Everything you need to know about International A-levels in Singapore

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Everything you need to know about International A-levels in Singapore</span>

As a parent, one of the most important decisions we make for our children is choosing the right school for them. One key consideration will be the curriculum that will best meet your child's needs in the future. There are three main routes to choose from at International Schools - International A-levels (IALs), International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) and Advanced Placement. 

In this article, we explain why the IALs qualification is highly sought after and how it differs from others. We also take a deep dive and address some questions you might have about the high school programme.

Are International A-Levels recognised in universities outside of the UK?

International A-Levels (IALs) are qualifications offered to students ages 16 to 18 at international schools globally by Cambridge International Examinations and Pearson Edexcel. They are internationally recognised qualifications equivalent to British A-Levels, the standardised academic examinations taken in the United Kingdom. Both qualifications are highly respected by universities and employers alike and provide a direct path to university. Thousands of learners worldwide gain places at leading universities every year with International A-Levels.

What is the difference between International A-Levels and British A-Levels?

British A-Levels and International A-Levels are both qualifications that students can take in order to further their education and access universities all over the world. However, there are differences between the two. British A-Levels are only offered in the United Kingdom and topics are often UK-centric. International A-Levels are offered globally by international schools and whilst the content of these courses is similar, the context in which they are placed is non-country specific and therefore are more suited and appropriate for an international context. However, both qualifications are highly respected by universities and employers alike, and provide a direct path to university.

What is the difference between the IB and A-Levels (International/UK)?

Unlike the IB Diploma Programme, which focuses on breadth as students have to study six subjects alongside the core components: Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service), International A-Levels only require students to choose 3 or 4 subjects to specialise in and study in depth over the two years. Students can choose to study and focus on the subjects that interest them and which are required for the degree they intend to pursue at university (most university entry requirements specify only three grades at A-Level). They are also likely to maximise their potential and achieve the best outcomes/grades in these subjects by specialising earlier.

Is there an International A-Level equivalent for the IB Core - extended essay, TOK, CAS?

At EtonHouse International School Orchard, we recognise the importance of providing students with a holistic education that goes beyond academics. This is supported through our bespoke EtonCore programme, which is a combination of elective and accredited pathways and is an integral part of our Personalised Pathway Plan@16. Each student will be able to select an individualised and personalised journey comprising elective aspects of the EtonCore where they will have opportunities to develop their interests and nurture student agency and a growth mindset. These elements include:

  • Researching and producing an essay on a self-selected topic as part of the externally accredited Extended Project Qualification;
  • Driving community service projects through the EtonHouse Community Fund;
  • Working towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a globally recognised accreditation that empowers young people to learn and grow through the areas of physical recreation, skills development, adventurous journey and voluntary service;
  • Participating in partnerships and residential programmes that give them real-world experiences; and
  • Collaborating with other overseas schools in the EtonHouse global network to develop international mindedness

The EtonCore programme encourages students to become well-principled, critical thinkers who are not afraid to take risks, and it is in line with the EtonHouse core values of nurturing independent learners who take responsibility for their future success. These attributes challenge students to think beyond subject-based learning outcomes and are fundamental for helping them prepare for higher education and future career opportunities.

Which exam is tougher? The International A-Levels or the IB Diploma?

Both post-16 programmes are highly regarded by universities and employers globally, and both will develop abilities that are highly valued, including a deep understanding of their subject, higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving, and independent learning and research. Unlike the IB Diploma, which requires students to be strong in every aspect to do well, the International A-Levels does not require all students to be all-rounders. Instead, it allows students to focus on their strengths and passions, and are thus more likely to do well and score good grades for university admissions.

When do the International A-Level exams take place?

A distinct advantage of International A-Levels is that the students do not have to sit the final examinations all at once and can instead space them out over the two-year programme. Students will sit for the AS exams at the end of their first year (Year 12) and receive an AS-Level grade, which can also be a stand-alone qualification in its own right that is worth half the equivalent A-Level grade. Students may then choose which subjects to pursue further and take the A2 exams at the end of Year 13, testing content covered in the second year. The final A-Level grade will be an average of the grades achieved in the AS and A2 exams. Exams are held in May/June and October/November, so students can resit and retake their AS modules if necessary to get the best possible grades for university admission.

Do you have some guidelines for International A-Level subjects for different career options? When do these discussions take place?

Choosing International A-Level subjects for different career paths involves careful consideration and guidance. Typically, discussions about subject choices begin in Year 11 through initiatives like our Personalised Pathway Plan@16 Programme at EtonHouse International School Orchard. Due to our small class sizes and mantra that 'every student is known well by every teacher', we can tailor a plan to each student's academic potential and personal development goals, ensuring they select the most suitable International A-Level courses.

Students should aim for a minimum of three A-Levels, which is the standard requirement for most universities. While some opt for four A-Levels, it's crucial to prioritize quality over quantity. It's better to excel in three subjects than to struggle with more.

When selecting subjects, students should follow their interests and strengths, and ensure that they meet the requirements of their preferred university course. If they are unsure what to do at university or for their career, don’t worry. Keep options open and consider the following:

  • Choose subjects you enjoy – you’ll do better in your studies if you have a genuine passion and interest in the subject
  • Choose subjects in which you are predicted to get good IGCSE grades – chances are you’ll do well in these subjects at A-level, too, earning you better grades and opening up more university options.
  • Choose a range of subjects – This will give you more options when it comes to applying for university. It’s also worth thinking about the transferrable skills demonstrated by different subject choices. For example:
    • Essay-based subjects such as English Literature or Geography demonstrate analytical skills and critical thinking;
    • Science subjects such as Physics or Mathematics demonstrate logic and familiarity with scientific principles;
    • Practical subjects such as Art demonstrate self-discipline, organisation and creativity.

To learn more about our High School International A-Levels programme, visit EtonHouse International School Orchard. 

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