Parents sending their children to UK Boarding Schools from other countries are often bewildered by the choice of curriculum and which is the best for their child. Because the majority of boarding requests are at the senior end, we will start this explanation of the most common options for 16+ years of age.
The most popular senior curriculum is the A Level, which is usually taken over a 2 year period. Typically in the first year (age 16) a pupil chooses 4 subjects. Until recently students would sit an intermediate examination for AS Level (=Advanced Subsidiary). However, the Government is now phasing out AS, but some schools are still setting this test to assess students progress. In the second year (age 17) students typically drop one subject and end up taking three subjects at A2 Level which then gives them their 3 A Level passes. A Levels have a number of UCAS tariff points allocated to the exam grades obtained which can be from E up to A*. In our league tables we only measure the top two or three grades A*, A and B because if you want to get into a top 30 UK University you will need two of these top grades. Indeed to get into Oxford, Cambridge or Medical School you ideally need at least A* + A* + A. There are well over 40 possible A Level subjects, but most boarding schools offer between 20 to 25 subject choices – but it does not matter what you want to study, we will find you somewhere which offers it!
Over the last 10 years there has been a dramatic increase in UK schools offering the IB Diploma Program, because (a) it is an international qualification highly rated by UCAS and (b) it is transferrable because you can move from one country to another on the same syllabus. It again applies to a 2 year period from age 16, but the key difference is that you must take one subject from each of 6 groups, which means that you must take as a minimum Maths, a Modern Language and a Science. It is a stretching curriculum which suits "all-rounders" who are well organised. It typically takes more teaching hours than 3 A Levels. For this reason, it is allocated higher UCAS tariff points than equivalent A Level subjects. Much more detail can be found in our eGuide. See also our separate eGuide plus www.IB-schools.EU.com. There are around 80 schools offering the IBDP and around half have boarding facilities. Some have very small cohorts studying the IB – so we suggest you speak to us first.
In recent years, some of the elite UK private schools became disenchanted with the way A Level grades inflated, leading to the accusation they had become "dumbed down". However, they were reluctant to move to the IB, because it was too general – thus, they worked with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) to devise a new syllabus called the Pre-U Diploma Program. This involves more teaching hours than A Levels and is more stretching, which has resulted in higher UCAS tariff points. The key difference to the IB DP is that the Pre-U still has total freedom of choice with your subjects. Much more information can be found on our separate website www.Pre-U.info You can also compare the A level v IB DP v Pre-u in our eGuide. Most schools have not converted wholesale to the Pre-U but just changed certain subjects to the Pre U, rather like choosing a different exam board for that subject.
All of these 3 curriculums will get you into a University in the UK or anywhere in the world, providing you have worked hard to get decent grades. There are far more schools offering A Levels than either of the other two. The IB DP is good for all rounders. A Levels have the greatest choice of subjects. Top Pre-U grades score highest with Universities. Some believe that those aiming for high science oriented degrees like Medicine or Engineering are best to stick to A Level or Pre-U. However these few comments have probably not answered your question. Why not phone and we will talk you through the pros and cons for each one? Phone +44 1622 813870.
19th September 2018
18th September 2018
17th September 2018