A-levels vs IB

(74 Posts)
lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 09:48:44

Hi, I'm interested in peoples views on A-levels and IB, which one do you prefer or think is better? I'm not really sure that I understand how the IB works and how the subject choice works (it's something like you choose from three categories?!) and the extras like critical thinking and the extended essay.

I would also like to know what the best schools are for A-levels and IB in your opinion?

Any views would be much appreciated : ) Thank you

LIZS Mon 19-Aug-13 09:53:20

Depends on the child tbh . ds is very Arts/Humanities biased so A levels would allow him to focus on his strengths and he'd struggle with the language and maths elements of IB whereas dd is more rounded and a natural linguist so could do either.

glaurung Mon 19-Aug-13 10:00:46

generally for scientists A levels are preferred, since IB is a bit too rounded for scientists making it difficult to do enough science. People often underestimate just how tough IB is, and this includes universities where the IB offers are sometimes a lot tougher to meet than A level ones (though this is supposed to be improving). Big plus for IB is that it's not being mucked around by Gove at the moment!

No idea about the best schools, but avoid IB schools without a track record for teaching it of a few years at least, there are often teething troubles when schools first switch over.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:02:25

Thanks LIZS do you think you could give me a bit of an insight into how the IB works?

turkeyboots Mon 19-Aug-13 10:05:06

I think the IB is better, offers a more rounded education. You do 6 subjects - 3 at a similar level to A level and 3 subsidiary subjects which are more like a v hard GCSE.

When I did it you had to do maths, English, a other language, social science (history etc) and science. Plus whatever else you wanted. These could be taken at which ever level was right for you and meant everyone finished with solid basic skills in maths and English. Also do an extended essay which is small independent research project in any of your higher level subjects and Theroy of Knowledge which is a basic philosophy course.

I think its a fab system and have made sure we live by a IB school for when DC are old enough.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:05:18

The IB sounds very appealing especially the fact that the government aren't messing with it! The only thing which is slightly worrying is that it isn't very good for Scientists

LIZS Mon 19-Aug-13 10:08:09

Not got direct experience of the Diploma level but they do more subjects for longer with a least one mfl and can choose different level papers to accrue points.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:11:35

Do you have to do a MFL if you do an IB Diploma? Also, can anyone give me some info on schools offering either IB or A-level or both?

LIZS Mon 19-Aug-13 10:14:05

Info here plus a schools search

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:26:49

Thanks LIZS that is really helpful smile glaurung and turkeyboots I'm interested on your views on how tough the IB is compared to A-levels? I was wondering whether doing A-levels along with an EPQ would be quite similar to the IB but enabling you to focus solely on the sciences for instance without the added extras of the IB.

My DD is quite set on being a doctor atm so would the IB be less suited to her than A-levels?

turkeyboots Mon 19-Aug-13 10:27:03

I'm a scientist and did IB, as did a pile of other working research scientists I know. The science courses may cover slightly less depth but that didn't hold any of us back. And the fact we couldn't drop out of the other subjects meant we got good degrees and jobs are we were taught to be good communicators - which is vital for science.
MFL was a requirement - but lowest level isn't hard.

turkeyboots Mon 19-Aug-13 10:29:47

Ooh medicine is different. As its ultra competitive I'd stick with A levels unless you are looking at a school with form for getting people into UK medical courses. It's a pity as doctors need to wider skill set IB requires I'd imagine.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:29:57

That's interesting to know turkeyboots, could I possibly ask what subjects you studied for the IB and what school/s you intend to send you DC's to?

complexnumber Mon 19-Aug-13 10:36:50

I have not taught A levels, but I have taught IB maths for over 8 years.

Having said that, I'll probably make a mistake when I try to describe it.

A student needs to choose 6 subjects that include:

A first language
A second language
A humanities subject
A science subject
A maths course

And another subject (maybe an arts subject, or a second science)

In addition to this, a student will have to complete an Extended Essay and a 'Theory of Knowledge' course (that's the critical thinking bit)

Some universities still do not fully appreciate the rigor involved, but they are getting better, you can now get into a good university to study an engineering degree with a grade 5 (out of 7) in Higher Level Maths whereas until recently, they would only look at a grade 6 or 7.

I do not know much about schools in the UK, so I am sorry I can not comment.

callamia Mon 19-Aug-13 10:39:10

I did IB about 15 years ago, and I really liked it. I also currently work as a scientist, and as a University Admissions Tutor.

