International Baccalaureate (IB) has three programs – the Diploma Programme (IBDP) builds on the skills offered in the first two programs.
Students must study three subjects at Higher Level and three at Standard Level; successfully complete a 4,000-word original research essay; be involved in Creativity, Action and Service; and successfully complete a Theory of Knowledge course.
Students are required to study six subjects (two languages, a Maths, Humanities, a Science and an elective (i.e. an Arts subject or Computer Sciences).
Students receive a Grade of 1 to 7 per subject – seven is the highest score. Three additional points are given for the research essay and Theory of Knowledge course. The highest possible overall score for the Diploma is 45.
Exams are held in May of each year, over a three- week period, usually at a student’s school. Some examinations are practical, and some are oral, but most are written exams.
IB subjects are rigorous and prepares students exceptionally well for university. Teachers expect students to think critically, be inquiring, be able to research independently and to be involved in activities outside of the classroom.
The emphasis on internationalism, social responsibility and action, and independent and critical thinking are often cited as the hallmarks of the IB. The mission is to produce young people who are principled, curious, knowledgeable, caring and able to take risks.
The IB program is widely recognized in Europe, North America, and Oceania.
Western Academy of Beijing, International School of Beijing, Dulwich Academy, Beijing BISS International School, Beijing City International School, Beijing World Youth Academy, Canadian International School of Beijing, Yew Chung International School
The Advanced Placement (AP) Program is run by the College Board in the United States, the same organization that offers the SAT.
High schools set their own standards for enrollment in an AP course. Most high schools limit the number of AP courses a student may take because the course of study is rigorous, time-consuming and fast-paced.
Consult the College Board website (www.collegeboard.com) to find out which AP courses are available (courses include calculus, English literature, art history, European history, chemistry and biology).
High school students take year-long AP courses and sit for the exam in May of that year. The exams, which are administered in secondary schools around the world, are written and scored by the Advanced Placement Program.
The external examination is scored on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the highest score.
AP teachers have high expectations for their students and take great care in preparing students to do well on the AP examinations.
Since AP courses essentially are college freshman courses taught in high school, many colleges and universities in the US will award college credit for a score of 4 or 5 (i.e. the student will not have to take the course in college). The appearance of AP courses on a student’s transcript denotes that a student has challenged her/himself.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States; most accept AP scores as class credit, but policies vary from school to school.
St Paul American School, International Academy of Beijing, International School of Beijing, Beijing Shuren Ribet Private School (modified system)
AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) Level qualifications refer to the UK high school certificate. A-Levels normally take two years of full-time study to complete. British students graduate high school at age 16 and then do A-Levels at another institution (aka “college”).
Entry requirements for A-Level courses vary from one institution to the next. Students coming through the British system should have at least five GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) at C or above. Students can transfer from other programs (i.e. the IB Middle Years program).
A-Levels are offered in all disciplines, though the range of subjects varies by institution. Although three A-Level subjects is the normal requirement for university entrance, students have the option of taking four.
A-Levels are made up of the AS-Level and the A2-Level, each of which takes one year to complete and makes up 50 percent of the overall grade. The AS-Level can be a freestanding qualification, or be valued as the first half of the full A-Level. The A2 deepens the knowledge gained during the AS-Level. They are graded from A (highest) to E (lowest); starting in 2010, an A* will mark the highest achievers.
An A-Level exam differs depending on the subject being taken. Language subjects such as Mandarin, are assessed on all four macro skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) during a round of four exams at the end of the year. Subjects such as Art are assessed on the coursework and portfolio produced by the student throughout the year.
Teachers expect commitment and consistent work across the two years, not just in the final examinations. Good institutions offering A-Levels rely heavily on a tutor system in which students are closely monitored and encouraged to reach their full potential.
Although A-Levels allow a students the option of specializing, they are not constrained in the range of subjects that they can choose. While students often choose to study related subjects, such as Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Math, it is equally possible to select a course of Theatre Studies, Chemistry, Spanish and Ancient Greek. A-Levels allow students to tailor their education to their own needs or the student’s desired university major or field.
An A-Level qualification is recognized worldwide; however, some universities do not accept the results of a re-sat A-Level exam (meaning if you do badly in a subject and need to re-sit it, some universities will not accept the new grade).
Harrow International School Beijing, Nord Anglia International School, British School of Beijing
The Gaokao, China’s National College Entrance Examination, is a single extraordinarily rigorous exam taken in the final year of high school; students spend several years preparing for it. In 2009, 10.2 million students competed for 6.29 million places in China’s universities.
Students take six subjects in total. Chinese, mathematics and a foreign language (such as English, Japanese, French or Russian) are compulsory.
Students can choose between the sciences stream (physics, chemistry and biology) or the humanities stream (history, geography and political education). It’s important to note that the number and type of subjects required varies from province to province; however those listed above are the stardard.
The compulsory subjects (Chinese, math and a foreign language) are worth 150 points each; the science and humanities subjects are worth 100 points each, totaling 300. The gaokao is graded on a 0-750 point scale (750 being the maximum score); 500 points or higher generally secures a university place. Universities weigh exam results depending on the province of the applicant.
The exam is supposed to be nationally uniform, but in reality the gaokao is modified in each province to accommodate the quality and content of the local curriculum. The exam is held over two days in June. The gaokao is the sole criterion for university admission in China.
In the final years of high school, students spend around 14 hours per day studying for the exam (some students begin exam preparations in junior school). Exceptional rote memory skills are required as students must be able to recall vast chunks of information, theory and mathematic formulas.
The gaokao is a standardized exam famous for its difficulty. It is highly competitive and focuses strictly on traditional academic subjects. The aim of the gaokao is to achieve perfect results across all fields, requiring highly developed rote learning skills and an ability to master new content very quickly.
A gaokao qualification can be used to apply to universities in China but most universities abroad will also require other standardized tests for admission.
Beijing No. 55 High School, Beijing Huijia Private College, Beijing World Youth Academy, Renda High School, Rital School and all local Chinese schools.