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Choosing the right path for the Sixth Form

In our latest blog, Head of Sixth Form, James Ralphs gives us his top tips for identifying which academic route is right for you...

The Sixth Form is a wonderful part of school life. It is a chance to widen your horizons from both an academic and co-curricular perspective. Even before you step through the threshold of the lower sixth, you are asked to select what you are going to study. 
 
So, where do you start?
 
A levels, IBDP or IBCP?
 
At Bryanston we offer three different academic routes for the Sixth Form: A level, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP). 
 
 
A level
IBDP 
IBCP 
 
No. of subjects
 
Minimum of 3
 
6 (3 at higher level and 3 at standard level)
 
Cambridge Technical and 2 Diploma subjects 
 
For some pupils, the idea of being able to study a broad range of subjects through the IB is an exciting one. For others, having to learn English, Maths and a language, even at standard level, is a non-starter and therefore A levels would be the appropriate path to take. Although there is overlap between the subjects offered at IB and A level, the course content can vary considerably. Therefore, a careful consideration of each subject and programme is essential. Talk to your current teachers and make the most of the information available to you. Bryanston pupils attend a Sixth Form choices fair in the spring term of Year 11 as well as having access to the Sixth Form choices guide, which gives a detailed breakdown of each subject. 
 
What are your strengths? 
 
Although not a perfect science, performance at GCSE does have a correlation with progress made in the Sixth Form. Choosing subjects in which you have a particular strength would be wise. At Bryanston, all heads of department will be looking for a 6 or higher at GCSE in order to access the A level or IB higher level subject content. The step up in workload, per subject, is considerable from GCSE to Sixth Form. Having a particular interest in your choices will make the work outside the classroom a lot easier. It is important that you have a desire for deeper learning, and a willingness to read around each of your chosen subjects in order to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. Are you somebody who would benefit from less weighting on exams? Choosing a subject or programme with coursework would spread deadlines throughout the year. 
 
What is your next step? 
 
What you choose can have an impact on your options after school. One of the ultimate goals for studying in the Sixth Form is to qualify for entry into whichever route you would like to go down next. If this is university, then you will want to choose subjects which give you the best opportunity of achieving top grades. Some degrees will have specific pre-requisite subjects. For example, studying Medicine usually requires both Chemistry and Biology (at higher level for IB) and the majority of the top Economics degrees require Mathematics. If you don’t have a particular degree or career in mind, pick subjects which complement each other and play to your academic strengths.
 
The decision of what to study in the Sixth Form shouldn’t be taken lightly. Discuss the advice above with your tutor throughout the rest of the autumn and spring terms. Speak to older pupils about their courses but ultimately ensure that the choices you make are right for you.
Tagged Sixth form