is fearsome) and did comparatively less well. I agree that it's sink or swim, you need to have a lot of internal motivation to do it along with a hefty dose of natural intelligence.

It's not my family who are clever (although we're not thick wink), just DH's. It's like wandering into a parallel universe where achievement is utterly standard and you're expected to have intellectual discussions over breakfast. I spend most of my time feeling utterly inadequate.

Themumsnot Fri 09-Nov-12 18:18:58

From what you say she would love the IB - independent thinking is her thing!

Themumsnot Fri 09-Nov-12 18:17:53

Thanks Complex. She finds GCSE maths relatively easy and is on target for an A*. Is there a big jump between GCSE and standard level IB - she probably wouldn't choose it as one of her higher subjects? She likes physics and chemistry too and would want to do one of those.

complexnumber Fri 09-Nov-12 17:03:03

The IB programme is quite 'sink or swim'. If successful, your DD will transform into a self-motivated independent learner who values her own personal achievments above the grades given to her by a teacher. She will develop a rounded view of the notion of 'knowledge' and its implications. She will understand what is meant by intellectual property and how to properly cite what is not her's.

Briefly, she will be streets ahead of her A' level peers during the first years of her degree.

I teach Higher Level maths, it's not an option to be taken by the nervous, but it is recognised around the world as a gateway into all mathematical, scientific, engineering or any other respected courses

basildonbond Fri 09-Nov-12 17:02:00

trying to make the same decision at the moment ...

ds very keen on IB - his school offers both A-levels and IB and is doing a very 'hard sell' on IB at the moment

he is very bright, but very lazy, which makes me wonder if it's the right route for him, however he's also a real all-rounder and actively wants to keep maths, a science and a language going even though he doesn't want to study any of them at university

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