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IBac and Alevels

(31 Posts)
HappyNevertheless Sat 07-May-16 20:11:56

Very simply put, what is the difference between them and is there any interest to do one over the other?
Non British here and I'm struggling to sort out what is what and how things work.

lifeisunjust Sun 08-May-16 08:46:34

A quick google will answer your questions.
I work in a school offering both, IB students have virtually no spare time, but it is only recommended to those able to cope with the extra workload and better all-rounders.

HereIAm20 Sun 08-May-16 08:49:42

A levels are more in depth and if the student knows how they want to specialise in future (ie. for their career) it would mean they get a better grounding in specific subjects.

Noitsnotteatimeyet Sun 08-May-16 09:54:28

My eldest ds did IB last year - his school does both A-levels and IB and ds was struggling to make a decision on 3 or 4 subjects so opted for IB. It was full-on and there were times when we wondered if he'd made the right decision but he's a true all-rounder and enjoyed the global aspect of the curriculum. It didn't seem to affect his university applications - a few years ago IB candidates were given ridiculously high offers, equivalent to 4A**s, but most university admissions teams now are much more clued up about the equivalent A-level and IB grades - ds's offers ranged from equivalent to AAA and AAB. He ended up doing much better than his offers (much to his surprise!) He's finding first year at university fairly easy and thinks it was a better preparation for his course than A-levels would have been and he's able to keep up his language as well

IB would be completely wrong for ds2 who's much more oriented to STEM subjects and would rather have his arm chewed off by crocodiles than keep English going past GCSE hmm

cakeisalaystheanswer Sun 08-May-16 10:34:15

DS's school offer both and anyone doing anything which requires maths are advised to do A levels because it is very difficult to get the top grade for IB maths at higher level. If you don't need maths it as seen as a good option because maths studies is much easier. There Is a huge difference in the workload of the 6th form students and IB students are always telling the younger ones to do A levels! His school was 100% IB until 2 years ago but this has dropped to only 28% since they introduced A levels and this is despite being one of the best IB schools in the world with an average score of just under 42.

Also like Noitsnot's DS mine would rather die than ever have to analyse a poem again.

booklooker Sun 08-May-16 12:55:48

I teach IB Maths Higher Level, and it is far more demanding than A' Level maths (contray to what HereIam stated), so I would back up cake's response.

I would also like to observe that the students that have returned to visit the school whist at Uni have all stated that studying the IBDip has given them an advantage over other students in terms of time management and handling their workload. Not a single student has told me that they felt their IB courses lacked depth .

But it is not for the feint hearted, I personally would have made a right mess of it at age 18

lifeisunjust Sun 08-May-16 13:35:31

My son is doing 5 A2 levels and did 6 AS levels. I'm sure he'll also be well prepared for the lesser hours at university! Mind you one is general studies. I guess if you can take on 5 A levels, it's going to be similar in time to IB.

catslife Sun 08-May-16 14:55:31

Very few pupils take 5 A2 levels though and it is going to be much less likely once all the A level subjects are the new reformed qualifications.
Most subjects are divided into 2 different levels Higher and Standard and pupils need to take 2 subjects at Higher level. The Higher level subjects are covered in more depth. For Maths there are 3 levels Higher, Standard and Maths Studies but the final option wouldn't be suitable for STEM degree subjects.
The other argument for IB being less suitable for STEM degrees was that pupils can only take 2 Science subjects and Maths whereas under the 4 AS level system many pupils could take all 3 Sciences and Maths at AS level. However some schools are now restricting pupils to 3 subjects in Y12 so this disadvantage isn't going to be as significant.

cakeisalaystheanswer Sun 08-May-16 15:16:09

Catslife mean 3 at Higher level, 3 at standard hence why they can take 2 sciences and maths.
IB does work for medicine though as about 20 a year go from DS's school, it is not so good if you want to do Economics or something similar as for some Unis the requirement will be for maths only at A level ( not further maths) but IB Higher level maths at a grade 7 which is incredibly difficult to get, so A levels will be a much better route.
Why 5 A levels Lifeisunjust? I get that one is GS, but is one of the others Further Maths?

HappyNevertheless Sun 08-May-16 15:42:27

Thank you for the infos.

I can reassured life that I have indeed googled before posting but what Google doesn't really say is what you have been talking about, ie the depth of the subjects, the ability to organise yourself etc...

Does anyone know if the iBac is better accepted in other European countries compared to the A levels?

HappyNevertheless Sun 08-May-16 15:44:10

I'm also wondering what will be the difference with the new curriculum with the A levels.
Seen that the new curriculum is 'harder' does it mean the iBac will look 'easier'?

lifeisunjust Sun 08-May-16 16:42:30

I must admit, my son is cheating so slightly, he's doing A level French and he's a French speaker, it was hard to not add it on but wasn't on his original 4AS/3A2 choices, it's purely for UCAS points so he's less stressed with achieving in his real A levels. I tried to get the school to drop the GS but didn't win that one, so he does 5. Definitely not recommended to do 5 A levels, but it sure fills the timetable.

It's very much every country has a different take on university entry in the rest of the EU. In France and Belgium for example, if you turned up with A levels, the grades would be irrelevant except for medicine and engineering and the like, whereas next door in the Netherlands, they are more picky about who starts first year university. Each EU country has theoretically an equivalence system for those travelling across boarders and applying for university and jobs, where they register their EU qualifications and you get an "equivalence certificate". IB of course is going to be more familiar and qualification for recruiters than A levels, but again depends on how many schools in each EU country now uses IB.

