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A levels or IB – the choice is yours

The Sixth Form at BGS offers students the choice of A levels or the IB Diploma. Both are highly respected qualifications in the UK and internationally, and either will prepare you well for the demands of undergraduate courses.

So how should you choose which one is right for you? There is lots of advice out there, but not all of it is accurate – we’re sharing 5 common misconceptions people have about A levels versus the IB to help you make the right choice for you.

"Universities prefer one over the other."​
It depends. What does that really mean? Research conducted by IBSCA in 2017 with university admissions officers gave mixed results:​

  • Suggested IB encourages the development of independent inquiry and intercultural skills.
  • Suggested A Levels develop in-depth subject expertise and good ability to cope with pressure.​
  • Both nurture communication skills and students on both pathways have a very similar propensity to complete their degrees.​

"It’s easier to get in with one over the other."
Incorrect. Universities set their typical entry requirements to show the level of prior-attainment required. These will be expressed in terms of a range of qualifications, and sometimes UCAS tariff points, (here's an example from the University of Birmingham)​.

"Because I do six subjects in IB, it doesn’t matter what I choose to study."
This isn't the case; regardless of which pathway you follow, several university courses will require certain subjects at A Level or IB HL so if you know what you want to do at uni, you will need to bear this in mind when choosing subjects, whether at A level or IB (for example, see the entry requirements for Biochemistry at Newcastle University)​.

"To study the most competitive courses, I should really do A Level."
Not true. Although you will study your three A level subjects in more depth, you are not at a disadvantage if you continue six subjects with the IB. Oxford and Cambridge accept both qualifications equally ​(for example, see this admissions requirements for this course at Oxford University).

"Studying IB will make it easier for me to go to university abroad."
Incorrect. While some international destinations may be more au fait with the IB, they will also set their entry requirements to consider a range of academic qualifications – just like with UK universities ​(this is from IE university, Spain).

So which should you choose? There is no right or wrong answer and it’s important to consider a range of factors. If you are targeting a specific pathway it is most likely you will need specific subjects and will need to consider this. If your future plans are less certain, then choose where you feel you will find enjoyment and success – the focus is about finding the right fit for you.

Need more advice? For more detail on the IB Diploma programme see our Sixth Form curriculum pages, or get in touch to arrange a chat with our IB coordinator, Mr Jarvis, or Head of Future Pathways, Mr Ruck.

Sixth Form Learning

The Sixth Form years at BGS are an exciting time, when the decisions you take begin to shape your future.

Sixth Form Life
Sixth Form Life

Find out more about life in BGS Sixth Form

How to Apply

Every year we welcome a large number of new students into our Sixth Form. It’s a warm and friendly community and you’ll quickly feel at home and become a part of the BGS family.