IB or A-Levels: Which Is Best For Entrance Into Top Universities?

The debate regarding whether it is better to study A-Levels or the IB (International Baccalaureate) has been ongoing for some time. (You can learn more about the IB in our podcast here. 

The truth is, both programmes have their advantages and disadvantages. IB, for example, is an all-rounder programme that pushes the student to be more independent and self-sufficient. It is a good way to prepare a future university applicant for university-style study routine. It demonstrates to top universities that an applicant is capable of independent work on several topics simultaneously. If you are applying to a Russell Group university, for example, IB is a good way to prepare for that.

That said, IB is a lot more work than A-levels. Top UK universities such as Oxford, Cambridge or any other Russell Group university have certain minimum academic requirements for applicants. These entry requirements vary depending on the course. You can find out the exact requirements on each course’s individual page. For example, all Oxford courses are listed here.

It doesn’t take an education expert to spot that the standard offers at Oxford, Cambridge or other top British universities for International Baccalaureate are a lot higher than the A-Level equivalent. This raises the question – why put in more work when you don’t have to? The main difference between IB and the A-Level is that IB requires you to do a broader range of subjects and has a compulsory public service component in it whilst A-Level only has a requirement for three subjects.

IB is great news for the individual’s self-development and independence but it is, undeniably, more work compared to a set of A-Levels. IB diploma requires the student to take a minimum of six subjects while A-Level only asks for three.

Many UK and international schools are applying pressure on students to select IB. But when trying to answer the question, “Should I take the IB or A-Levels,” one should think about what kind of two years they want to have at the end of their schooling. If applying to a Russell Group university is the end goal, then there is no reason to overcomplicate your life. However, if the candidate wants to take a long term view, challenge themselves, and pick up new skills, then the IB makes a lot of sense. Standard university offers in the UK require a harder-to-get IB score than the equivalent in A-Levels. Why make your life harder without a good reason?