Emmyx12
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I'm sixteen and have been brought up through the American education system, but now I am at the point where I have to either choose to do IB Diploma next year in America or move to the UK to a sixth form college to do my A-levels (where I'd be staying with family, as my parents are the only ones in the US). I want to pursue a degree in medicine at a uni in the UK, so it's a matter of which system would be best and whether I make the move now or in two years. I recently just found out that I've been accepted to take maths, further maths, biology, and chemistry at a good local sixth form next to my family, and so I'm feeling further torn about what I should choose. I've been hearing at my school from upperclassmen how horrible IB Diploma is so I'm just really unsure if I want to put myself through that, but that would involve leaving all my friends and living somewhere new, and I don't know if I can fully decide without some more outside input... What do you think would be the better decision?
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artful_lounger
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Both are fine for entry - IB is, while less common than A-levels, not a hugely uncommon qualification in the UK. It is also reasonably good preparation for medicine; a friend of my sister's who did IB (as we both did as well) commented that one of the distinct advantages she had after starting her medicine course at Cambridge was unlike all her colleagues on the course who had done all science A-levels, she actually knew how to write an essay from the start as well as do the science.

IB is certainly challenging, but so is medicine (both academically and professionally). While for the "basic" sciences (i.e. typical academic science courses in Biochemistry, Physics, Materials Science, etc, etc) IB may not be as ideal a choice due to being "distracted" by non-science subjects, in medicine the transferable "soft" skills developed by these non-science are much more important I gather, than for those basic science subjects. Additionally, the high (but not unmanageable) workload will be a reasonable litmus test for you to decide whether medicine is in fact the right path or not for you.

However, even if you are unsure after doing IB whether medicine is the right route, it is still perfectly adequate to pursue a degree in basic sciences and subsequently a medical degree (either or both in the US and/or UK as well; while A-levels are reasonably well understood by US colleges for advanced placement/credit purposes once you matriculate, so is IB and you can sometimes get additional unspecified electives or advanced standing with IB in some state schools).

While some may (possibly accurately) observe it might be "easier" to get the relevant grades at A-level compared to IB (the requirement to get overall grades as well as subject specific grades over a wider range of subjects makes it necessarily a little more challenging for IBers), a counterargument could be that simply choosing the "easiest" route into medicine might suggest a lack of commitment to it...although admissions tutors won't care either way.

I would however note, depending on your funding situation, A-levels may be preferable if it allows you to achieve residence requirements and thus qualify for UK fees. In this regard it would be the obvious choice; however, that may not be applicable to you depending on citizenship/visa status. Ultimately neither is incorrect, but I feel IB offers some things to a prospective medical student A-levels may not, while satisfying (presuming you take HL Chemistry/Biology/Maths - although I am cognizant, at least previously, HL Maths and Chemistry were considered "harder" than their A-level counterparts, although for Maths at least I think this gap has narrowed considerably) any entry criteria for any medical course in the UK.

That said Further Maths would probably be an unnecessary distraction at A-level even if you did go that route, since it's not remotely necessary or as I can tell, even particularly useful for Medicine (although I get the impression honestly Maths itself is, although many debate that here...I'm pretty sure I'd like my prospective physicians to have a basic understanding of rates of change Re: calculus though) or even most Bioscience courses (it's mainly useful for prospective physical sciences/engineering/computing/mathematics students).

