British A Levels and the International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme (or IBDP) are two of the most popular study pathways for today’s teenagers around the world—so how can you decide which is right for your child?
A Levels and the IB Diploma are high-level courses for students in their last two years of school. Both qualifications are respected around the world and recognised the by top universities, from Oxford and Cambridge to the Ivy League. Now, with the world’s first fully online IB Diploma launching in September 2022, your child can study either option at a virtual school.
Since both qualifications are popular and esteemed choices, you’re not alone if you and your child are finding it hard to decide between the two. However, there are some key differences between the IB and A Levels that can determine which is the best fit.
If you’re struggling to make the decision, take a look at this handy guide and see which pathway suits your child best.
Why Choose the IB?
Studying the International Baccalaureate® Diploma online is perfect for students who want to continue learning across the academic spectrum. While most A Level students study three subjects, IB students study six—one from each of the IB subject groups:
GROUP 1: English language and literature
GROUP 2: Foreign languages (such as French and Spanish)
GROUP 3: Individuals and societies (such as humanities and Business)
GROUP 4: Wetenschappen (such as Biology and Chemistry)
GROUP 5: Wiskunde
GROUP 6: The arts
Students who have a specific aspiration in mind may choose to switch the arts for an additional subject from another group. Future linguists, for example, can study French en Spanish if they wish to. That said, overall, the IB offers learners a broader form of education than A Levels.
A global outlook is becoming increasingly important in today’s society, both in education and in the workplace. A study from The Global Mindset Index recently revealed that companies see more success when they think internationally. University admissions officers like Emily Tomlinson from the University of Cambridge, meanwhile, say that an international perspective is great preparation for the university learning environment.
When it comes to developing more international mindedness, the online IB Diploma is the perfect qualification. For one, all IB students must study a foreign language, preparing them to communicate with a global network of friends and colleagues. The IBDP curriculum also includes real-world topics from across the globe. For example, students may learn about sickle cell anaemia in African countries when studying genetics in IB Biology.
Plus, studying the IB online adds an extra layer of global thinking to your child’s education. Students at online schools learn alongside classmates from all over the world, each one sharing their own unique cultural and environmental perspectives in lessons.
Alongside studying six subjects, IB learners also take the DP core unit. The DP core includes three courses:
Theory of knowledge – learning how we know what we know
Creativity, activity, service – participating in artistic, physical, and volunteer activities
Extended essay – an independent research project
The extended essay is great for students who want to take a more independent approach to their education before reaching university. Learners can choose to research any topic that interests them as long as it relates to one of their chosen IB subjects. Themes have ranged from studying hip-hop as a form of youth resistance to researching plants as an architectural tool.
Students do complete their extended essay under the guidance of a teacher, but they’ll get to formulate, write, and refine their paper independently throughout the year.
Why Choose A Levels?
If your child is excited to specialise in their favourite subject at degree level, they may want to start early with online A Levels. Since most students only take three to four A Levels, they can drill down and focus on the fields of academia they enjoy the most. According to the University Admissions Officers Report, officers agree that A Levels excel at “developing in-depth subject expertise."
Got a future doctor on your hands? They can specialise with A Level Chemistry, Biology, and another STEM subject such as Maths. If your child sees themselves as the next world leader, they can start their governmental foundations early with A Levels in Politics, Economics, and Law.
Many students also prefer A Levels because they offer more freedom of choice than the IBDP. Just as with the IB, there are A Level courses to choose from across languages, humanities, sciences, and more. However, unlike the IB, A Level students don’t have to choose one subject from each field.
If your child struggles with languages, for example, they don’t need to take an A Level in French or Spanish. If they’re more into natural sciences than social sciences, they won’t have to opt for a subject like Sociology that doesn’t pique their interest.
Across the board, online schooling is one of the most flexible and tailored ways to learn. With lesson recordings, for example, students are free to fit their IB or A Level studies around outside commitments like sports and acting. Plus, your family can join an online school from anywhere in the world, giving you freedom to travel and move around at will.
That being said, it’s important to note that the International Baccalaureate® Diploma is known for its rigour. Both A Levels and the IB require independent study as well as classes, but the IB involves more teaching hours, leaving a little less time for pursuits outside of school.
As such, if your child wants as much free time as possible to pursue other activities, they may want to choose online A Levels.
As the UK’s leading online school, King’s InterHigh has long been a top choice for studying A Levels virtually. Now, King’s InterHigh is also the world’s first school to offer the IB Diploma Programme fully online. With over 16 years of experience in online schooling and the extensive expertise of Inspired Education Group, King’s InterHigh brings students stellar learning with expert teachers, innovative tech, and flexible school-life balance. Learn more on the King’s InterHigh website.