A Levels or IB Diploma?

Are you looking into sixth form study options? Discover the difference between IB and A Levels to take the next step in your academic journey.


  • Take 6 subjects (3 at higher level and 3 at standard level). IB students must also take 3 core programmes: Theory of Knowledge (ToK), Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) and Extended Essay
  • Study 6 academic subjects over 2 years with an exam at the end. This structure provides focus on a larger breadth of topics
  • Stimulate personal growth and develop the whole person through experiences that develop ‘IB Learner Profile’ attributes
  • The IBO curriculum uses a points system to assess academic achievement. This is on a scale with 7 as the highest and 1 as the lowest. A pass is 24 points
  • The highest score is 45 points. 42 points can be achieved from 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.

International outlook

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. 

Coeducational study experience

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

St Clare’s is awarded the Eco-Schools Green Flag

St Clare’s is awarded the Eco-Schools Green Flag

Students at St Clare’s are proud to have been awarded the Eco-Schools Green Flag.“Eco-schools is a new experience at St Clare’s. We started last year with the aim to bring students together and take environmental action. We now have 20 members” says...

Model United Nations 2022

Model United Nations 2022

The International Baccalaureate students from St Clare’s, Oxford attended the St Clare’s Model United Nations Conference in November for the eighteenth year running, which returned to Oxford Town Hall after a two-year absence due to Covid. The day gave the opportunity...

Celebrating our quality academic results!

Celebrating our quality academic results!

Once again our students have produced a remarkable set of results in the prestigious IB Diploma. We are relatively unselective in intake, making the average of 36.7 points (equating to better than 3 A grades at A level) even more impressive, and the...

We are a sixth-form college in north Oxford

Study the IB Diploma with us


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St Clare's, Oxford