The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an internationally recognised qualification which was introduced to meet the educational needs of a diplomat’s children. A diplomat would travel around the world with their children and wanted a qualification that they could study around the world, and be recognised. It is also designed to offer a broader education, with several subjects from various areas available. It also encourages creative thinking and independent learning, with featuring independent projects for students to work on, also offering valuable experience that they can then use at an undergraduate level.
The IB is most recognised across mainland Europe than the UK, it’s a great opportunity to open up an individual’s future university and career prospects. Those who study the IB will look at a wide range of subjects and will also have a better chance to study degrees like a Language degree, A Mathematics degree, a Science degree (Be it a Physics degree, Chemistry degree or a Biology degree) and a degree in the arts. These subjects aid students to develop an understanding on a wider level of subjects, and if a student chooses to complete the IB Diploma, will study 6 subjects alongside 3 compulsory units compared to 3 or 4 A Levels, or a BTEC national qualification.
The broad understanding that students gain from studying the IB diploma will help them if they are interested in studying a degree course in business, economics and politics. This is because the IB showcases an individual’s ability to learn across many subjects, while also working on an Extended Essay (EE), and personal projects.
If a student is considering studying a Medicine degree, an Engineering degree or a Veterinary degree, they will be better off academically to study 3 or 4 A-Levels instead. This is so a student can study more in depth relative subjects, and a deeper level than the IB will go into.
The IB Diploma is perfect for any student who feels unsure about their degree choices beyond sixth form or further education level (learn more – choosing a degree course is not easy due to the nature of the variety of course now available). As the IB focuses on many areas and offers a broad set of skills and knowledge, it can enable individuals to learn a bit of everything until they find an area that suits them best (The student subject degree guides will provide students with an insight of what each course involves).
For those wishing to fly the nest and study in a European country will also benefit from studying the IB Diploma, as it is a globally recognised qualification – and more recognised in central Europe than the UK. Therefore, students can study abroad if they choose to take the IB over traditional A-Levels. Those looking to study abroad should also look into the possibility of the Erasmus programme, especially if you’re considering staying in Europe (You’ll also need European Health Insurance, too).
The IB, which is recognised throughout the UK, is offered in 190 schools and colleges. It is typically studied over a 2 year period, primarily by students who are aged between 16 and 19. Students choose to study the IB over A Levels, BTECs and OCR Nationals.
The IB typically includes three compulsory units: the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE), and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS). The Theory of Knowledge unit teaches students where knowledge comes from, how to argue a point, how to form a debate and methods of analysis. The Extended Essay unit involves studying and researching a chosen topic of interest or area and writing an essay of 4,000 words. The Creativity, Action and Service unit is a requirement to complete 50 hours in each of these elements. Creativity involving theatre, music, or art, Action relating to sporting activities, and Service meaning voluntary work.
Students will then need to take six subjects from the following groups below, to form the full International Baccalaureate qualification: Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Mathematics, Sciences, Studies in Language and Literature, and The Arts – including visual arts, theatre and music. Three of these subjects will be studied at standard level, and the remaining three at a higher level.
Students will undergo internal and external assessments throughout their time studying the IB. Internal assessments are usually completed within their school or further education college, and external assessments, such as written exams, are taken at the end of the 2 years of study.
Each of the areas of study is awarded a mark out of 7, and 3 additional marks can be gained from the Extended Essay (EE) and the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) units. With this, the maximum number of marks a student can achieve is 45. 24 points are needed to receive the IB Diploma, and this is equivalent to a BCC at A Level. If a student achieves the maximum score of 45 points, this is equivalent to 6 x As at A Level.
University admission teams are supportive of students who are currently, or have previously been on the IB course. Universities also believe that the IB diploma teaches young people transferable skills for like, and many are relevant and helpful to live at university.
The University of Oxford and University Cambridge do accept this qualification, and many other universities do too. As with all university applications, each offer is awarded based on a range of criteria, including marks obtained in a specific subject.
