Mahad Imran


How to choose A-Level Subjects in Pakistan? Should I go for Intermediate?

You have successfully pulled through your O-Level/IGCSE and are eager to embark on your roller coaster ride of college but, you are unsure of what courses you’ll be taking. This article aims to help you in making the right decision about your further studies.

Before we dive into choosing A-Level subjects, let’s discuss whether you should opt for A-Levels or the local board Intermediate(HSSC)?

If you plan to stay in Pakistan for your undergraduate education, the biggest downside of choosing A-Levels is that you need equivalence (which is issued by IBCC, a federal organization) of your O and A Level grades to be considered for admission in almost all universities of Pakistan alongside with students from local boards. Unfortunately, this equivalence process means that the maximum attainable marks for you are 90% because individual component marks are not disclosed for students appearing in O and A level examinations. Due to this, IBCC has set up a specific conversion formula for grades awarded.

Conversion is done as follows:

A* = 90 marks | A = 85 marks | B = 75 marks | C = 65 marks | D = 55 marks | E = 45 marks

Currently, for HSSC equivalence 8 subjects from O Level and 3 subjects from A-Level are considered meaning you need to have 8 A*s in OL and 3 A*s in AL for 990/1100 in HSSC.

In short, this means that you stand at a greater disadvantage as compared to other local board students who score as much as more than 97% marks and when it comes to university admissions, even a 0.1% matters.

If you’re planning to become a doctor and that too from a public medical college in Punjab, you may not want to opt for A-Levels at all. Last year, the closing merit for public institutions in Punjab was more than 91%. This merit rate is calculated taking into consideration your HSSC marks and performance in MDCAT (entrance test) and is subject to change according to government policies.

So, it would be a lot wiser to shift to the local board Intermediate. The transition isn’t easy but a lot of students do and score excellent marks.

As for students aiming for other careers, sticking with A-Levels may be a good decision as the merit isn’t as high as it is for Medical Universities and a good performance in entrance tests will get you into a good university. Keep in mind that entrance tests of various engineering universities require great conceptual learning along with knowledge of various topics which are a part of only intermediate subjects. It isn’t a tedious task but will require you to put in extra work.

And one more thing, if you found O Levels harder because it requires you to apply your concepts into theory and you’re more comfortable with rote learning, then you should check out the local board HSSC as I found it less conceptual learning and more rote knowledge.

How to choose your A-Level Subjects?

Now you know, you’d be pursuing AL and don’t know what subjects to opt for. Unfortunately, there isn’t much flexibility in choosing your subjects if you plan to stay in Pakistan because you have to fulfil specific subject requirements for different programs.

Some of you might have an idea about what you’ll be pursuing in future but many of you don’t have a single clue about what you’re going to do.

If you’re staying in Pakistan, subject choices are pretty simple. At least three subjects are required by all the universities in Pakistan. Usually, required subject combinations are as follows:

For all Engineering programs: Physics, Chemistry* and Mathematics with O levels in Science Group

For MBBS/BDS: Physics, Chemistry and Biology with O levels in Science Group

* = (Computer science instead of chemistry will work for software/computer engineering programs)

For other Bachelor Programs: Usually, there aren’t any specific requirements for humanities and arts programs but you should check out your desired university’s requirements because they will vary with the university. For e.g. for a BS in Computer Science, NUST requires a science group, whereas IBA only requires Math with 2 other A-level subjects.

It is always wiser and you must check university entrance requirements for your desired programs in your desired universities and then, select and finalize your subject combinations.

To put it simply, these factors should be taken into account while choosing subjects:

  • First and foremost, university and program requirements.

Shortlist some of your target universities and desired programs. Briefly go through their programs’ requirements and eligibility criteria.

  • Your interest in those subjects.

You don’t want to study some subject just because your guardians want you to. Trust me, you need to be on the same page as your guardians because if you take a subject in which you have 0 interest, you’re going to fail miserably in the long run.

  • Relevance of your subject choices to your future career paths.

I know I want to be a software engineer but my friend told me that it was easier to score in A-Level Urdu so I would take it up as well. This may be acceptable if you were interested in Urdu. If you take it just because an extra A looks good on your transcript, you’re far better off investing that time taking up relevant courses.

Additional Subjects

You can have any additional subject as per your liking but don’t pick too many because the workload will crush you. A lot is going along with your studies in the 2 years of A-Levels. By a lot, I mean all the extra and co-curricular activities, researching about your career prospects, preparing for universities’ entrance tests, planning your admission applications and whatnot. Usually, students aiming for a career in medicine will pick Mathematics alongside Biology, Physics and Chemistry to have a backup and more options.

Planning to go Abroad

Now if you’re planning to go abroad. Fortunately, there isn’t any equivalence by IBCC involved but a few countries may require their own equivalences such as Turkey. Mostly, foreign universities will require 5 subjects from your O-Levels and 3 subjects from your A-Levels but this doesn’t apply to all universities. Requirements vary from country to country and from university to university. Some of the universities may require a language subject in addition to 2/3 A-Levels subjects. This is where you require extensive research about which country you’re planning to go to and what are some of your targeted universities and their requirements.

