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A-levels, BTECs or the IB – which is right for you?

What qualifications should you take after GCSEs? A-levels aren’t the only option – BTECs and the International Baccalaureate have their own strengths...

How do you feel about entering the next stage of your education? Excited? Nervous? Intimidated? 

There are more choices than ever for people pursuing higher-level studies, with many schools now offering a combination of A-levels, BTECs and the International Baccalaureate (IB), or even all three.

All of these offer paths to university or into work, so it pays to think ahead to decide what route suits your aspirations best.

Read more below or download our free guide to A-level, BTEC and IB choices.

Should I take A-levels, BTECs or the International Baccalaureate?

Although A-levels are the most common choice for 18-year-olds applying to university, they aren’t the only option out there.

For example, a little over 10% of 18-year-olds in the UK applied to university with BTECs, while 7.2% applied with a combination of A-levels and BTECs (source: Ucas, 2018). You can find out more about what Btec qualifications are here.

Meanwhile, IB Diploma students made up the second-largest group of applicants at Oxford University (source: Oxford University website).

If your school or college offers them, choosing BTECs or the IB can give you an alternative way to study, while still walking away with qualifications that get you into your dream uni course and on the career ladder.

If you're looking for a change, you might want to consider broadening your options and moving to another school or sixth form to continue your studies.

We dig further into what each qualification entails in our downloadable guide, including a few questions to ask yourself to suss out which one might suit you.
Scottish students, we've not forgotten about you Rebecca reflects on what she wished she'd known about S5.

Is post-16 study that different to GCSEs?

Moving from GCSE to post-16 study can be challenging.

If you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you are likely to adapt more easily and thrive. So prepare for new ways of learning, because A-levels (or equivalent) are very different to studying GCSEs.

For example, classes are often smaller, lending themselves to more group discussions (and making it harder to hide or not get involved, if that sounds familiar).

Also, assignments will have higher wordcounts and all the while you might start juggling other responsibilities, such as part-time jobs and extracurricular activities to boost your personal statement

We asked student Chloe what the switch from GCSE to A-levels was like:
Drastic! There is a lot more focus and work required. I have learnt to manage my time more effectively, which has helped me to complete my work. 

A-levels are about learning to study independently. Now I use free periods on my timetable to get my work done, which reduces my stress levels too.

In our guide, we tackle some things that Year 12s often find difficult, with advice to help you overcome them.  

The complete guide to A-level, BTEC and International Baccalaureate choices

We cover:
  • Everything you need to know about A-levels, BTECs and the IB
  • What qualifications are best for your future job prospects
  • What subjects you can study, and how to pick them
  • Transitioning into Year 12 and 13
  • Dos and don’ts for deciding on your post-16 path
  • Tips for success
Download our free guide here:

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