Guide To Choosing A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore

Understand The Difference Between A-Levels And IB To Find The Right Fit For Your Child

guide to choosing between alevels and ab program in singapore

Has your child reached secondary school with their college years right around the corner? If so, you may be faced with the task of helping your child choose which curriculum path to follow. If your child is 16 and is attending an international school in Singapore, your child may need to choose between two popular secondary education programmes. These are the A-Levels Programme or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.

These secondary education programmes are preferred by many students and expat families in Singapore, as it offers learners the opportunity to pursue international university education or specific career paths. Students may wish to attend university abroad like in the US or UK, which can become a reality for Singaporean students who have scored well in the A-Levels Programme or the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP).

Both the A-Levels Programme and the IBDP follow a typical western curricula format and are widely recognised by employers and universities globally. This guide will hopefully help you and your child make the right choice as to which programme your child should follow.

  • what is a-levels and ib exams?

    What Are The A-Levels Programme And The IB Diploma Programme?

    Learn About A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore

    Developed by the UK government, the A-Levels Programme is a curriculum incorporating mainly British learning materials which have been modified for study by local UK and international students. The A-Levels path is a two-year study programme usually followed in Year 12 and Year 13.

    Through the A-Levels path, students study only three or four subjects in depth according to the specialisation they wish to follow. A benefit of this path is that students are not distracted by subjects they are not interested in. Instead, they can enthusiastically and actively participate in subjects that do interest them. Although the A-Levels is a structured curriculum, students still get to learn, think, and work independently.

    The IBDP was developed by and is offered at authorised schools through the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) based in Switzerland. Also carried out over two years for students between the age of 16 to 19, the IBDP follows a globally focused skill-based curriculum. Besides just sitting for a set of examinations in the IBDP, students also develop learning skills through writing extended essays, studying the theory of knowledge course, and partaking in the creativity, action, and service (CAS) programme.

    The IBDP is considered to be more challenging for students due to the high degree of independent learning in the curriculum. In Singapore, there are several international schools that offer one or both of these secondary education programmes.

    With both the A-Levels and the IBDP being recognised by universities and employers globally, it could be tough to decide which route to follow.

  • A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore: Main Differences

    This Will Help You Make Your Decision
    What are the primary differences between the two programmes?

    The A-Levels path is subject-specialised as opposed to the IBDP path which is broader. If a student is stronger in a specific subject, intends following a specific university study programme, or intends pursuing a specialised career, then the A-Levels route is the way to go. If a student is an all-rounder, then the IBDP is more suitable for them. Students focus in-depth on three or four subjects in the A-Levels. Students can choose from a wide list of subjects offered at their school. Subjects range from economics to photography, and none of the subjects are compulsory.

    In the IBDP students study six regular school subjects with each subject’s individual mark counting towards the final grade. All six subjects need to be completed and passed for a student to receive the IB Diploma. Three of the subjects will be studied on a higher level and three subjects will be studied on standard level.

    The IBDP curriculum is broken down as follows: a computer science, experimental science, or mathematics subject a humanities or social science subject two modern languages an additional subject including the arts write an Extended Essay a two-year Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course take part in Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS).

    When deciding between the two programmes, keep it in mind that the IBDP is more costly in both money and time when compared to the A-Levels Programme. It is however suggested that the IBDP does equip students with better time management skills for their further studies.

  • grading the alevels versus ib in singapore

    Grading And Results: A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore

    The Difference Between Grading And Results
    How are the two programmes graded?

    In the A-Levels, students receive grades for each subject. The grades are represented by any of the letters from A to E, with A being the highest grade. Each letter is linked to a percentage range achieved for a specific subject. The IBDP is graded differently from the A-Levels in that a points system is followed. For each subject, students will receive a point score from the range 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest point achievable for a subject.

    To be awarded the IB Diploma, students must achieve a combined total point score of 24 or above. A total point score of 45 is considered to be a perfect score in the IBDP. Ultimately, the total A-Levels grade or total IB point score of a student is then converted into the university points system for admission consideration by university admissions boards and officers.

