Which curriculum will best prepare me for top US and UK colleges?
How to choose between the three programs?
Fundamentally this is a personal decision. All of the courses (A Level, IB and AP) enable students to get to University anywhere in the world. Whilst students achieve highly in the final examinations, it is important that students develop broader skills and talents through electives and extra curricula activities, these enrich their applications for University. The latter are more fully embedded in the IB curriculum because the students are required to complete a CAS project (see earlier explanation). Universities in the UK certainly prefer the A level as an “entrance requirement”, where the students are focusing on Sciences and Mathematics/related degree courses (Engineering/Medicine etc.). Even so there is no hard and fast picture to admissions. When making a decision about which program to pursue I would always advise students and parents to research the programs and related courses, there are good websites for all the programs; go and talk to students who are already involved and ask them for their views and certainly go and visit schools where possible. Explore how the programs are taught and get feedback on the quality of the programs.
A-levels and AP offer the most flexibility - you can choose which subjects you want to take and how many you wish to do. You also have the option of resitting in different exam sessions and starting early. On the other hand, IB is more unflexible but generally considered to be more rigorous then A-Levels and AP due to the rigidity and compulsory breadth it covers. It really depends on your work ethic, personal preference, and academic interests.
Do you want flexibility?
Choose A-Levels or AP.
Do you want to go the UK?
Do you prefer a structured curriculum?
Students who succeed highly at AP, A-Level, and IB (although this system is more established for AP and conversion can be fluffy) can get credit for first-year courses at US Universities because they have already exceeded expectations in this regard. Some evidence also suggests that IB students on average achieve higher level degree success at University and students who have completed the AP program settle in most effectively during their first year at University in the USA. As long as you do well in any of the three, you should be able to accelerate your studies if you wish to do so in college.