IB vs A’ Levels – Which one is better?

Published on 26 April 2019 by Edu Aid | For Parents | For Students | Tuition

Road with decide word

IB is short for International Baccalaureate. It is a high quality international education program, and its certificate is recognized by top universities worldwide. A’ Levels has been the standard examination students in Junior College go through in Singapore. Recent years, some schools started to offer the IB exams instead of A’ Levels, leading to the question among students in those schools of whether to take on the A’ Levels exams or IB exams. Here are some considerations that may help you in your decision.

Do you want to focus on one subject matter or pursue a boarder based education?

Say you are bent on being a Chemist, and you are dead sure. Nothing else in life makes you feel more alive than Chemistry (or any one other subject in particular). You probably should pursue the A’ Levels track. The A’ Levels curriculum for each subject goes deeper and can help students grasp concepts better for each subject. The A’ Levels examinations test students on their understanding of each subject and ability to apply their knowledge correctly. It does not deviate much from this purpose. This is why it is possible to score very well for A’ Levels with lots of practice, provided you got the concept right. You are also not too distracted with other subjects that can potentially work against you. If you are a highly mathematical person who struggles at every General Paper lesson, at least the only thing you need to wrestle with is General Paper. This is a breeze compared to what you have to face in the IB exams. (If you want to avoid writing anything at all cost, consider the Polytechnic route).

If you feel a little playful in school and are not content with mere academic progress, you may find IB the better track for you. The IB curriculum is highly comprehensive. It comprises the DP (Diploma Program) core elements and 6 subject groups. The core elements are: Theory of Knowledge, The Extended Essay, and CAS (Creativity, Activity Service). The 6 subject groups are: Studies in language and literature, Language acquisition, Individuals and societies, Sciences, Mathematics and The Arts. You may find yourself taking such a combination of subjects in IB: English Literature, Chinese, Economics, Biology, Mathematics, Theatre. If such a varied subject combination excites you more than it intimidates you, go for IB.

Do you like to read and write?

This is an extremely crucial question in such a decision. More than whether you like reading and writing, can you read fast and write well? The IB Program requires students to be well read, and be able to apply what they learnt in the global context. It puts a greater emphasis on language acquisition for the purpose of growing culturally aware learners.

Unless you are not too concerned about your exams results, you should take into consideration your ability to put into essay (or even short paragraphs) whatever you have learnt. You ought to be able to apply critical thinking at all times in the IB program, and critical thinking requires broad knowledge as well as ample research on any subject matter. The more you read, the better you will fare in IB. Do you like to read? Can you read fast? If so, IB looks good for you.

This is not to say that the A’ Levels does not require any reading or writing at all. There is still the General Paper. However, comparatively, it is easier to manage compared to the IB essays you need to churn out.

What is your life goal?

This is an important question. The IB curriculum focuses not too much on its exams results, but more on the learner profile it is creating in every IB student – Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, Reflective. These traits are highly reflective of the future managerial leader. What is your life goal? Do you want to be a leader in position or a leader in knowledge?

You may pursue an education that builds you up as a person who becomes an attractive candidate for a management position. The IB curriculum widens your perspective beyond the books. It trains you to always be questioning, always be open to new answers and apply your knowledge to the good use of the world. An IB graduate can become an attractive candidate for a management position who requires more leadership skills than technical skills.

You may also pursue an education that builds up your knowledge and specialization in your field so that you may become the next thought leader in your industry. The A’ Levels focuses on deep knowledge of a subject matter. It is however not all about rote learning and requires a decent level of critical thinking as well, but in order to score well for A’ Levels you need to study a subject matter as according to what is has to offer. You are not required to question its validity. The A’ Levels offers a very strong foundation for further specialization at the degree level.

Where do you see your future? This should also come into consideration now.

How disciplined are you?

Any kind of studies require discipline. Studying for A’ Levels definitely requires a high level of discipline. However, studying for IB exams requires much more! Unlike the A’ Levels, the IB exams are much harder to predict. This makes it more difficult to prepare for the IB exams. Students will need to spend a lot more time reading and taking notes, in order to prepare sufficiently to handle any kind of questions that fly along. On top of that, students need to handle 3 core elements in the IB curriculum while studying for 6 subjects. This means a greater level of discipline is required for one to score well in IB. There are, however, some students who have commented that the IB is much easier to score than the A’ Levels. So, it also depends on the student’s area of strength. Nevertheless, the general feedback is that the IB exams require a high level of discipline to manage.


By now, you may still be undecided about whether to go for IB or A’ Levels. Perhaps, some questions above point you to IB while others point you towards A’ Levels. Weigh your pros and cons, and hope this helps you make a more informed decision. Whichever one you have chosen, know that none is better than the other. It is more a matter of suitability. Whichever path you take, if you are a genius you will be a genius. Moreover, there is always the availability of tuition if you need someone to help you structure your learning journey. Look no further than Edu Aid to find a personal tutor for IB exams and A’ Levels exams!

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