Sixth Form FAQs

What is the maximum class size?

Years 12 & 13: 12 tutor groups of 15 students. Subject classes are a maximum of 15 students, but may run for as few as five students.

Please note that the maximum class size may be exceeded on occasion due to extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the Head of School with the support of the CEO.

What pathways are on offer? How many students take A Levels and how many take the IB Diploma?

We have three pathways in Sixth Form at Tanglin: a three A Level pathway; a four A Level pathway and the IB Diploma. We want students to be appropriately challenged academically without being unnecessarily stressed by their workload.

Currently around one third (approximately 60) of our students study the IB Diploma and two-thirds (approximately 120) take A Levels: within the A Level, half of our students do three A levels and half do four. We expect to either maintain this ratio or see some further IB growth.

Every IB student starts on the full Diploma; similarly students who start on four A Levels are expected to continue will all four. Student’s Sixth Form courses are reviewed in October and then again at the end of Year 12.

How is the IB different from A Levels?

The IB Diploma is a philosophy-driven, skills-based and integrated programme of study in which students maintain a broad range of disciplines: this includes mother tongue, a foreign language, a humanities subject, maths, a science and an arts subject. Links between subjects are explored in Theory of Knowledge and all students complete CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) as well as the Extended Essay, a 4000 word individual research project. There is also an oral assessment in most subjects, so communication skills are practised and developed throughout the two year programme.

The IB Diploma is a linear rather than a modular course and all grades are awarded at the end of the two years of study after a combination of coursework and synoptic examination assessment. While most of the A Level subjects at Tanglin also adopt this linear format, some subjects still retain an AS component, which is formally tested at the end of Year 12. IB exams takes place in May and last up to three weeks.

How does the points system work? What form does assessment take in the IB?

Each of the six subjects is graded 1- 7, with 7 as the highest grade. The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge combined give up to 3 core points. The maximum Diploma score is, therefore, 45 points.

Assessment takes three forms in the IB: internal assessment; that which is undertaken internally and then moderated by external examiners; external assessment which is wholly undertaken by external examiners, and final examination. A focus on oral and presentational skills is a key feature of IB assessment across all of the subjects. The assessment is criterion based, not norm-referenced. While there are small fluctuations in the percentage of candidates gaining a top score in individual IB subjects, there is long-term stability. This means that the IB Diploma programme continues to distinguish between good and excellent students.

Are Standard Level courses less demanding than Higher Level courses in the IB Diploma?

Not necessarily. The distinction between Higher Level and Standard Level is an important feature of the IB Diploma. Details vary from subject to subject, some subjects have some common examination papers, and for these papers the Standard Level can be as conceptually demanding as the Higher Level. Please look closely at the course details in the options booklets.

Can I study more than three Higher Levels / more than six subjects in the IB Diploma?

All Tanglin IB Diploma students follow a six subject Diploma, with three Higher Levels. We feel that the Diploma is already a very challenging course. If a student does have a little extra time or energy, we encourage them to contribute to the co-curricular programme or focus on some other aspect of the Diploma, such as their Extended Essay.

Is the IB Diploma accepted by universities?

The IB Diploma is accepted by universities across the world: this includes the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Asia and Europe. We regularly place students in universities in all of these destinations.

When are decisions made about whether to study IB/A Levels?

We invest a lot of time in guiding students to ensure they are making the best Sixth Form choices so that they flourish when they embark on them in Year 12. Tanglin students make their pathway and option choices in March of Year 11 following a comprehensive series of information sessions, an options fair, 1-1 interviews and an opportunity to talk to current Sixth Form students.

Whilst we do consider option changes (including changes from Higher Level to Standard Level and vice versa) as part of the Academic Review process in the first half term of Year 12, a pathway change from IB to A Level or vice versa is exceptional.

What support is offered to students in making the decision whether to study A Levels or IB?

In a dual pathway school, helping families decide which pathway to follow is a detailed process which starts as early as Year 9 for our current students. Student attributes, potential career paths and likely university destinations are discussed in detail. Scrutinising the different appeal of both pathways becomes more intensive from the start of Year 11 and students make their final choices at the end of Term 2 of Year 11.

As each student is individual, a fundamental part of the process is the many conversations between students, parents, the University Guidance counsellors and teachers who use their professional experience to guide students in the direction they feel is most appropriate for each student to be successful and happy on their course. Current Sixth Form students also share their own unique perspective on each pathway/subject with Year 11 students and parents.

What factors are considered when determining whether A Levels or IB is the best pathway?

There can be many factors which determine which route is better for a student. For example, if students know exactly which subjects they wish to focus on and have a definite university course in mind, then the A Level route may be suitable. University destinations can influence pathway choice, so we also factor in which country the student intends to study in. For students who want to keep their options open and continue with a broad range of subjects, IB may be more appropriate. At the same time, if teachers feel that continuing with six subjects for IB might be too much for a particular student, they will discuss this with both the student and his/her parents.

The decision will involve a 1-1 interview with a senior member of staff as well as discussions with the Head of Year, Student Services Team (which includes the Careers & University Guidance team), faculty staff, student and parents. By the end of the process, we are confident that the students and parents will be happy with the choices they make and that these are a good fit for the individual student.

What happens with students joining Tanglin in the Sixth Form?

Students who join Tanglin in the Sixth Form will be given as much support as they need to decide which pathway is most appropriate. This may include 1-1 discussions with the Head of Sixth Form, IB Co-ordinator or the Student Services team. Wherever possible, we like to meet with the student as part of the admissions process, or at least talk with them by telephone. As every student is unique, levels of support will differ. Our overriding aim is to ensure that all new students joining us in Year 12 will manage the transition well and go on to thrive so that they are happy and successful during their time at Tanglin.