For my children educated and previously educated in a country where Maths, Science, 2 national languages, religious studies, all these subjects are obligatory to age 18, plus where children do huge numbers of hours of homework if in academic streams of secondaries, IB would be easier for most than A levels, were either of these qualifications to be introduced into schools, simply down to the breadth of current curriculum and work levels. Not really the case in the UK, where children drop subjects age 14 and then age 16, A levels is a natural progression and IB is less natural for many.

I'd hope if there is the possibility of either at the same school, that the teachers could indicate the best of the 2 systems to follow age 16.

I wonder if UK universities made their offers on more than the usual 3 A level subjects only and not on total UCAS points, that more students would opt to take 4 A levels as standard rather than 3?

Noitsnotteatimeyet Sun 08-May-16 16:50:44

Very few universities make offers to A-level candidates on UCAS points - certainly none of the top ones do - they all specify particular grades for particular subjects. And with the IB even though most offers will give a total number of points, applicants will be told they need to get three 6s at higher level for example

catslife Mon 09-May-16 15:49:54

The other advantage of the IB is that if your dcs would like to go to university outside the UK, it is accepted in other countries. That includes the EU (would have to be English speaking course unless your dc is bilingual) and also other countries too. One of my former pupils ended up at University in Australia!
lifeisunjust Some unis don't count a MFL A level if you are a native speaker as these qualifications are designed for pupils taking the subject as a second language.

lifeisunjust Mon 09-May-16 16:13:14

There are tons of A level graduates at universities that I know of personally in Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany. I don't see A levels as a disadvantage for applying outside the UK, as it's quite a well known qualification.

There is no way of any university designating my son as a native speaker and none were particularly bothered about him doing French A level. It's all in his personal statement apparently (which I've never even seen).

Ricardian Mon 09-May-16 16:16:32

The other advantage of the IB is that if your dcs would like to go to university outside the UK, it is accepted in other countries.

Whereas A Levels aren't? Seriously? Could you point to one university which accepts the IB but doesn't accept A Levels?

bojorojo Mon 09-May-16 17:38:58

I think the other advantage of A levels is that they can be slanted towards subjects you are good at. Therefore if you wish to do History, English and Politics, you can. You do not have to worry about a science or maths if they are not strengths. Likewise people who do languages are less likely to do the IB because you may do French, Spanish and History A levels and that is more than sufficient to get a student into a top university. Sometimes finding time for music, drama and a bit of fun is a good idea.

I also think well organised intelligent students can adjust to university life and, as the vast majority of British students have A levels, I think if you asked a cohort of academic students with A levels if they managed the workload at university, they would also say they did. People always support their own choices and become evangical about it if they are a minority. However, the IB is not a good choice for all.

sendsummer Mon 09-May-16 17:42:43

I teach IB Maths Higher Level, and it is far more demanding than A' Level maths
There was a previous thread discussing this. From what I remember the conclusion was that only a small percentage get maximum points in IB higher maths level and therefore by that measure it is 'harder' than doing both maths and further maths A level. However doing the two A levels covers more maths content including advanced topics so that rather than IB higher maths is better preparation for maths based STEM subjects.

IB generally seems rather prescriptive in how it fills a student's timetable with less time for students who want to explore and read around their subjects (with the exception of the extended essay.)

catslife Mon 09-May-16 18:20:04

I never said that A levels aren't accepted in other countries that was another poster. In my experience though more pupils who have studied IB go to university abroad than those who have studied A levels.

Ricardian Mon 09-May-16 18:49:10

In my experience though more pupils who have studied IB go to university abroad than those who have studied A levels.

Do you think that might just be because the IB is overwhelmingly (a) private education and (b) international schools?

Needmoresleep Mon 09-May-16 19:28:41

From observation, central London parents who expect their children to go abroad for their tertiary education are attracted to schools that offer IB, as IB is seen as a better fit with more broad based European and American degrees. I don't think IB in itself encourages children to study abroad.

Again from observation but IB can be tough for less academic DC, who might be better off selecting A levels that play to their strengths.

HappyNevertheless Mon 09-May-16 19:32:37

Thank you all.

I'm quite inetrested with the idea that * IB is seen as a better fit with more broad based European and American degrees*.
Can anyone expand on that?

Or if you have a link to the previous thread on A levels and IBac? I don't want people having to repeat themselves again.

lifeisunjust Mon 09-May-16 19:48:33

The reality is that A levels and IB are accepted all over the world and the belief a university will favour one over the other is going to come down to individual countries and individual universities.

I live outside the UK, where I live, anyone who finishes secondary education anywhere in the EU or even further afield (with equivalencies verified) can go to university here, only a few courses such as medicine have further tests to pass to start. It's very naive for anyone to choose IB or A level thinking that it will be an advantage. It's far wiser to choose on an individual students breadth of potential, if they are in a situation of being able to choose between the 2 qualifications. It seems pondering over the choice for more than 10 minutes is overthinking this.

hayita Mon 09-May-16 19:56:21

Whereas next door in the Netherlands, they are more picky about who starts first year university.

Not true. Any Dutch student who has the appropriate VWO can start university; it is not allowed to select on the basis of grades for most courses. Foreign students can be selected on the basis of grades, but the grade requirements are pretty low.

BTW in France there is of course the huge distinction between universities and grandes ecoles. UK students would find it very hard to get into the latter, but only the second tier French students go to university rather than going through the prepa and ecoles route, so French universities would be a poor choice for bright UK students.

HappyNevertheless Mon 09-May-16 20:12:38

The thing is, in the UK, whether you have gone through les grandes ecoles or University doesn't make any difference.
Employers have no idea what the 'grandes ecoles' are and just equate it a degree...

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