I had science subjects in O-Levels, can I transition to Commerce Subjects?

Yes, of course. This is very doable and in fact, a lot of students do this. You will require a bit of hard work as you need to go through O-level books of your new subjects and build up your basic concepts. You can easily get equivalence in Pakistan (of course for Humanities/Arts group) and apply to foreign universities.

Importance of A level Maths

Mathematics is the most valuable subject whether you’re a science or a commerce student. If you are aiming for a career in medicine, opting for Maths alongside the regular combination would open up numerous opportunities. A commerce student would find A-Level Maths very helpful for every university admission test, be it SAT or any other and, of course, very beneficial in university.

If you found the article informative, don’t forget to share it with anyone who might find it helpful as well.

How to prepare for IBA’s Interview? Acing the IBA’s Interview!

First of all, congratulations on meeting the test’s or SAT’s cut-off. Give yourself a pat on the back. Very few candidates are able to reach the interview stages. Now, there’s only one hurdle that stands in your way of making it to the prestigious Institute of Business and Administration! The interview part of the application is perceived as very tough and rigorous, but it isn’t that hard as you may think. I was able to clear it and, I want you to be able to as well!

Why do so many candidates don’t clear the IBA’s interview? The don’ts!

In my opinion, there can be several reasons for people not clearing the interviews and a few are mentioned here.

  • Lack of confidence and self-belief.

Probably, the major reason for so many students getting rejected. As I mentioned earlier, students are afraid when they hear about an interview which results in low confidence levels and, they end up doubting themselves. The first step to achieving anything is believing that you can do it! You need to keep your back straight with your head up portraying a confident and firm individual.

  • No clear future ambitions.

Many students are indecisive about their future. They don’t have a vivid picture of what they’ll be pursuing. IBA doesn’t want you if you’re unsure, they need the very best with a clear set of goals. You need to show your interviewers that you mean business and you know where will you stand in the coming years!

  • Lying.

For example, you’re asked what are some of your hobbies? You mention book reading just to make a great impression but haven’t read a single book in years. Their next question is most probably going to be what is the last book you read and, what’s the best thing about it? Here you will get stuck, probably you would need some time to think to come up with something. They will immediately know you lied and that is going to make an impression you don’t want. Only speak the truth and what you can defend.

  • Getting in an argument.

At some times, interviewers might be trying to test out your patience. They may be inviting an argument or a quarrel. You must not fall for the trap. At most times, you’ll end up creating a bad impact but not every time. In my opinion, you must avoid an argument at all costs because it is not worth the risk.

  • Lack of preparation

Some candidates take it easy and plan to just improvise during the interview. This might work for a handful of people but, trust me this is a terrible idea. A little bit of preparation won’t hurt rather significantly increase your chances of getting in!

How do I prepare?

  1. Firstly, you need to have a clear set of goals. What do you want from your time at IBA and where do you see yourself after 5 years? You don’t need to be very specific, a general idea would suffice.
  2. Come up with any questions you think can be asked. They may be specific to your background and program. Make a list of all these questions. I will also add a list of commonly asked questions at the end of this article.
  3. Prepare answers for every question you added to the list you made earlier.
  4. Have someone ask you these questions and answers. If you have no one to help you, ask yourself in front of a mirror. This will substantially boost your confidence.
  5. Read the personal statement that you submitted at the time of admission. Make sure there’s nothing contradictory between it and the answers you have prepared.
  6. Go through your program’s website and acquaint yourself with anything there is.
  7. Almost always at the end, they’ll ask if you have any questions for us? Do prepare a good question for them. It can be anything related to IBA or program, just make sure that is not very common and, answer to it is not easily available.

Interview Day Preparations

You must wear formal clothing. A suit won’t be necessary but wearing a tie with the formal dress is a must for the lads. Remain calm and relaxed. In an in-person interview, your posture should be straight, if you’re prompted for a handshake, you must do it confidently and firmly. Seek your interviewers’ permission before having a seat. These little things make your first impression which has the greatest impact. Reach well before stated time to prevent any inconveniences. Relax, take long breaths before entering and don’t let the nerves get better of you!

Here’s a list of what is usually asked. This doesn’t mean you will be asked this only!

  1. Introduce/describe yourself!
  2. Why IBA?
  3. Why your chosen program?
  4. Tell us about your hobbies/extracurricular activities. After this, they will probably be interested to know more details of your one activity.
  5. Your favourite subject/field of interest?
  6. Do you read books? If yes, tell us about your favourite or most recent book.
  7. Do you read the newspaper? If yes, they can ask anything about current affairs.
  8. What is good or bad about your current school in your opinion?
  9. Your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  10. Specific questions can be asked if your background doesn’t match the selected program.
  11. Do you have any backups? What if you don’t get into IBA?
  12. Where do you see yourself after 5 years?
  13. Do you have any questions for us?