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IB Diploma or GCE A levels

LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
edited November 2012 in Singapore
The IB program has been introduced in Singapore for some years now. Do you feel that IB program or the GCE A level route prepares students better for the journey towards competitive universities in USA?
Post edited by Lovingmum on

Replies to: IB Diploma or GCE A levels

  • kennztkennzt Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    I did my A-levels in 2010, haven't started applying to any colleges yet but I did a quick search on this and I got a pretty interesting result from Dartmouth - definitely a well respected Ivy - on the policy of credit awarded to admitted A-level and IB students. AP, IB, A-Level, & Transfer Credits & Placement

    "Dartmouth College recognizes the International
    Baccalaureate Diploma and grants credit for superior performance on the Higher Level IB examinations"

    "Dartmouth College recognizes the A-Level curriculum from the United Kingdom as exceptional preparation of students and grants credit for superior performance on those A-Level examinations which cover fields of study represented by Dartmouth’s academic departments in the arts and sciences"

    I think I read somewhere the Singapore-Cambridge A-levels are tougher and harder to score than the British A-levels, not too sure though.

    Of course, various colleges might view the IBs or A levels in a different light but in either case, the fact that these two routes culminate in a pre-university certificate already point to a competitve applicant.

    I was from a decently competitive JC and I felt as if A-level coursework was totally crushing me and I had little time to breathe. I found lectures and tutorials difficult to adjust to, because lecturers often rushed to get their content covered, and I couldn't complete my tutorials before discussion (school ended around 4pm on a typical day, plus I was in a really busy CCA). I didn't graduate with straight As but I think the two year journey lived up to the "pre-university" tag. Some of my JC friends who had already moved on to university (very competitive courses and universities) that I talked to felt that the whole experience of being time pressured and being self-motivated (apparently my JC didn't have a culture of spoon feeding students) helped them a lot in assimilating into university life.

    I can't speak much on an IB experience since I never attemptef it, but my IB friends felt that the Singapore schools used very A-level-ish philosophy to teaching the IB and likewise, they felt very pressured too.

    Of course, there's more to academic grades if we're looking at top flight universities. Recommendations, personal essays and extra-curriculars count a lot.
    If we're looking at a more Singaporean context, a friend of mine got accepted at NUS law with As and Bs for his A-levels. Interview skills, personality and ECs, top notch.
  • LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    If the IB program and GCE A level are equally available, which would you choose?

    If the Singapore A level is indeed more difficult than the British A level exam ( I'm not sure on that ), then do the universities take that into consideration? Will the Singaporean student be at a disadvantage vs a British student?

    If you need to compete with all the other students from all over the world, then should Singapore focus on world-standardized exams ?

    Did the Singapore education system prepare students in SAT? Do students feel the stress of handling rigorous pre-university life and trying to do self-study for SAT at the same time?
  • lonelyheartsclublonelyheartsclub Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
    SATs are ridiculously easy to prepare in comparison to the A levels, I personally had no trouble conflating the two during my J2 year.

    As to the original question, I don't believe anyone bar an actual admissions officer can have anything concrete to say on the matter; everything's idle speculation at this point. I would lean towards the IB at this point, but do bear in mind that top colleges are very familiar with our existing system given the rates at which we inundate their institutions.
  • LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    Quote : "SATs are ridiculously easy to prepare in comparison to the A levels"

    If SAT is easy at JC 2 - looking at the syllabus in Singapore, at what level do you think a student can already manage the SAT exam. By Sec 1 or 2 ? ( My son will do SAT in Sec 1 - it's for a gifted program )

    Does the teaching style in IB eg with the need to speak up more/ do critical writing etc, prepare a student better for the American colleges?

    With the amount of prestige that the top IB students in ACS are getting, would the future top boys be attracted to ACS rather than RI or HC?
  • lonelyheartsclublonelyheartsclub Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
    There's no point in taking the SATs early (they actually have the PSATs in the US for middle school kids) since you'd naturally perform better when you're older. Its akin to intellectual wunderkinds taking O levels at 13: possible, but a little pointless really. I'd say a smart secondary 4 kid should be able to score 2000+ on the SATs after some practice.

    Not being from the IB programme myself I don't think I'm in the best position to comment, but I haven't felt any IB envy from my batch. The IB seems better than the A levels, but how much of it is borne of grass-is-greener I wouldn't know.
  • LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    Thanks kennzt and lonelyheartsclub for your input. Let's see if there are any IB students out there who can share their views.
  • techtechytechtechy Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Hey lovingmum I was from the GEP too and we took the SATS in sec 2 if i remember correctly. Even back then, I had friends who scored in excess of 2200 so I'm guessing that sec 1 is a good time as any. Besides, its always good to start early!

    Being an alevel student, I of course am biased toward the A-level syllabus. I feel that A-levels cover more in depth as opposed to the IB's breadth so to each his own. However, seeing as to how your son is in GEP, he should not have a problem entering JCs which add value on top of the A-levels. For example, RI has a long break in year 4 for students to explore their interests. This will definitely allow for a more well rounded portfolio (should you want your son to go to a top international college). There is also the Raffles Diploma which is awarded on top of the A-levels (i dont really know how well recognized it is, but its something)
  • LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    Thanks, techtechy. Do GEP students take the SAT as a norm or did you do it on your own accord?

    One big hurdle I feel is the SAT essay because the PSLE composition does not prepare the students for the argumentative/ analytical essays in SAT.