The IB provides students with a range of transferable skills that they can either utilise at degree level, being undergraduate and postgraduate or through their time during employment. The benefits include:
Depending on the degree course that students wish to study at undergraduate level, in some cases, students with traditional A-Levels could be in a better position. This will mostly be down to the subjects and entry requirements needed to gain admission to a course, and if there are any specific prerequisites that need to be completed.
If a student doesn’t take or pass the full IB diploma, they can still take certificates in specific areas, topics or subjects. This usually refers to a student studying the different six subjects and not the compulsory units (TOK, EE, CAS). However, if a student doesn’t pass or complete the IB diploma, and receive specific certificates instead, this could hinder their chance at university and affect their application. Students should speak to their chosen universities and higher education colleges about their options if they will not have the full IB diploma during application season.
There are many reasons to study the IB Diploma. The IB is a perfect match for students who want to study abroad, or who want to study a degree course that will benefit from the wide range of knowledge.
There is no right or wrong answer to this comparison, as each academic pathway has its own advantages and disadvantages. Students should compare the IB Diploma to standard A-Levels and what is being offered. Whether a traditional A-Level will offer a deeper insight into the subject needed for a university application, or career aspiration over the IB. Or if the student wants to study a degree course abroad, then the IB may be more beneficial. Students are advised to speak to their career advisers or teachers at their school to understand what is best for them.
The IB Alumni is a network situated all around the globe, with previous IB Diploma students connected to each other in many different countries. The cultural aspect of the IB course will come in handy with this, as many people choose to study the IB Diploma abroad or to move abroad after completing it. The communication skills learnt throughout the course will also prove beneficial when talking with other IB Alumni.
For the IB Diploma, there are two exam sessions each year, in May and November. Those who take exams in May will have their results on July 5th, and those who sat exams in November will have their results January 5th (even if it falls on a weekend!). The dates are the same for every year of exam sessions. It is also the global time of when the results are released, and UK students can expect to gain access after 2 pm. Students will need to log onto the IB candidates results website with their personal code and pin number to receive their results.
Similarly to A-Levels, IB results will automatically be sent to a student’s university choices (whether they are conditional, firm, unconditional or insurance options) that they have chosen via UCAS. Students are also able to nominate up to 6 universities or higher education colleges to receive their results, and after the IB results are released, there is nothing more that a student needs to do as they will be contacted directly by the institution.
Students should wait at least one week after they receive their results before contacting the universities themselves. The universities would have received their results automatically. Therefore, there isn’t much more that the student needs to do after this date. Students should not contact the university before receiving their results, especially if it is regarding their university application or UCAS application. However, if students wish to attend open days and have general enquiries, then they should feel more than welcome to contact the institution.
In each examination session, around 80% of student who took the exam are awarded the diploma. This is a high pass rate, and as mentioned above, is dependent on a points system.
After results are issued from the IB exam session, students and schools can request re-marks for particular exams and students if they feel the result is wrong or undeserved. Students should also be aware that asking for a regrade can result in their grade going down as well – therefore it is a really important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, some students wish to have their tests re-graded as their result is very near the next grade boundary, and it may be a case of achieving a conditional or insurance university offer.
If a student finds that their IB diploma grades are lower than expected, then they are still eligible to contact their university if they haven’t heard from them in over a week. Some universities may change their offer based on your grades or after having a chat with the individual. Candidates need to plan their time wisely when it comes to their options and can call the universities to discuss what is involved in the course and expected of the student, as well as what can follow that degree course.
However, students can also enter Clearing (learn more – what is Clearing), just like many others who took A-Levels and BTECs. Courses available for clearing are typically released from mid-July and thereafter, and students will have plenty of time to consider any of these courses before their academic peers receive their results in mid-August. However, students should not wait until the last minute to apply, as Clearing courses can be filled exceptionally quickly.
Students are able to re-sit their exams in the next exam session, be the November or May session. Candidates may also decide to wait a whole academic year to allow guidance and sufficient preparation for the exam and to receive advice from their IB tutor throughout this time.
If a student finds their results to be better than expected and higher than the entry requirements needed for their chosen universities, they can enter UCAS Adjustment, just like their A-Level peers. Adjustment is a UCAS service that allows students to apply for different university courses that have higher entry requirements as long as there are places available – so very similar to Clearing.
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