How do we decide whether IB or A levels are the right choice for my daughter?

There are some key differences between the A Level and the IB Diploma qualifications although both lead equally well into higher education.

The IB Diploma requires students to take six subjects, (three at Higher Level and three at Standard level) for the full two years of sixth form study, giving students a broad academic profile and allowing their skills to develop over an extended period of time. There are no public examinations at the end of the lower sixth year.

In contrast to this, A level courses generally allow a narrower focus of academic study and students are now mostly examined at the end of their upper sixth years.

IB courses are designed to let the student develop their knowledge base and their critical abilities over a longer period, giving a chance for the student to mature before they are formally assessed. In addition, all IB courses have an element of coursework, which reduces the load on a student at final examinations. The IB Diploma also requires the student to complete an Extended Essay, a course in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and a range of creativity, action and service (CAS) alongside their individual subjects. This core of work is a vital element in the IB Diploma and universities have shown a particular interest in both the extended essay and theTOK components.

A level students may offer the Extended Project, a research assignment similar to the IB’s Extended Essay, alongside their key subjects.

Helping your daughter choose…

Before choosing between these two pathways, your daughter should not only consider which subjects she most enjoys and where her strengths lie, but also how she learns. Personal qualities such as being well-organized are also important considerations. The IB Diploma may give a little more flexibility if your daughter is not yet sure of her higher education path. She should also consider how her learning and personal skills will develop over two years.

The IB course is designed to offer breadth, coherence and to provide a holistic approach to education. It ensures a wide range of study and the opportunity to gain a greater awareness of other cultures and communities. The Extended Essay and the Theory of Knowledge components help to build research skills and critical thinking skills highly valued by universities.

The IB is not just for the most able as is thought by some. All 6 subjects have the same potential number of points available, whether they are studied at Higher or Standard level. Girls often feel encouraged by this as sometimes the standard level subjects are ones in which they might initially have felt less confident.

There is no doubt that girls have less “free time” if they study IB and the importance of being able to develop good time management and personal organization skills needs to be considered alongside the other factors when making one’s choice.

Making the decision about which course to follow needs to focus on the question, “What is the right course for me, given my interests, work habits and ability?” it is vital to consider all the aspects of each approach alongside one’s own personal strengths and interests.

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