Published on 01/06/19
There may be some truth in the point that IB students may be more likely to get offers for many highly competitive courses than A Level students. University admissions tutors are attracted by this rigorous course requiring the independent thinking and writing skills required at university whilst acknowledging the breadth that is maintained alongside the depth of Higher Level subjects. The points system allows universities to clearly distinguish between very good and excellent students in a way in which the A Level does not. Many of our students find their CAS their Extended Essay and TOK engagement highly beneficial for their personal statement and other distinguishing areas of their UCAS application.
Like A level students, our IB candidates will have predicted grades from the end of their Year 12 along with prior achieved grades such as GCSE and IGCSE to declare on their UCAS form. Our long term experience as an International IB school and IB school of the year ensures we are fully familiar with this process. High quality internal assessment marks, progress test scores and internal end of Year 12 examinations are obvious points of reference. Our predictions will include a level for each subject and then a total points’ score ‘range’. For example, “We are confident that she will achieve a total points’ score of between 38 and 40 including the core elements.”
This is a very important point – our predictions need evidence. The dangers of over prediction are very clear. If we over-predict based on an unsubstantiated hope, we could do harm to a student’s application which will, perhaps, be seen as unrealistic. In addition, it could be that some universities will respond by making higher offers than they might have done otherwise in order to require the student to meet these high predictions. Please do not seek for us to raise a prediction without providing us with the evidence (the same issue applies to the A Level applicants).
As ever, all applicants must refer to entrance requirements with care; university and course details are all available to students through their Unifrog account or on the relevant websites. The offer is likely to be a total points score, say 38 including the core points, and also have a condition of achieving a certain minimum point score in the higher level subjects for example, ‘17’ or ‘6,6,5’. Unifrog allows students to compare the minimum requirements for a course and the average points of students who gained a place to help them with their final university choice. Experience from recent UCAS cycles indicates to us that IB applications are extremely warmly received and for competitive subjects such as medicine and veterinary medicine have resulted in highly competitive offers.
Like A levels the requirements for IB vary both between courses and universities. The majority of students applying to Russell group and competitive non-Russell Group universities will receive offers between 32-39 points, a typical Oxford offer would be 39-42 and for Cambridge 40-43 points.
IB students are often the driving force behind many Sixth Form events. Their enthusiasm, motivation together with the excellent time management skills they develop allow them to develop a range of interests outside the classroom which universities are keen to work with.
The introduction of reformed A Levels alongside introducing admissions fees has changed the landscape of university entrance for A Level students. Students now apply to university using their predicted grades from the end of Year 12 along with prior achieved grades such as GCSE and IGCSE to declare on their UCAS form. Our long term experience with the IB which has always worked on this system with no public exams in Year 12 means we have always had extensive experience in this area.
Grade predictions are important but the grades already obtained are more important! The key is that any grade prediction that we make must be backed up by suitable evidence that we can point to in the reference. This is a critical point – our predictions need evidence. The dangers of over prediction are very clear. If we over-predict based on an unsubstantiated hope, we could do harm to a student’s application which will, perhaps, be seen as unrealistic. In addition, it could be that some universities will respond by making higher offers than they might have done otherwise in order to require the student to meet these high predictions. Please do not seek for us to raise a prediction without providing us with the evidence (the same issue applies to the IB applicants).
Offers for A Level students are usually based on three subjects, which may be specified. Occasionally the offer may stipulate a grade in the fourth subject if the student is studying four A levels but this is rare. Many of our students begin by taking four subjects as studying at A level can be very different from GCSE and to help them be sure they have selected correctly. Some students may drop this fourth subject when they are clear on the top three, others may continue it for the first year all allowing us to comment on it in their reference if appropriate. Occasionally a student may carry on all four A levels, especially if it is Maths and Further Maths.
In a presentation to our students Bath University addressed the question ‘is there any point of carrying on with 4 subjects if all I am asked for is 3?’. They said that if they are looking at whether to make an offer for a highly competitive course and they see that a student has dropped a subject, when they had the opportunity to carry on with it, then it would make them question whether this particular individual had the drive, determination and academic rigour to be offered a place. It is always wise to consider how to justify and prove the use of the additional time gained – everyone knows that a student taking only 3 A Levels in the Year 13 will have a significant number of private study periods!
What we are very clear about is that it is better for for a student to achieve AAA than to achieve AABB, for example (or even A*ABB) when it comes to university admissions. Whether this is better for education or for life in general is, of course, a completely different matter!
The need for distinguished results highlights the competition for places at many universities where admissions tutors can struggle to distinguish between multiple applicants all with high grades. One way we can help students around this is by developing the core competencies now used for selection in both university admissions and employment recruitment and secondly to support them through the range of aptitude testing that an increasing number of universities are now using.
Our established Guidance programme starts immediately in Year 12. Students participate in a range of events broadening their understanding about University and Higher Education opportunities whilst also encouraging them to reflect on, and then develop, the competencies universities are looking for in particular courses. Students have access to a dedicated member of the guidance team in addition to their tutor and there are workshops on all parts of their UCAS application process.
Whilst this development is supported through the tutorial programme the introduction of our EPQ taught skills programme for all A level students ensures that the independent thinking and research that the many of the most competitive courses require is also developed to ensure overarching top class and competitive applications.