For those of you out there studying A levels, consider yourself lucky to have lots of spare time and fewer pressures that come with studying only 3 or 4 subjects. Don’t even try to argue that A level is just as hard as IB – it’s not.
I meet a lot of A level students who don’t understand the International Baccalaureate (IB). The two qualifications lead to a completely different sixth form experience: we seem to be from two completely different worlds when it comes to studying.
This is not going to be a fun post. Sorry.
IB Diploma Programme
From the above diagram, throughout our 2 years of IB, we have to:
- Study 6 subjects
- Write an Extended Essay (EE, like a compulsory Extended Project Qualification)
- Do a Theory of Knowledge (ToK) essay and presentation (basically philosophy/critical thinking on how we know things)
- Complete CAS (short for creativity, action, service: all of the things you have to do for DofE except for the expedition. Although they’re not graded, you still need to input evidence and sign them off, else you fail).
Each of the 6 subjects must be chosen from the following categories, like GCSE.
- Humanities (‘individuals and societies’)
- Foreign language (‘language acquisition’)
- English (or your native language)
- Either another one from above or a Creative (‘arts’) – which is very unfair for artists because it treats creative subjects as ‘not compulsory’.
However, these 6 subjects are not created equal. You can choose to study 3 of your chosen subjects at Higher Level and the other 3 at Standard Level: your HL subjects will be just as in-depth, if not more so, than their A level counterparts, and you’ll be spending a lot of your time studying them.
Choose HL subjects that you’re good at and also that you enjoy (although I can’t guarantee that you’ll still enjoy them afterwards).
Your SL subjects should be subjects you find easy because you will need the points and you’ll be so busy studying your highers that you won’t want to spend that much time on your standards (unless you definitely need that particular subject, like maths standard, for university). If you can’t think of subjects that you will find easy, do A level so you can just focus on 3 subjects.
The points work like grade boundaries so for each subject, your performance is graded out of 7. if you get like 85% in maths you get a 7 etc. This is only for actual subjects (like maths, physics, etc.) so 7 is sort of equivalent to A*.
You automatically fail your entire IB if you get below a 3 in HL or 2 in SL, or if you don’t complete your CAS (which isn’t graded, as explained above).
Since we only do 6 subjects and 6 x 7 = 42, the remaining 3 points are calculated according to a matrix of your ToK and EE grades to give a maximum score of 45.
EE and ToK are graded A-E and basically, if you get an A in EE and A in ToK, you get 3 points. A and B in either still gets you 3 points.
BB gets you 2, as does BC. CC gets 1.
Luckily, the world average in 2016 is 30.07 so most people do pretty well! This could be due to the fact that IB tends to scare off people who are less capable. Who knows?