Both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the A level are two-year programs catered for students aged 16 to 18.
In Singapore, students are more likely to pursue the A Level. In Singapore, 11,646 students took the A Level while 2,228 students took the IB.
While both the IB and A Level are recognised internationally by universities and employers, it is important to consider your strengths and interests when deciding which programme to pursue.
For A level, the final test accounts for the entire final grade that appears on the graduate’s certificates. This means that this final exam is the be-all and end-all for them. Their academic achievement during the school year, regardless of how good or bad, has no influence on the grades on their academic transcript.
Students taking the IB, on the other hand, need to be consistent in their internal assessments and extended essays in order to get a decent final mark. Apart from final exams, there are other coursework components that contribute to a student’s overall grade. These courseworks usually take many months to complete and require students to conduct their own independent research.
The following table briefly details the main differences between the two courses of study:
|Content-based Subjects||3 H2 + 1 H1 (curriculum time for H1 subjects is typically half that of H2 subjects)|
One subject must be from a contrasting discipline (e.g. arts students tend to choose mathematics, while science students choose economics).
Students can also take up to 2 H3 subjects, which allow for more in-depth study and advanced content exposure.
|3 HL + 3 SL (curriculum time for SL subjects is approximately 2/3 of HL subjects)
Students can choose from six subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts. You may opt to study an additional sciences, individuals and societies, or languages course instead of a course in the arts.
|Core Subjects||1. General Paper (GP) / Knowledge and Inquiry (KI)*|
GP aims to develop in students the ability to think critically, construct cogent arguments, and communicate their ideas using clear, accurate, and effective language; assessments include an essay and a reading comprehension task.
KI focuses on the nature of knowledge and its construction in areas of knowledge such as the sciences, the social sciences, mathematics, history, ethics, and aesthetics. In addition to carrying out an independent research project, students will sit for two written assessments, writing essays on both learned and unseen content.
*KI is read as a H2 subject and can be read as your contrasting subject
2. Project Work
Students work in groups and synthesise knowledge from various areas of learning, applying it critically and creatively to real-life situations. Groups must produce both a written report and an oral presentation.
3. Mother Tongue Language
Students who scored a passing grade in Higher Mother Tongue for O-Levels are exempt.
|1. Theory of Knowledge
Students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know. TOK is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay.
2. Extended Essay
An independent piece of research presented in a 4,000-word essay.
3. Creativity, Activity, and Service
While not formally assessed, students must participate in a range of activities in the areas of the arts, physical assertion, and voluntary work.
|Scoring||Grades are calculated on a lettered scale: A, B, C, D, and E are passing grades while S and U are failing grades.||Content-based subjects are graded on a scale of 1-7, with 7 being the highest score. The maximum score is 45, with 42 points secured across the six subjects and the remaining 3 points from TOK and EE.
Students must also undergo Internal Assessments, receiving grades from their teachers that are then moderated by the IB.
Read about the IB score guide here.
In general, the A Level syllabus requires students to have an in-depth understanding of their various subjects. Conversely, the IB places greater importance on understanding a broader range of subjects and leans more towards independent learning. If cumulative learning and coursework sound more appealing, selecting the IB route may be something you want to consider as A Level grades are determined primarily by a single final assessment.
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