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huge dilemma - IB or A-levels for Medicine in the UK

Hi, I am a 16 year old and I have gotten my GCSE results, and need help deciding which 6th form to go to.

So i have 2 options: an IB school or an A-Level school. Both schools are good, but the IB curriculum interests me far more than the A-level one, but the A-level route would definitely be easier. My A-level options would be: biology, chemistry and maths (standard combo). My IB options would be HL chemistry, biology and English and SL maths, french, and classical civilisation/econ/psychology. I guess IB would open up Law if I want to do that in the future. My GCSE's are mainly 8 and above.

I've seen from university admissions requirements that not all universities standardise IB scores like A-Levels. For example, I've seen Manchester asking AAA for A-levels, but 766 with 37 total points. Different unis although asking for AAA/A*AA all having different IB requirements. Although I think the IB curriculum is far more interesting and prepares you better for university, I don't want to risk my chance for (top) universities.

I guess it's important to note I'm not SET on medicine but its the only work experience I've actually enjoyed and it seems exciting :smile:
(edited 5 months ago)
Original post by chocobar111
Hi, I am a 16 year old and I have gotten my GCSE results, and need help deciding which 6th form to go to.

So i have 2 options: an IB school or an A-Level school. Both schools are good, but the IB curriculum interests me far more than the A-level one, but the A-level route would definitely be easier. My A-level options would be: biology, chemistry and maths (standard combo). My IB options would be HL chemistry, biology and English and SL maths, french, and classical civilisation/econ/psychology. I guess IB would open up Law if I want to do that in the future. My GCSE's are mainly 8 and above.

I've seen from university admissions requirements that not all universities standardise IB scores like A-Levels. For example, I've seen Manchester asking AAA for A-levels, but 766 with 37 total points. Different unis although asking for AAA/A*AA all having different IB requirements. Although I think the IB curriculum is far more interesting and prepares you better for university, I don't want to risk my chance for (top) universities.

I guess it's important to note I'm not SET on medicine but its the only work experience I've actually enjoyed and it seems exciting :smile:

It is fine which ever one you decide to do.
All medical schools have a high grade requirements - and all medical schools that teach medicine are excellent. As such, they have high A Level and high IB requirements. Both your A Level and IB choices open up Law.
The ‘top universities’ mean nothing and are subjective (different universities are better at specific subjects)

looking at https://www.medschools.ac.uk/studying-medicine/making-an-application/entry-requirements-for-2024-start#:~:text=No%20specific%20requirements.-,International%20Baccalaureate,two%20required%20by%20some%20Colleges).

getting IB 38 allow you to meet entry for most medical schools except (Oxford 39, Cambridge 40-42, Edinburgh 40, UCL 39).
do IB as you are more interested in the cirriculum
Neither is preferred, so do whichever you think you'll do better in. Anecdotally I've heard A-levels are a bit easier to get top grades in than IB (as I knew some people who did IB then an A-level or two in a gap year) but in principle they're both equally acceptable and if you are a highly achieving student you'll probably do well in either. That said anecdotally in my experience and from everyone I've known doing IB, it is a higher ongoing workload than A-levels generally as you just have all your timetable filled in with lessons for the most part. So it's certainly intensive as courses go!

Although I did hear, in terms of course preparation, IB was useful for a medic I indirectly knew as she had to do essay writing during IB and compared to all the other students on her medicine course who did all STEM subjects at A-level, she was much better at writing essays for her course (and had to teach her friends how to properly structure an essay!). This was an n=1 case of course, and might be specific to the medical school she was at (Cambridge, which involves more essay writing due to the tutorials I gather) but was something that might interesting to consider.
Reply 3
Thank you both so much for these insights!:smile:
Reply 4
IB is going to be the more demanding course. When you’re trying to get over the threshold, the lowest bar is the one you’re trying to jump over, not the highest. If you were going for arts or humanities, I’d encourage you to do IB but for medicine, you’re looking to take the path of least resistance.
Original post by TMTDRN
IB is going to be the more demanding course. When you’re trying to get over the threshold, the lowest bar is the one you’re trying to jump over, not the highest. If you were going for arts or humanities, I’d encourage you to do IB but for medicine, you’re looking to take the path of least resistance.


I agree with this. I came from a school where both A levels and IB were offered. My IB friends who went on to do medicine regretted not taking the A levels. The workload is truly heavier and the added pressure is not necessary. A levels actually go more in depth in subjects like Chemistry and Biology compared to HL in IB which I think may be an advantage to you. CAS is another huge commitment in IB along with IAs and EEs. In A levels you will focus on subjects that will really matter in your med application and with this you can instead take on the EPQ (similar to an IA) which many A level med applicants have found to be beneficial for their interviews, personal statement etc. In addition to this, med applicants have to undergo the entrance tests (UCAT/BMAT) which is added pressure. You still have predicted grades to think about and also additional work experience. Keep in mind IB exams all happen in the same month of May whereas A levels is more spread out. Hope this helps!
Reply 6
Oh I see, thank you so much :smile:
You're right though, I know in the IB you have coursework to do over the y12-13 summer but that's also when most people do the UCAT, so I'd have less time to prepare. And after the interviews my final exams would be sooner than A-level candidates, and less spread out.

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