A Levels or IB Diploma?


Are you unsure if the IB Diploma or A Levels is the right choice for you? We can help you make the right choice for your future studies.


  • IB students take 6 subjects (3 at higher level and 3 at standard level). In addition IB students must undertake 3 core programmes: Theory of Knowledge (ToK), Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) and an Extended Essay
  • IB curriculum enables you to study 6 academic subjects, which provides focus on a larger breadth of topics
  • The ‘IB Learner Profile’ provides an excellent framework to stimulate personal growth and develop the whole person
  • The IB qualification is studied over 2 years. There is an examination at the end
  • The IBO curriculum uses a point system to assesses academic achievement. This is on a scale, where 7 is the highest and 1 is the lowest
  • To pass the IB Diploma you must achieve 24 points
  • The highest score is 45 points. A total of 42 points can be achieved from their 6 subjects choices. 3 points are awarded for the 3 core programmes.

A Levels

  • A level students pick 3 subjects for A level and one AS subject
  • AS subjects are a stand alone qualification
  • The AS subject is completed after the 1st year while the A Levels subjects are studied for 2 years. A Level exams will be taken at the end of the 2 year course
  • Students can pick a combination of subject choices, but the academic choices are usually closely related 
  • A Levels allow you to focus your studies on a few key subjects
  • Each subject is graded with letters: A* being the highest and E being the lowest
  • The highest grades achieved for A Level is A*A*A*

According to the UCAS tariff, 45 points is the equivalent of 5 grade A* at A Level; 40 points is the equivalent of 4 grade A* at A Level and 35 points is equivalent to 2 grade A* at A Level and 1 grade A.

Why choose the International Baccalaureate Diploma?

The IB offers a broader structure to learning –  There are 6 subject groupings. You must select 1 academic subject from each group:

  • Group 1: Language and literature
  • Group 2: Language acquisition
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies
  • Group 4: Sciences
  • Group 5: Mathematics
  • Group 6: Arts or Electives – You can choose to study Music, Theatre or Visual Arts OR another language, another subject from Individuals and Societies or another science

Enhance your experience of writing academic essays ready for university –  The Extended Essay encourages independent learning. You will write a 4000-word extended essay based on an original piece of research. This is a core aspect of the IB Diploma

Develop critical thinking skills – Theory of knowledge is a another core component of the course which questions the basis of knowledge

Flexible academic study options – The IB curriculum structure means that it is possible to take Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics – if you want to study medicine – plus literature, a language and a social science subject. It is also possible to take unusual subject combinations – Italian, English, Chemistry, Mathematics, Psychology and Art, which would be difficult to replicate in an A Level school

Gain an international qualification – The IB Diploma is recognised globally by universities and employers, therefore being an advantage if you are hoping to study overseas

Learn beyond the classroom – Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) involves taking part in over 150 hours of non-academic activity with a reflective writing component. Schools or colleges which offer A Levels include sporting, cultural and volunteering activities within their sixth-form curriculum, but these elements are not integrated in the same way as the IB Diploma

Minimal grade inflation – The percentage of students achieving an IB Diploma each year has remained constant over the last decade which indicates that, unlike the A Level, there has been little grade inflation.

For more information: Why study the IB Diploma?

Why study the IB Diploma at St Clare’s?

St Clare’s was founded in 1953 as a college which specialised in A Levels. As our mission focused on ‘advancing international education.’ In 1977 we decided to move away from A Levels in favour of offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We are now an IB World School and have developed a wealth of experience in this popular study route.

We currently have students from over 40 countries studying with us. In the last 10 years, 20 of our students have achieved 45 points (maximum IB grade), remarkable when you consider that our students are mostly working in their second language.

Our cultural diversity creates a welcoming environment for all backgrounds, cultures and traditions. We encourage students to value and respect differences which creates strong sense of community within the college. We believe that learning is enriched by the diversity and the breadth of views and ideas; global awareness supports the learning process. 

We are an independent school but not a gated community. Our 27 beautiful north Oxford buildings are grouped around Banbury Road just south of Summertown. This is why many students choose to study the IB Diploma with us:

Academic Achievement

University success

Nurturing environment

Small class sizes

Specialist Careers and Higher Education support

A wide range of Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) experiences

Study in the academic city of Oxford

Further Reading

How we support your personal career journey

Pre-IB work-related learning day Our Pre-IB work-related learning day takes place once a year and aims to promote key employability skills such as creativity, communication, presentation, teamwork, organisation and initiative. This year our Pre-IB students took part...

Our Remote Learning Top Tips

To ensure all students make the maximum progress whilst remote learning, Vice-Principal Academic, Alastair Summers offers some useful tips for approaching lessons from behind the computer screen. Maintain routine It’s important to get up and...

We are a sixth-form college in north Oxford

Study the IB Diploma with us


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St Clare's, Oxford