    That was why I was wondering if the IB program which tends to teach the students more critical writing, would be a better idea.

    Also, I wonder how the American colleges perceive the IB Diploma vs Raffles Diploma.

    It would be helpful to know how the top ACS IB students are doing currently, which universities they went to etc. Did they feel the increased 'breath' was better than the 'depth' as compared to the A levels.

    I have heard that the RI route is very tough. In that case, perhaps most students would have less time/energy to do other things. But that Year 4 long break looks attractive.
  • lonelyheartsclublonelyheartsclub Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
    No, it's certainly not the norm. The SATS aren't meant for 13/14 year olds. Most (and I'm including your top 5%ers here) take them at the end of the J1 year/middle of J2 year. Why do it and get a mediocre score rather than taking it at the appropriate time and getting that 2350-esque score? I think it'd be a better investment of time to improve your school GPA to involve yourself in rigorous CCAs and develop lifelong interests early: that's certainly my personal regret, if any, for my secondary school years.

    It's really an ego-exercise to take it so early, even if you son is a savant. For the record, I don't think schools take the SATs to be a sign of brilliance: Olympiads, debates, essay awards, dean lists show that, not a grammar/vocabulary test (which is what the SATs ultimately boil down to). It's brilliant that you're thinking of college admissions this early (I certainly wish I, or my parents, did) but I think the SATs are not the way forward at this stage.

    @ your point regarding RI. No, I don't think the route is tough per se: it's rigorous and challenging sure, but you never ever feel utterly inundated and hapless. The education you get at RI, for the top 5%er, isn't at all overrated (another story for the more ordinary IMO).
  • techtechytechtechy Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Hey lovingmum, I took the SATs as part of a pilot program to see how well GEP students would do (benchmarking against other programs, perhaps?).

    Just FYI, RJC (and hwach) are the biggest feeder schools to NUS med, law, and most scholarship programs. Also, these two schools along with VJC form the biggest group of students going to the states for studies. I don't mean this in an elitist manner but those are the facts. Look at the roll of honours (scholarship awardees) for the 3 schools and you'll see what I mean.

    As for life in RI, its really as hard as you want it to be. I've have friends who went for international olympiads, debates competitions, and other competitions who still did really well in their grades. The culture here is very open, you pretty much get to do what you want as long as its not detrimental to the school or yourself. Don't worry though, the students here aren't don't actually follow the popular stereotype of being nerds or even bookish. There are dancers, models, fashion designers, artists that go along with the math and science over-acheivers. On the other hand, there are also those who don't do so well. So your son will only be as successful as he wants to be. I'd say that its a school that will not hinder you, and one where there are unlimited opportunities if you only look for em.
  • bellnoxybellnoxy Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    IIRC SAT scores have expiry dates on them, which is usually 2 years. Hence since you can only apply to US college at the end of A-levels (using O-lvl to go to places like Purdue doesn't count), the applicant still needs to take another round of SAT even if he takes in sec 1.
  • techtechytechtechy Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Well my sec 2 scores are still reflected in my collegeboard account (which really sucks, theyre and eyesore haha). Not sure if the colleges actually put any weight on them though. Still, SATs (without any prep) are, IMHO, a good indicator of intelligence (or at least reasoning ability). Thinking back, I believe thats why they made us take the SATs back then without any prep. Thought it was weird at the time...
  • LovingmumLovingmum Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    Thanks lonelyheartsclub, techtechy and bellnoxy.

    My son will still do the SAT in Sec 1 because it's a fixed requirement to continue in his gifted program. (though it seems rather crazy but he'll give it a try)

    Although RI / RJC, HwaChong have indeed been at the very top, I'm wondering if the trend will change now , esp when ACS ( with the lure of IB ) is entering the arena.

    My son is keen to study in USA, so I am wondering if the ACS style is better in helping students develop a more critical and creative thinking.

    I live near RI and feel that it's great to have such a wonderful school in my neighbourhood. Sending my son to ACS or even all the way to boarding schools in USA somehow doesn't sound right, but I'm still exploring the options.
  • techtechytechtechy Registered User Posts: 34 Junior Member
    Well, if you think about it this way, top students under the A-level syllabus are pretty much proven to be successful in US college apps. Whether your son develops holistically or otherwise is wholly up to him. I'll say that there is no dearth in opportunities to shine (quite the contrary, actually) in RI, or in any of the other top schools in my opinion. Anything from debates(world renowned team), student council, science olympiads or even music and dance can be a part of your sons life, if he so chooses. Its also interesting to note that almost everyone who graduated from RJC(that I personally know) went out with a pretty nice portfolio of achievements. The school really tries to push each person to go as far as possible. Pretty much everyone graduates with some form of achievement or leadership position on record. Well, given that the school is in your neighborhood, I think the choice is clear? =)

    Clearly I am a little biased but thats my 2c!
  • silverarrowsilverarrow Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Having gone through the IB programme, I think it is better to do the 'A' levels. The 'A' levels is widely recognised and accepted, and is taken by many more students. Not necessary to do the IB which has much higher school fees because the school has to pay lots of money to the IB organisation to be allowed to run the IB.

    IB or 'A' levels, US universities recognise them both. Additional requirement for US universities is the SAT.

    Cost wise, more practical to do the 'A' levels. Not that much difference syllabus wise between IB and 'A' levels, but the IB has graded coursework which is very much more stressful, especially if the teachers don't help very much. My opinion is that the Singapore 'A' levels seem to work fine.
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