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Urgent: IB vs A-level

I want to take 4 A-levels to keep my uni options open, but I'm terrified that the workload might lower my grades*. Therefore, I'm considering switching to IB and doing 4 at HL and 2 at SL. How would this workload compare to doing 4 A-levels?
Thank you!!
*at GCSE I got 6 grade 9s and 4 grade 8s and my teachers are fine with me doing 4 A-levels, but a couple of uni courses I've looked at require A*A*A so I'm not in for an easy ride by any means
Reply 1
Original post by Astraea56
I want to take 4 A-levels to keep my uni options open, but I'm terrified that the workload might lower my grades*. Therefore, I'm considering switching to IB and doing 4 at HL and 2 at SL. How would this workload compare to doing 4 A-levels?
Thank you!!
*at GCSE I got 6 grade 9s and 4 grade 8s and my teachers are fine with me doing 4 A-levels, but a couple of uni courses I've looked at require A*A*A so I'm not in for an easy ride by any means

I'd say doing 4 HL is way harder than doing 4 A levels. What do you want to study in the future? Anything STEM related and you're probably better off taking A level math/further maths.
Reply 2
Original post by viennas
I'd say doing 4 HL is way harder than doing 4 A levels. What do you want to study in the future? Anything STEM related and you're probably better off taking A level math/further maths.

Yeah I definitely want to have a STEM career (biology/chem/phys research). Please could you let me know why you feel 4 HLs are much harder than 4 A-levels? I'm only asking because I've seen a lot of contradictory information
Reply 3
Original post by Astraea56
Yeah I definitely want to have a STEM career (biology/chem/phys research). Please could you let me know why you feel 4 HLs are much harder than 4 A-levels? I'm only asking because I've seen a lot of contradictory information

The problem in answering this question is that nobody has done both 4 A levels and 4 HLs, so I guess it's easy to be biased. But in order to do a STEM career, you would need HL math, which is insanely difficult, plus other science HLs, which are also difficult. IB won't let you concentrate on these - instead, you'll just get bombarded with english literature, foreign language acquisition, EE, IAs, CAS, TOK, etc. In my opinion, A levels would just let you concentrate on these difficult subjects, giving you an adequate amount of time to do them. I got 43 points and I can safely say doing 4 HLs would have absolutely killed me. The IB's difficulty is really dependent on what HLs you take, but given that you want to take the hardest ones, 4 would be suicide, in my opinion.
Reply 4
4 A-Levels is not really that big of a deal nowadays, and if you're aiming for the top-end universities (Oxbridge), then 4 is probably the standard. It's doable. However, as an IB alumni, I do not recommend you do 4 HLs. 4 HLs is also doable, but do you want to be just working continuously throughout your 2 year diploma without it really giving you any extra benefit? An extra subject means extra IA(s), revision time, commitment...

By doing a total of 6 subjects at IB you're already keeping your options open! So why do 4 HLs? I think there is a misconception that just because you don't do a specific subject at HL you can never ever do anything involving that subject in the future. That's not true.

You mentioned you're looking for a STEM career and you've listed all 3 sciences, however doing 3 sciences at IB is not possible to do. There's simply no option to do all 3.

I went into the IB like you, fixed on a STEM career but wanted to keep my options open because I loved physics chem and bio equally. Got 45 points and am starting Medicine this month. Even if my love for physics returns, I know my degree will allow me to do something with that in the future (maybe in the research side of the career).

Don't panic too much about your options. I know it might seem right now that picking the wrong subjects is the end of the world, there are plenty of options for you when you start looking into careers etc.

Good luck - happy to answer any more questions!
Reply 5
Original post by hehe_x
4 A-Levels is not really that big of a deal nowadays, and if you're aiming for the top-end universities (Oxbridge), then 4 is probably the standard. It's doable. However, as an IB alumni, I do not recommend you do 4 HLs. 4 HLs is also doable, but do you want to be just working continuously throughout your 2 year diploma without it really giving you any extra benefit? An extra subject means extra IA(s), revision time, commitment...

By doing a total of 6 subjects at IB you're already keeping your options open! So why do 4 HLs? I think there is a misconception that just because you don't do a specific subject at HL you can never ever do anything involving that subject in the future. That's not true.

You mentioned you're looking for a STEM career and you've listed all 3 sciences, however doing 3 sciences at IB is not possible to do. There's simply no option to do all 3.

I went into the IB like you, fixed on a STEM career but wanted to keep my options open because I loved physics chem and bio equally. Got 45 points and am starting Medicine this month. Even if my love for physics returns, I know my degree will allow me to do something with that in the future (maybe in the research side of the career).

Don't panic too much about your options. I know it might seem right now that picking the wrong subjects is the end of the world, there are plenty of options for you when you start looking into careers etc.

Good luck - happy to answer any more questions!

