Sixth form programmes: the choice


sixth form

Students entering the sixth form have a range of options. Some schools may be able to offer a choice between two programmes, usually between A level and IB Diploma or A level and Pre-U. However, most schools have to commit themselves to one of those summarised below. Scotland has a different programme.

To find out more, go to



 A levelInternational
Baccalaureate (IB)
AQA Baccalaureate
Who is it for?16 to 19 year olds16 to 19 year olds16 to 19 year olds16 to 19 year olds
16 to 19 year olds
What can you study?Most students study three or four A levels.Six subjects (three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level). All students must study literature, a foreign language, a humanities subject, a natural science and mathematics.Free choice of three separate and distinct principal academic subjects from a list of 25.Three A level subjects in any academic discipline.
How does it work?The linear A level was introduced with first examination in 2017. Students can take a freestanding AS level but it no longer forms part of the A level. The A level is assessed after two years of study. Over two years, in addition to their six subjects, students complete a 4,000-word Extended Essay and a Theory of Knowledge course, and participate in the Creativity, activity, service (CAS) programme. All exams are taken at the end of the second year of study, there are no modules. Conceived as a holistic integral programme bound by a clear philosophy.Besides their three subjects studied over two years, students also complete an Independent Research Report and a Global Perspectives Portfolio. Exams are taken at the end of the second year of study, there are no modules.In addition to their three A levels, students complete an Extended Project Qualification that aims to make them responsible for their own learning; achieve breadth through an AS level in Critical Thinking, Citizenship, General Studies, Science in society or World development; and undertake enrichment activities outside the curriculum such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
What is it worth?The table below shows the UCAS tariff points awarded for the new (linear) A levels, with first examination in 2017.

Grade Tariff points
A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16
The table below shows the UCAS tariff points awarded for the IB Certificate in Higher Level. Certificates in Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge also attract UCAS tariff points when the certificates have been taken individually.

Grade Tariff points
H7 56
H6 48
H5 32
H4 24
H3 12
H2 0
H1 0
The Pre-U Diploma itself does not attract UCAS tariff points. However, the constituent qualifications of the Diploma do. The tariff points for a Pre-U Diploma can be calculated by adding together the tariff points for each of its components.

Grade Tariff points
D1 56
D2 56
D3 52
M1 44
M2 40
M3 36
P1 28
P2 24
P3 20
Maximum 216 UCAS tariff points for three A* A levels, grade A* Extended Project (28 points) and a standalone AS level at grade A (20 points).
Where can you
study it?
Schools and FE colleges.115 schools and colleges in the UK offer the IB Diploma.Most interest has come from a small number of highly selective independent schools.UK schools which believe A levels are not, in themselves, sufficient preparation for university.
CommentStill the best-known sixth-form qualification in the UK, and taken by the largest number of students as their means of entry into higher education. Some schools offer the Extended Project Qualification in addition to A levels.Internationally recognised and valued. Heavier class-based workload than A levels and more independent learning. The percentage of candidates achieving the different grades has remained constant over the years.Designed specifically to provide universities with a means of differentiation between A level A grade students by offering a more rigorous and stretching academic programme assessed on a series of higher grades.AQA Baccalaureate is derived in large part from the spirit of the IB Diploma Programme: depth, some breadth, thinking and research skills, and extra-curricular experience.

Subscribe / latest articles and news from our schools