Spoiler:
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If you want context regarding my comments, I did do IB, although I did not do (nor have any particular inclination to do) medicine. Medicine and A-level comments are mainly drawn from anecdotal commentary by friends, peers, and people on here; although some reference is made to some of the assessment criteria used by medical schools (at least of those that publish it) regarding "soft skills", and with reference to (some) course structures.
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pibobelebeep
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I was in a similar dilemma last year where I had to decide between A levels and IB to do medicine in the UK. After a lot of research and talking we decided A levels would be better, especially for medicine. IB is pretty hard, not only do you have the subject material which is hard, you have extra things like TOK and CAS. Whereas in A levels one can take less subjects and be more focused. Now of course if you push yourself Im sure you can do it in either, but why would you want to make it harder, getting into medicine is already very competitive? After school, people may say IB has benefits, but it doesn't really (as per a the university students i've talked to). Moving somewhere new is something I also understand, although I remained with my family I had to leave a school that was very precious to me and was almost like a second home, but in the end, you have to think about the future. You don't have to lose contact, you can stay in touch which the help of the internet and social media. In short, I highly recommend you take A levels. But in the end I would say just take the one you would regret the least in the future. Sometime I look back and think, maybe I could have done IB, and stayed with all my friends, but then again I remember I'm not good with a lot of workload so Im satisfied with my choice.
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Emmyx12
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Both are fine for entry - IB is, while less common than A-levels, not a hugely uncommon qualification in the UK. It is also reasonably good preparation for medicine; a friend of my sister's who did IB (as we both did as well) commented that one of the distinct advantages she had after starting her medicine course at Cambridge was unlike all her colleagues on the course who had done all science A-levels, she actually knew how to write an essay from the start as well as do the science.

IB is certainly challenging, but so is medicine (both academically and professionally). While for the "basic" sciences (i.e. typical academic science courses in Biochemistry, Physics, Materials Science, etc, etc) IB may not be as ideal a choice due to being "distracted" by non-science subjects, in medicine the transferable "soft" skills developed by these non-science are much more important I gather, than for those basic science subjects. Additionally, the high (but not unmanageable) workload will be a reasonable litmus test for you to decide whether medicine is in fact the right path or not for you.

However, even if you are unsure after doing IB whether medicine is the right route, it is still perfectly adequate to pursue a degree in basic sciences and subsequently a medical degree (either or both in the US and/or UK as well; while A-levels are reasonably well understood by US colleges for advanced placement/credit purposes once you matriculate, so is IB and you can sometimes get additional unspecified electives or advanced standing with IB in some state schools).

While some may (possibly accurately) observe it might be "easier" to get the relevant grades at A-level compared to IB (the requirement to get overall grades as well as subject specific grades over a wider range of subjects makes it necessarily a little more challenging for IBers), a counterargument could be that simply choosing the "easiest" route into medicine might suggest a lack of commitment to it...although admissions tutors won't care either way.

I would however note, depending on your funding situation, A-levels may be preferable if it allows you to achieve residence requirements and thus qualify for UK fees. In this regard it would be the obvious choice; however, that may not be applicable to you depending on citizenship/visa status. Ultimately neither is incorrect, but I feel IB offers some things to a prospective medical student A-levels may not, while satisfying (presuming you take HL Chemistry/Biology/Maths - although I am cognizant, at least previously, HL Maths and Chemistry were considered "harder" than their A-level counterparts, although for Maths at least I think this gap has narrowed considerably) any entry criteria for any medical course in the UK.

That said Further Maths would probably be an unnecessary distraction at A-level even if you did go that route, since it's not remotely necessary or as I can tell, even particularly useful for Medicine (although I get the impression honestly Maths itself is, although many debate that here...I'm pretty sure I'd like my prospective physicians to have a basic understanding of rates of change Re: calculus though) or even most Bioscience courses (it's mainly useful for prospective physical sciences/engineering/computing/mathematics students).

Spoiler:
Show

If you want context regarding my comments, I did do IB, although I did not do (nor have any particular inclination to do) medicine. Medicine and A-level comments are mainly drawn from anecdotal commentary by friends, peers, and people on here; although some reference is made to some of the assessment criteria used by medical schools (at least of those that publish it) regarding "soft skills", and with reference to (some) course structures.
Thank you for your reply, it's very useful. I see why you're in favour of the IB system. There are some factors I left out in the original post to avoid over complication and I'd love to hear how you think this would further affect my decision.

