A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) are academic qualifications that students in the UK work towards from the ages of 16 until 19. They take place in the final, advanced level of school education, known as Year 12 and 13 or Sixth Form. In countries such as Russia where university programmes run over 4 to 5 years, Year 12 and 13 in Britain are equivalent to the first two years of degree-level education. They correspond with the final years of higher secondary education in China, and the junior and senior years of high school study in the United States.
A-Levels and the IB are two-year courses available to students following GCSEs or equivalent international qualifications, alongside options such as BTEC and Pre-U. A-Levels are split into two separate strands: AS and A2. AS courses involve the study of four subjects one of which is dropped for study at A2. By contrast, the International Baccalaureate requires six subjects for study. A-Levels and the IB are far more in-depth and comprehensive than GCSEs and the majority of A-Level and IB subjects will need students to have attained successful grades in the same subjects at GCSE.
Students learn how to strike a balance between exploring topics they have a passion for and the core parts of their A-Level or IB syllabuses. The freedom given to students in Sixth Form should be seen as empowering rather than intimidating. This freedom can be extended to their out-of-classroom pursuits, such as extracurricular and vocational commitments, that help them develop their individual interests and skillsets. As a result, the Sixth Form experience effectively prepares young people with the academic and personal groundwork necessary for their university educations.