Choosing Higher Levels – things to think about

Choosing your higher levels is probably one of the most important decisions that you will make. It can make you or break you. Here are some of my tips on choosing your higher levels:

  1. Think about how much extra that higher level is. Is it more difficult? Or is there just more content? Are there more assessments? Are the assessments harder? For example, choosing HL Economics was a no-brainer for me, because it simply was a little more content and an additional calculations paper in the exam. More than that, we’d already covered some of the HL content in class even before we chose to do HL. Choosing HL English was a similar concept – I figured I had to learn how to write a good commentary and essay regardless, and learning a few more texts would actually give me more choice in my final exam. The higher level students in English actually get more time in the final exam too! But there was no way I was going to go near HL Math, considering it is more difficult than SL Math, and I already struggle in the math department.
  2. Think about how good you are at that subject. If you already struggle with SL Biology, it is probably unwise to choose HL Biology. However, if you are flying through SL Chemistry, then HL Chemistry may just be the thing for you. Think about what grade you would like in the Higher Level and what you are currently getting at Standard Level. Weigh it up, and think about whether your goals are feasible in the long run.
  3. Think about how much you like the subject. If you are absolutely passionate about Chemistry, you might choose to do it over HL Biology even though chemistry might be a little more difficult to understand. It might be more worthwhile to do a subject at HL that you like more over the one that is supposedly “easier” because you will be more likely to work at it (and thus your chances of success will increase).
  4. Do you need that Higher Level for the university course you want to take? Some courses require you to do the higher level of that subject. Make sure you research this thoroughly and take it into consideration. Some universities may not let you take a bridging course.
  5. Do you have a choice? Having to choose at least 3 HLs is a problem for some people because immediately they have subjects they cannot do at HL, for example ab initio languages, or Studies Math. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. If you are left to choose between 2 subjects, think about points mentioned above.

Ultimately, you should weigh up all the points above. Sometimes, choosing HLs is a matter of elimination: “I am definitely not doing HL Physics, and I am definitely not doing HL Math. Thus I am left with……….., and I would rather do HL Psychology over HL Biology,” etc.

Choosing 4 Higher Levels…Is it worth it?

No, it is definitely not worth it unless you desperately need it for university. The IB does not scale you well or take pity upon you for doing more than you have to, and ultimately this is a compromise on your marks. There are many bright, capable and talented students that end up compromising their final score because of an additional higher level. Having said that, some of us are infinitely curious and willing to take on the extra work. Think about what you need to get into the course you want at university/what you are aiming for before you choose to do 4 HLs. Remember, higher levels require much more teaching time and a lot more time dedicated to studying an extra higher level.

Choose your higher levels wisely! It could be a major determining factor for your success. Remember, once you start, it is difficult to reverse the decision!

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