IB or A Levels

IB vs A-Levels

The International Baccalaureate and A-Level are both higher secondary education or pre-university education certificates. Both systems are similar in terms of the medium of instruction, international recognition and examination style. These similarities form the foundation of the confusion that 16-year-olds face across the globe. But worry not! We are here to help you understand the differences so you can make an informed decision.
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A-Level consists of a minimum of three subjects that you must choose. Which subjects you choose is entirely up to you, but generally, students pick subjects that they will study later on in university. The number of subjects is also up to the student. In IB, you have a total of six subjects, one in each of the following; first language, second language, Mathematics, Humanities, Arts and Sciences. Not only this, but you also have to take a course named “Theory of Knowledge”, write a 4000-word essay, known as the Extended Essay, on a topic of your choice and participate in CAS which stands for Creativity, Action and Service (I’ll explain this in the next section). This is the fundamental differences in terms of subjects between the systems.

Extra-Curricular Activities

A-Level does not contain any mandatory component of participating in extra-curricular activities. Any such activity a student participates in is a personal choice. In contrast, IB’s CAS component requires that the student participates in activities that showcase the student’s capacity for non-academic work. The student must develop ideas for his/her project and then continuously monitor and document their progress. When the project is completed, the student needs proof that they have finished the project. The main objective of CAS is to try and create a wholesome personality in the student and it sure is effective.

No. Of Schools

Schools with A-Level programs are widespread across Pakistan but to have an IB Diploma taught at a school, you first need to be approved by the IB organization. You need to train the teachers and provide the infrastructure needed for completing the diploma, which is takes both time and financial resources. Due to this reason, there are only 29 IB World Schools in Pakistan. You can check the whole list here.

Examination Times

A-Level exams occur in the May/June window and the October/ November window. You get to choose the window in which you want to give the exams. IB, on the other hand, has exams in May if your world school is in the Northern Hemisphere and November if your world school is in the Southern Hemisphere. You have no choice in the IB system.

Scoring System

A-Level consists of grading expressed through letters ranging from A-E. One grade for each subject. The grade depends upon the percentage score achieved in the examination. Whereas the IB Diploma consists of a point system. There are 1-7 points for each subjects and 3 points for the Theory of Knowledge course and the Extended Essay combined. Out of a total of 45 points, the student needs a minimum of 24 points to get the IB Diploma. All-in-all this may seem very confusing, but IB and A-Level are both great education systems. Choose the system based on what you like to study and whether or not the various components suit you or not. If someone likes to participate in extra-curricular activities then IB should be your choice. Otherwise, if you like depth in terms of learning your subjects of choice and would not want mandatory extra-curricular activities then A-Level is your best bet. Here’s a summary of all the differences,
SubjectsSix + Theory of Knowledge + Extended Essay + CASThree or more
Extra-curricular ActivitiesMandatory with CASNot Mandatory
No. Of SchoolsTwenty-nine in totalNumerous; spread across the country
Examination TimesMay (Northern Hemisphere) and November (Southern Hemisphere)May/June window and October/ November window
Scoring SystemPoints system. 24 to pass out of a total of 45.Letter system. A-E based on percentage score in the exam