I think it's still, sadly, true that some universities don't really understand IB scoring system, but good universities know exactly what they working with. Many will also listen to teachers if there's a special case (e.g. if someone is taking advanced maths at higher level), and they've made an 'unfair' offer. I've also recently reviewed the syllabus for one of the IB subjects for the IBO, and I was hugely impressed with how modern and clear it was (especially compared to A Level syllabi for the same subject).

The Extended Essay allows students to demonstrate their ability to think and work independently, and although this can be also done in the A Level Extended Project, not all schools/colleges support students doing this (and annoyingly, not all universities will include it in their consideration of an application/making an offer).

As far as I know, you can definitely apply for medicine if you take IB; you just need to make sure that the school can support taking those science subjects at Higher Level. I work with quite a few independent schools who only offer IB at sixth form, and I am sure that they're not disadvantaging their very ambitious students.

turkeyboots Mon 19-Aug-13 10:40:37

One of the local state 6th forms (Wootten Bassett) does the IB, now anyway DD is only in Y2! May well change as have a while to go. It's offered at a fair few state 6th forms now. Haven't looked up private schools but would do if there isn't local state provision.

JassyAlconleigh Mon 19-Aug-13 10:41:39

I did IB many decades ago, then read MFL at a Russell Group University.

I felt at a huge disadvantage compared to my peers who had done A levels as my knowledge of literature was restricted to mainly C20, and though I had more experience and cultural knowledge, I had huge gaps in reading.

Concentrating on six subjects instead of three, especially science and maths which I was totally disinterested in, was a waste of time for me.

For all-rounders it's probably ideal, but if your DC show signs of talent and interest in certain areas, A levels will give them depth and time to explore something they're passionate about.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:41:43

complexnumber, do you think that there is possibly too much breadth in the IB which means that when they go on to study their courses at uni they struggle a lot more than if they did A-levels. Do you know whether they study the same sort of things as A-level students do in Maths.

Also, if anyone has any views on possible schools which are amongst the top 100 schools academically I would be very interested smile

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 10:49:40

Very interesting to hear your views JassyAlconleigh a big contrast to callamia 's views. I'm interested to know if unis are becoming more understanding of the toughness of the IB Diploma and whether when you finish uni, employers will look at IB students with the same frame of mind as the A-level students or whether they will be at a disadvantage.

The IB seems to only of just been chosen by many schools in the UK over the recent years, Am I right thinking this?

Llareggub Mon 19-Aug-13 10:56:05

I did the IB at a state 6th form back in the early 90s. I did incredibly badly but my Russell Group university took me anyway and confirmed my place before the A Level results came out.

My HL subjects played to my strengths and my SL subjects were where I struggled. That said, the maths course was brilliant for me as I had a terrible experience of maths during my entire school career, and for the first time actually understood basic math theory.

I really enjoyed the ToK element, and the extended essay was great experience for university. Students also have to complete compulsory CAS, which comprises a certain number of hours in something Creative, Active and a Service. My cohort did most of this together and it was a great bonding experience.

leastsaidsoonestmended Mon 19-Aug-13 10:58:19

I think for medicine A levels would be the safer option as in our experience Universities are more comfortable with A levels, especially in science subjects where they seem to have concerns that IB doesn't have the same breadth as A levels.

IB is a fantastic qualification but universities expect much higher marks on what is a harder qualification than for A levels as they are more geared up for A level candidates and understand more what they are getting with them. This is what we were told by a couple of admissions tutors when we asked why there was a much higher requirement from IB candidates.

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 11:31:01

thanks for your views on what path to take regarding medicine leastsaidsoonestmended, I'm thinking that the A-level route for medicine might be the best bet although the IB is becoming very appealing but just possibly not suitable for DD1.

But then I look at Llareggub 's comment and I think that she would love that! Ohh the dilemas! If anyone else can shead some light and possibly give some ideas about schools smile

hotair Mon 19-Aug-13 11:36:05

IB is fine for medicine- I have loads of friends who did the IB and who are doctrors- out of the maybe 90 people who did the IB with me at least 30 are now drs....

lottie4576 Mon 19-Aug-13 11:40:32

hotair do you know what they studied as I would find that quite useful

complexnumber Mon 19-Aug-13 12:48:19

The Higher Level courses are possibly harder than A'level (HL maths is certainly harder that A'level.)

I would have seriously struggled with it as a teenager as it puts a huge expectation of time management, critical thinking and flexibility upon students. (I also 'teach' the ToK course, I love it!)

But then these are the skills they will need in Higher Education, all of the returning students I have spoken to have commented on how well prepared they are for independent learning and study compared to non-IB students (though I think the difference may diminish as their courses progress.)

It would not have been good for me, I wanted to drop languages and humanities as soon as I could. But I have seen it do tremendous things for a lot of young adults.

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