Tysm. Tbh I'm probably past the point where I could transfer to IB now, but I just wanted to clarify something. I was under the impression that unis only really care about your HL subjects, but is that not the case?
Reply 6
Original post by viennas
The problem in answering this question is that nobody has done both 4 A levels and 4 HLs, so I guess it's easy to be biased. But in order to do a STEM career, you would need HL math, which is insanely difficult, plus other science HLs, which are also difficult. IB won't let you concentrate on these - instead, you'll just get bombarded with english literature, foreign language acquisition, EE, IAs, CAS, TOK, etc. In my opinion, A levels would just let you concentrate on these difficult subjects, giving you an adequate amount of time to do them. I got 43 points and I can safely say doing 4 HLs would have absolutely killed me. The IB's difficulty is really dependent on what HLs you take, but given that you want to take the hardest ones, 4 would be suicide, in my opinion.

That's good to know, thanks!
Original post by Astraea56
Tysm. Tbh I'm probably past the point where I could transfer to IB now, but I just wanted to clarify something. I was under the impression that unis only really care about your HL subjects, but is that not the case?

They care about your overall score and any HL subject requirements. They may also require specific Maths and English scores.
Reply 8
Original post by Admit-One
They care about your overall score and any HL subject requirements. They may also require specific Maths and English scores.

Oh OK I thought for a minute that the subjects you do at SL could impact career/uni admissions!
Original post by Astraea56
I want to take 4 A-levels to keep my uni options open, but I'm terrified that the workload might lower my grades*. Therefore, I'm considering switching to IB and doing 4 at HL and 2 at SL. How would this workload compare to doing 4 A-levels?
Thank you!!
*at GCSE I got 6 grade 9s and 4 grade 8s and my teachers are fine with me doing 4 A-levels, but a couple of uni courses I've looked at require A*A*A so I'm not in for an easy ride by any means


you don't need 4 A-Levels to keep your uni options open because most uni's don't care whether you took 3 or 4 and what matters is A*A*A not 4 A-Levels, so I'd say 4 A-Levels are only worth it if 2 of them are math and fm
Reply 10
Original post by Astraea56
Tysm. Tbh I'm probably past the point where I could transfer to IB now, but I just wanted to clarify something. I was under the impression that unis only really care about your HL subjects, but is that not the case?

Well they do only care about your HL subjects, but in some cases just because you don't do a particular subject at HL doesn't mean you can't study that at uni - i.e: at some unis you don't need to do economics at HL to study it. Obviously for other courses like medicine you need HL bio and chem by default. Although some unis are now not making chem a requirement.
I know I’m replying late but it might help someone else

4HLs are usually a bad idea. Yes, it’s doable but unless you’re a genius in all those subjects your score will suffer. 5 people in my class wanted to do 4HLs but only one actually ended up keeping all of them. 4HLs is significantly harder than 4 A-levels, no doubt. I honestly don’t recommend doing it. Consider dropping something to SL if unis allow it or just stick to A levels
If you want to go into STEM then the IB is not for you. 4 A levels will be so much easier. You might have done well at gcse, but IB and A levels are a whole new level.
Original post by hehe_x
4 A-Levels is not really that big of a deal nowadays, and if you're aiming for the top-end universities (Oxbridge), then 4 is probably the standard. It's doable. However, as an IB alumni, I do not recommend you do 4 HLs. 4 HLs is also doable, but do you want to be just working continuously throughout your 2 year diploma without it really giving you any extra benefit? An extra subject means extra IA(s), revision time, commitment...

By doing a total of 6 subjects at IB you're already keeping your options open! So why do 4 HLs? I think there is a misconception that just because you don't do a specific subject at HL you can never ever do anything involving that subject in the future. That's not true.

You mentioned you're looking for a STEM career and you've listed all 3 sciences, however doing 3 sciences at IB is not possible to do. There's simply no option to do all 3.

I went into the IB like you, fixed on a STEM career but wanted to keep my options open because I loved physics chem and bio equally. Got 45 points and am starting Medicine this month. Even if my love for physics returns, I know my degree will allow me to do something with that in the future (maybe in the research side of the career).

Don't panic too much about your options. I know it might seem right now that picking the wrong subjects is the end of the world, there are plenty of options for you when you start looking into careers etc.

Good luck - happy to answer any more questions!


hii what standard level and higher level subjects did you take? how did you manage it all and did you do medical work experience or volunteering? THANK YOU you must be insanely smart!
Original post by chocobar111
hii what standard level and higher level subjects did you take? how did you manage it all and did you do medical work experience or volunteering? THANK YOU you must be insanely smart!

I did bio, chem and english lit at HL with geog, maths and Spanish at SL. Doing subjects you enjoy goes a long way in helping to manage everything so part of it is really to make the right choices from the outset. Thanks to Covid I only got a day's worth of medical work experience in the hospital and I managed to squeeze in 2 weeks of volunteering before lockdown.

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