    When are the results from the two programmes published?

    Examinations for the A-Levels are taken in May/June. The examination results are published in August of the same year. Examinations for the IBDP are taken in May if the school follows the September to June academic year.

    The examination results are published in July of the same year. Examinations for the IBDP are taken in November if the school follows the January to December academic year. The examination results are published in January of the following year.

  • Do Universities Prefer A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore?

    What To Consider When Thinking About University Admission
    Where can students study the A-Levels Programme or the IB Diploma Programme in Singapore?

    Students in Singapore should be able to undertake either the A-Levels Programme or the IBDP at most of the international schools based in Singapore. Various international schools are able to offer either the GCE A-levels or the International A-Levels Programmes, or both.

    Exam boards like Cambridge International (CI) and Pearson Edexcel are authorised to offer examinations for the A-Levels at these schools. For the IBDP, only international schools which have been authorised by the IBO to do so, may offer the IBDP to students.


    Is there a preference between the A-Levels and the IB Diploma when it comes to university admissions?

    Students should not worry about which programme is better to take for university admission consideration, as university admissions boards do not favour one programme over the other. With the A-Levels path being more specialised, this is a good option for students who wish to be admitted into specialised university courses. For example, a student can focus on biology and science type subjects in the A-Levels for admission consideration to study medicine. The IBDP path is a good choice for students who may not know in which area they wish to specialise in or if they want to study a broader course like politics.

    Every student’s university application is considered individually by the university admission boards. Applications are decided according to merit and on points scored by the student. Students who have followed either the A-Levels or the IBDP path are considered by universities.

    University admission boards in the US are known to understand the IBDP path more, compared to UK university admission boards who understand the A-Levels path more.

  • where to take alevels in singapore

    Schools In Singapore Offering The A-Levels And The IB Diploma Programme

    A-Levels Versus IB In Singapore

    Schools offering the A-Levels Programme

    • Ascensia International School, Blk 106A Henderson Crescent, #01-01 Henderson Area Office, Singapore, +65 6466 5505, enquiry@ascensia.edu.sg, www.aais.edu.sg
    • DPS International School, 36 Aroozoo Avenue, Singapore, +65 6285 6300, admissions@dps.edu.sg, www.dps.edu.sg
    • Furen International School, 8 Claymore Hill, #01-01, Singapore, +65 6842 6001, customer@fis.edu.sg, www.fis.edu.sg
    • Insworld Institute, 100 Victoria Street, #08-02 National Library Building, Singapore, +65 6732 1728, enquiries@insworld.edu.sg, www.insworld.edu.sg
    • Tanglin Trust School, 95 Portsdown Road, Singapore, +65 6778 0771, admissions@tts.edu.sg, www.tts.edu.sg


    Schools offering the IB Diploma Programme

    • Australian International School, 1 Lor Chuan Road, Singapore, +65 6517 0247, admissions@ais.com.sg, www.ais.com.sg
    • Canadian International School, Lakeside Campus, 7 Jurong West Street 41, Singapore, +65 6467 1732, communications@cis.edu.sg, www.cis.edu.sg
    • Dulwich College, 71 Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, Singapore, +65 6890 1003, admissions.singapore@dulwich.org, www.singapore.dulwich.org
    • Hillside World Academy, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square #02-100, Singapore, +65 6591 8772, enquiries@hwa.edu.sg, www.hwa.edu.sg
    • Stamford American International School, Woodleigh Campus, 1 Woodleigh Lane (Off Upper Serangoon Road), Singapore, +65 6653 2949, admissions@sais.edu.sg, www.sais.edu.sg

Additional Info:​

Follow the links below to gain a better understanding of how the A-Levels and the IBDP are graded and how point scores are calculated as required for university admissions.

  • For more information on UCAS tariffs for entry to UK universities, visit www.ucas.com.
  • For more information on the IBDP points system, visit www.ibo.org.

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