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IB vs A levels

(17 Posts)
Nellyegg Sat 19-Feb-11 04:01:15

Hello there!

I'm new to the site so I hope I don't embarrass myself by doing something wrong. blush

I have inquiries regarding the IB program vs. A levels. My family and I are currently living in the states. My DD16 is currently doing "pre-IB classes" at her American high school (Year 10, 11 and sixth form) to start the IB next year in her "Junior" year (Year 12).

However, we're looking to move back to the UK for her sixth form.

She'd like to continue with the IB, but I'm concerned that it would be more difficult to gain admission to the school she's interested in. I've read that the requirements for IB tend to be higher than for A levels. She is an "A" student and will be likely looking at top schools.

I'm curious whether my worry is deserving or whether universities' high level of expectation for IB is true.

If this is true, would it be worth starting A levels next year or just continuing with the IB? She is accelerated a fair bit in math and is currently completing the first year of IB Math. Would she easily transition into A level maths of some sort? She is also only enrolled in her second year of German due to the weird American IB system. hmm However, I don't think she'd continue with German to A level.

Basically, I'd appreciate advice on which system to chose as well as suggested readings on the A level system which has changed a fair bit since when I went to school. ;)


SnapFrakkleAndPop Sat 19-Feb-11 05:28:28

The A* grade has considerably evened things out with offers compared to IB. A 7 is now recognised as an A* whereas before it seemed to be equated with an A, which led to inflated offers.

It very much depends what course or university she is aiming for and what her subject choices for IB would be.

What schools are you looking at? There aren't that many which offer IB - will she be day or boarding? Which area of the country? IMO it's better to go for A-levels if a school has offered the IBDP for fewer than 3 years as it typically requires a substantial shift in the thinking and teaching style.

empirestateofmind Sat 19-Feb-11 05:36:05

Others will be along I am sure who know more about this.

What I can say is that at my school we offer A levels alongside IB. The Higher IB maths course is a similar standard to A level maths, though the syllabus is very different. I don't know enough about other subjects to comment.

We are finding that if students apply for entry to UK universities the IB score requirement is more challenging than the A level points score being asked for. The feeling at our end is that UK universities don't understand how demanding the IB is.

However if your DD wants to apply to US universities or European ones the IB is a more readily recognised qualification.

So it all depends where she wants to apply to and whether she wants to keep her curriculum broad with IB or narrow it with A levels.

Nellyegg Sat 19-Feb-11 05:45:12

The two schools we are currently considering for IB are East Norfolk College and Notre Dame High School. Private is not an option for us without scholarships.

If my husband can be transferred quickly enough, we will be living around the Norfolk area. Else, we will be more than likely living where she can do the IB unless we chose A-levels.

She is interested in working in international relations when she is older and will probably go along the humanities (and maybe maths as its her skill?) route for IB HLs/A levels. She definitely wants to attend uni in the UK.

Do any of you have suggestions for state schools with established IB programs that aren't impossible to get into to? confused

nooka Sat 19-Feb-11 05:57:11

My nephew just took the IB and didn't do at all well, and has had to retake. He now has an unconditional offer at the course he wants though. He said he thought that the IB was harder than A levels but he was glad he had done it. Looking from the outside I suspect it may depend on whether you have a wide range of skills and interests or if you want to narrow down. Taking the IB may mean you have to go on doing things you are less good at whilst with A levels you can drop (for example) languages or maths.

Changing school systems is pretty disruptive so I'd be inclined to stay with the approach she is familiar with. Plus it will give her flexibility as to where she chooses to go for university.

Nellyegg Sat 19-Feb-11 06:25:31

DD is reasonably well-rounded. She achieves top grades in all classes, and I'm not sure she'd be able to easily pick her A level subjects. However, she definitely prefer to drop certain subjects. I think that part of A levels would appeal to her.

I'm not too concerned of her ability to adjust. She was in regular "honors" classes before this year of pre-IB, and it was definitely a transition. She managed to cope and is now excelllng.

I think it will come down to:

1) Are there established IB schools she could attend?

2) Which option will allow to get into the schools she wants to attend?

SnapFrakkleAndPop Sat 19-Feb-11 09:33:22

Given that she wants to go to uni in the UK and she's going to be going to a new school I would prioritise the school. If that school dies IB, great, but better be happy and do A-levels than be set on IB and unhappy.

I don't know either of those schools - maybe put a post in secondary ed with their names in the title to ask for opinions?

IB is good for IR though and you can take psychology or anthropology without it being seen as soft.