My biggest problem with doing IB is that my school doesn't offer HL chemistry. The course turned out to be so unpopular that they just got rid of it this year so I'd only be able to take SL chemistry. I've already contacted different unis and they all said I basically need a second science HL in chemistry or physics (although I've already done the gcse equivalent to physics, and I'm really not keen on it). As such, I'd therefore need to take AP chemistry during my last year ontop of the diploma to fulfill the requirement.

The reason for further maths is just because I simply love doing maths. Not enough to pursue it in university, mind you, but enough to crave more difficult math. To further complicate, I've had the opportunity to get a bit ahead in maths, and so now I only have 1 term of HL maths left to complete the course. So I thought it'd be a terrible waste to ignore that and I'll finish that qualification and get at least the IB certificate next year.

So to sum it up, my qualifications for university would either have to be IB diploma + AP chemistry or A levels + HL maths. Which would you lean towards?
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Emmyx12
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#5
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(Original post by pibobelebeep)
I was in a similar dilemma last year where I had to decide between A levels and IB to do medicine in the UK. After a lot of research and talking we decided A levels would be better, especially for medicine. IB is pretty hard, not only do you have the subject material which is hard, you have extra things like TOK and CAS. Whereas in A levels one can take less subjects and be more focused. Now of course if you push yourself Im sure you can do it in either, but why would you want to make it harder, getting into medicine is already very competitive? After school, people may say IB has benefits, but it doesn't really (as per a the university students i've talked to). Moving somewhere new is something I also understand, although I remained with my family I had to leave a school that was very precious to me and was almost like a second home, but in the end, you have to think about the future. You don't have to lose contact, you can stay in touch which the help of the internet and social media. In short, I highly recommend you take A levels. But in the end I would say just take the one you would regret the least in the future. Sometime I look back and think, maybe I could have done IB, and stayed with all my friends, but then again I remember I'm not good with a lot of workload so Im satisfied with my choice.
Thank you for your reply. As you understand IB is a huge workload and I'm also a major procrastinatior so I'm unsure how balancing everhthing will go. The people I've talked to all have reasonable predicted scores, but nowhere near the required score and I just fear that some of the unpassionate teachers here could hinder my performance. As such I think I'm leaning more towards A levels, but I don't think I'll truly know until I actually meet the teachers in the school. Thank you taking your time to help me
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Emmyx12)
Thank you for your reply, it's very useful. I see why you're in favour of the IB system. There are some factors I left out in the original post to avoid over complication and I'd love to hear how you think this would further affect my decision.

My biggest problem with doing IB is that my school doesn't offer HL chemistry. The course turned out to be so unpopular that they just got rid of it this year so I'd only be able to take SL chemistry. I've already contacted different unis and they all said I basically need a second science HL in chemistry or physics (although I've already done the gcse equivalent to physics, and I'm really not keen on it). As such, I'd therefore need to take AP chemistry during my last year ontop of the diploma to fulfill the requirement.

The reason for further maths is just because I simply love doing maths. Not enough to pursue it in university, mind you, but enough to crave more difficult math. To further complicate, I've had the opportunity to get a bit ahead in maths, and so now I only have 1 term of HL maths left to complete the course. So I thought it'd be a terrible waste to ignore that and I'll finish that qualification and get at least the IB certificate next year.

So to sum it up, my qualifications for university would either have to be IB diploma + AP chemistry or A levels + HL maths. Which would you lean towards?
Ah, that does complicate matters. I may be inclined to suggest A-levels in that case...if just to simplify matters. While the humanities/social science subject skills will undoubtedly be useful as a medic, trying to arrange multiple exam formats and prepare for them just seems like an administrative nightmare and if you end up with some kind of clash, that may completely derail things. Probably best to err on the side of caution and stick with the simplest solution.

If you enjoy Maths and working mathematically though, is there a reason you aren't considering that subject (or a related one) for a degree, rather than medicine? I don't necessarily expect an answer, this is more of a rhetorical question for you to think about yourself...
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