Recent research into higher education
outcomes has tended to put the IB in a better light than A-levels
A key decision for parents of students
heading into the sixth form is which route their child should take. While
A-levels are by far the most popular option, the most widespread alternative,
at both UK and international schools, is the International Baccalaureate(IB) diploma.A-level
students typically take three or four subjects which can be exclusively science
or the humanities.IB diploma students take six subjects, which must include a
mix of science and humanities, plus three other elements: theory of knowledge,
which looks at how we know what we know; creativity, activity, service, which
involves artistic, sporting and voluntary work, and an extended essay.
If students are looking to go into a
maths or science-related subject, the depth of study at A-level is genuinely
better than it would be at IBPaul Young, senior vice principal, Doha College
And while both routes are widely-accepted for entry into university, both have
Paul Young’s twin sons Jonathan and Michael are in the second year of A-levels
College in Qatar, where Mr Young is senior vice principal.
He said A-levels give his sons an opportunity to specialise, which they would
not get with the IB. While Michael is taking maths, further maths, physics and
history, Jonathan is studying maths, physics, biology and psychology.
“If students are looking to go into a maths or science-related subject, the
depth of study at A-level is genuinely better than it would be at IB,” Mr Young
Twins Michael and Jonathan Young are
taking A-levels at Doha College
A-levels may be a UK qualification, but they are accepted by universities
around the world.
"Many of our students go on to study at Oxford, Cambridge and other
Russell Group universities. However, a significant number will choose to study in the United States, Canada and South
Africa where A-levels are readily accepted," said Mr Young.
Paula Baptista’s son Gilles is also in his second year of sixth form, although
he is taking the IB diploma, at the British School of Brussels.
The school offers both A-levels and the IB, but Ms Baptista said the latter was
a better fit with her son’s interests.
“It was really suitable for the type of student Gilles is,” she said. “He is
happy to develop critical reasoning and wants to know why and how things happen
and to go deeply into every subject.”
The IB also offered Gilles the opportunity to study psychology and film and
meant he did not have to drop a second language, she added, while recognising extra-curricular
work. For the service element of his course, for example, he trained 10 and
11-year-olds in how to put on TEDx talks.
Although Gilles found himself with less free time than his friends taking
A-levels, he became more disciplined as a result, Ms Baptista said.
Recent research into higher education outcomes has tended to put the IB in a
good light. A study by Leeds University academics found that students who took
higher level maths at IB were more likely to get a first class degree than
those who took A-level maths.
Analysis by the Higher Education
Statistics Agency found that IB students were more likely to go to a top 20
ranked university than their A-level peers, more likely to get a first class
degree and more likely to go on to postgraduate study.