But much as I'm a huge fan of the IB, A-levels may be a safer bet for your DD. There are about 150 state schools in the UK offering IB, and maybe 2/3 of those are 'established', which makes it competitive to get in. Students from the local area will also be trying to transfer, some from a considerable distance away, so even living on the doorstep isn't a guarantee. It's not impossible but there's nowhere established which is easy to get into.

Greenwing Sat 19-Feb-11 11:02:23

If she has been 'accelerated' in Maths then she might be able to do 'Further Maths' A level - that means doing the normal Maths A level course in one year and then a higher level course in the Upper Sixth.

If she wants to attend uni in Britain then A levels will be fine and the most important thing if for you to concentrate on finding the best school for her in the area you will be living in - Best for her not just academically but in the other opportunities it offers.

Also, some independent schools offer generous bursaries and scholarship so there is no harm in asking.
Good luck to her.

muddleduck Thu 24-Feb-11 22:58:31

What is she thinking of studying at uni?

bleakofheart Sat 26-Feb-11 16:03:58

My DD chose IB over A levels, primarily as she hadn't a clue what her career path would be. The fact that the IB offers a broad choice for Uni candidates is it's ONLY benefit IME. Her final exam mark gave her the A level equivalent of AAB, but her score (33) was 2 points below what her chosen UNI course required.

Honestly? The IB currently in the UK is a huge amount of additional work with poor Uni recognition, and consequently a poor choice ATM. Given the time again DD would far rather have done A levels...the community aspect can be addressed throguh DofE, church groups etc.

If you DO opt to follow the IB route, be very sure your chosen college has run the course for a good few years, and has teachers who are well-versed in the course (not that it was any help to DD). Research course choices carefully; higher maths is extremely challenging, some 30% of DD's class had to drop back to standard in the first 6 months.

Bonsoir Sun 27-Feb-11 19:58:38

I think IB is a good option for very clever children who are good all rounders and don't want to apply to a university course with highly prescriptive examination requirement (eg Engineering, Physics). For Social Sciences degrees, the IB is great preparation.

It goes without saying that the school needs be chosen with care.

twopeople Fri 04-Mar-11 19:05:55

Message withdrawn

Jenmumof3 Thu 18-Aug-11 23:24:07

My son is desperate to go to a school where they teach the IB. He's dyslexic and I'm worried he won't cope. Not sure whether the school or the qualification is more important.... At A Level he was going to do politics, economics, drama and history but the IB only allows him to do one of those subjects and he has to keep on with maths and english .... not sure how to advise him ... anyone got any wisdom on this one? And also any thoughts on how to chose the IB subjects that are going to be least tough for him ....

Copper Fri 19-Aug-11 08:28:10

My ds is halfway through the IB, and is mildly dyslexic.
To give you some idea of the level of work required, he has been working for 3 hours a day all through the summer holidays on vacation homework. He still has to fit in another 50 hours of creativity and another 36 of voluntary work. IB can take over your life,and the Times Educational Supplement this week pointed out that universities don't rate it highly enough to make the level of effort worthwhile. I mean they give it lower points than it is really worth.
He will HAVE to do a foreign language. If he is not a science star, don't do a science as a higher subject. If he is not a maths star, see if they offer maths studies, instead of standard maths. It is work, work and more work.
A levels look like a lot less pressure and you can drop one after the first year. IB has a certain glamour when being looked at before starting but not much glamour when doing it, and it does not leave any time over for anything else.
You can't afford to fall behind at any point. It's 9-5 every day.

Copper Fri 19-Aug-11 08:30:37

It does teach you to plug away at things you don't like because you can't drop anything, and have to pass everything - but I think this is perhaps a lesson learned at too great a cost.

Copper Fri 19-Aug-11 08:34:44

Should have said 9-5 every day plus 2-3 hours at home ...

I do sound rather jaundiced, but I do worry about the pressure my ds is under on the IB. Lots of people drop out of it - if the school offers A levels as well, they may allow switching to A levels possibly up until the end of the first term? I think just under half switched in my ds's year. Didn't do their self esteem any good.

edinterest Sun 21-Aug-11 20:11:23

Is it not possible to US Advance Placement (AP) tests whilst you are still in the US? AP's can be used to to gain admission to UK universities. The list that recognises them is here
The results cycle for APs is also favourable, as in you wouldn't have the late August stress of waiting for exam results. As I understand it, they can be taken in the junior and senior year of high school. UK universities recognise APs over and above SATI/II. Although I note that they do not offer German as one of their foreign languages. Although if she can do AP's before you return to the UK, then doing German A level in the UK should be possible.

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