A-Levels vs. Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Courses

If you aspire to get a university degree, you have probably started considering how to earn the credits to gain acceptance to a top Ivy League university. Getting into a top university has become more competitive and students need to ensure that they have a strong application for a better chance of being accepted to their preferred university. 

A-Levels, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses are considered the highest schooling courses that students can take. On completion of either of these courses, the student will receive certification that they have reached an academic level which is more advanced than a standard high school diploma. This will earn them extra credits that will enable them to apply for their tertiary studies at a top-tier university. 

In this article, we will explain the differences between A-Levels, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. 

Which will best prepare a student for university?

  • AP (Advanced Placement) courses are an American-based high school curriculum, developed by the United States Organisation College Board with predominantly American content. Top international universities do not always recognise these courses, although more universities are opening up admissions to AP students. 
  • A-Levels are a targeted system of learning, which means that students can specialise in their topics of study. A-Levels are perfect for students who want to work towards a specific field to study at university (e.g. medical students may focus on science-related subjects). On completion of their course, they will be true specialists in their field and better prepared for the challenge of tertiary studies. Students who study A-Levels are also able to study independently and self-manage their workload through online schools like CambriLearn. A-Levels are accepted at most universities around the world, including Europe and the USA.
  • IB (International Baccalaureate) is for those who aim to have a broader curriculum in terms of having more general academic knowledge. In this case, many areas of study are covered and developed at many educational levels. The student is generally less prepared for targeted, in-depth studies required at university. Schools that offer the IB curriculum will argue that the system produces a more holistic student with broader general knowledge.  

How do A-Levels better prepare students for university?

While the IB is designed for developing an all-rounded student, those studying A-Levels can specialise in their subjects according to their potential career path. For example, the IB courses normally wouldn’t allow for students to study more than two sciences because the student must have space in their timetable for other subjects in the programme. However, students choosing the A-Level route would have no problem studying three sciences – Physics, Biology and Chemistry, for example – especially if it would better prepare them for a particular university course, like pursuing a career in medicine.


  • A-Level subjects are assessed by an external examination board like Pearson Edexcel or Cambridge. There are generally two exam sittings per year which give students the flexibility to choose a date that best suits their schedule and academic progress. This also provides students with the opportunity to rewrite their exams at another date, should they not be satisfied with their initial results. 
  • IB assessment scores combine internal and external testing. The internal assessment usually takes into account projects and assignments which count for approximately 15-25% of the student’s final mark. The remainder of the grade is obtained through an examination at the end of the student’s second year of study. 
  • APs are 100% assessed through a standardised examination that takes place at the end of the academic year.  

Which is more recognised by universities? 

AP, IB and A-Level courses are all recognised by universities around the world, however, A-Levels are considered to be the most widely recognised internationally. IGCSE and A-Levels courses are followed in over 10000 schools and recognised in over 160 countries. Over 600 universities in the USA, including all the major Ivy League universities, accept students with A-Level qualifications. A-Level qualifications are also accepted at all the universities in the UK and in other destinations including Canada, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa and more. There are more than 1400 universities around the world that recognise A-Level qualifications. The most important consideration is to ensure that the chosen curriculum is the one that will best prepare the student for their chosen tertiary studies and ideal career path. 

A-Levels for students with special circumstances

A-Levels are a great solution for students who have had interruptions in their studies due to illness or professional participation in sports or the arts because they provide more flexibility. It is also a great option for homeschoolers, as it allows them to focus on the subjects that interest them and opens the door for a more in-depth understanding and knowledge of these subjects.  

Students who are seeking a more flexible, self-paced curriculum that allows them to specialise their studies towards a chosen profession should consider completing their A-Levels. Completing your A-Levels online with CambriLearn will boost your GPA and earn you credits towards university acceptance. 

A-Levels offer an elite education qualification that is accepted at top-tier universities around the world, whilst providing a superior intellectual curriculum to help students ease the transition into tertiary education by developing the attributes they require to complete their studies successfully. 

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A-Levels vs. Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Courses

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