Choosing the Right Curriculum: A Guide to the IBDP and A Levels
As an educational institution, we often get asked by international students and their families about the differences between an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) and the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level). Colloquially known as IBDP and A Levels respectively, both high school programmes are respected and recognised by universities globally – with some key differences.
According to recent statistics, the IBDP is becoming increasingly popular among students in Singapore and around the world, with the number of IB programmes offered worldwide increasing by 33.3% in just four years. This could be due in part to the fact that the IBDP is known for its holistic approach to education, which emphasises critical thinking and problem solving skills.
On the other hand, the A Levels programme is more subject-based and focuses on in-depth study and application of specific disciplines. It is particularly popular among students who have a clear idea of their career goals and want to specialise in a particular field.
When it comes to choosing the right curriculum, it is first important to carefully consider your strengths, interests, and future aspirations. In this blog, we will share more about the differences between the IBDP and A Levels programmes to help you make an informed decision.
What is the IBDP?
The IBDP is a two-year pre-university course which consists of six subject groups and a core component that includes a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, an extended essay, and Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) activities.
Widely recognised by universities worldwide and known for its high academic standards, the IBDP is designed to provide students with a well-rounded education.
What are the A Levels?
Also a pre-university course, the A Levels programme consists of academic and practical subjects. Students typically take three or four subjects, which are divided into two categories: H1 (more academically challenging) and H2 (less demanding). Examinations are taken at the end of the two-year programme and are used for university entrance and course placements.
The A Levels programme can be found in all the junior colleges in Singapore.
Key Differences Between Them
Although both programmes are highly regarded and can lead to success in higher education, they each have distinct characteristics that set them apart.
Scope of curriculum
One key difference between the two programmes is the scope of the curriculum. As a programme which requires students to take on a broad spectrum of activities and courses, the IBDP programme can be ideal for students who want an all-rounded education and enjoy exploring a variety of subjects. A Levels, on the other hand, typically allows students to focus only on a handful of subjects. This can provide a more in-depth understanding of a specific subject or group of subjects and can be ideal for students who have a clear idea of their future career path.
While the IBDP may be a challenge for students who prefer a more focused curriculum or who struggle with managing a heavy workload, the A Levels programme also may not be as comprehensive.
Assessment and grading system
Another difference between the two programmes is the assessment and grading system. The IBDP uses a standardised system of grading that is consistent across all subjects, with grades ranging from 1 to 7. A Levels, on the other hand, use a letter grading system, with grades ranging from A* to E.
In general, the IBDP's 7-point grading scale and requirement that students pass a certain number of subjects in order to earn the diploma may be seen as more holistic and well-rounded, as it takes into account a student's overall performance across a range of subjects.
Length of programme and examinations
Both the IBDP and A Levels are full-time programmes that involve a significant amount of coursework, independent study, and exam preparation. The IBDP is a two-year programme that culminates in a series of assessments and exams at the end of the second year. A Levels, on the other hand, are typically completed in two years, but some students may choose to extend their studies to three years. A Levels also involve a series of examinations at the end of the programme.
Choosing the Right Curriculum
For students who are interested in specialising in a particular subject and have a clear idea of their career goals, the A Level programme may be a good fit. However, it may not be the best choice for students who prefer a more wholesome education or who are still exploring their interests and future options.
The IBDP can be a good choice for these students as it offers several benefits:
Holistic approach: The IBDP takes a holistic approach to education, which means that it values the development of the whole person and encourages students to think critically and creatively.
Flexibility: The IBDP allows students to choose from a wide range of subjects, which means that they can tailor their studies to align with their interests and goals.
Recognition: The IBDP is widely recognised and respected by universities around the world, making it a solid foundation for further study.
Skills-based: The IBDP emphasises the development of important skills, such as critical thinking, independent research, and problem-solving, which are valued by universities and employers.
The International IB School Experience at Chatsworth
When deciding which programme is right for you, it is important to carefully consider your interests and goals, as well as your strengths and preferences in terms of the curriculum and assessment methods. It may also be helpful to speak with current or former students, teachers, and admission officers to get a better understanding of which one you should go for.
At Chatsworth International School, our students are offered the IB diploma. Our programme delivers a challenging and enriching experience that aims to develop our students not just in critical skills, but also their ability to communicate and work collaboratively.
In addition to academic subjects, students at our school also have the opportunity to participate in a range of extracurricular activities such as sports, music, and service learning – all designed to foster well-rounded personal development.
From attending nursery class in an international school to graduating from the IBDP, the journey at Chatsworth is a rewarding and fun-filled one, preparing students for success in university and beyond. Speak to us to learn more about our IBDP, or apply for an IB diploma scholarship today.