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While both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and A-Levels are two-year programmes recognised internationally by universities and employers, it is important to consider your strengths and interests when deciding which programme to pursue.

The following table briefly details the main differences between the two courses of study:

 A-LevelIB
Content-based Subjects3 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 HL subjects is approximately half that of SL 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 Subjects1. 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.
ScoringGrades 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.

Need advice regarding IB vs A-Level? Get in touch with Prep Zone's IB experts!

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Megan Y.

Megan Y.

Megan joined Prep Zone after completing her undergraduate studies at the National University of Singapore, where she majored in English Language. During her time in university, she tutored high school and primary level students in English. She firmly believes that building a good rapport with her students and utilising an engaging and direct approach is key in helping students learn and thrive.

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