Skip to main content

Only someone like Mary Langford, who has set up, run, and inspected IB schools herself, could produce such a clear, condensed, no-frills treatise on this popular curriculum that is gaining momentum around the world with the speed of a rip tide.

The International Baccalaureate Explained

Schools offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB Dip) prepare students for university entrance by following the IB programme over the final two years of high school. This involves taking six subjects (three at higher level and three at standard level). 

In addition to the six academic subjects (two languages, a mathematics, a humanities, an experimental science, and a sixth subject representing the arts or an additional course from the previously mentioned five subject areas), all IB students have to follow a course in Theory of Knowledge (an epistimology course which questions the basis of knowledge), write a 4000 word research Extended Essay (on a subject of the student's own choosing) of college level standard, and take part in over 150 hours of non-academic activity covering creativity, physical action (e.g. sports), and service to the community.

Assessment is based on a combination of final examinations and course work which are evaluated by a external examiners worldwide, and (in some cases for coursework) by internal assessment.  IB examinations for each subject are held on the same days for all students worldwide - in May in the Northern Hemisphere and in October in the case of most Southern Hemisphere schools.  

Each subject is scored from 1-7, and up to 3 additional points may be awarded for TOK (Theory of Knowledge) essays and for the Extended Essay (see below). A minimum of 24 points is required to obtain the IB diploma while 45 points is the maximum.

You can judge the rigor of this program for yourself by knowing that the world average pass rate is approximately 82%. (Pupils may also opt to take certificates in the individual subject areas though these on their own may be insufficient for university entry.)

If the school has been an IB school for several years (and in rare cases, a decade or two), look at the school's most recent results but more importantly at their own cumulative pass rate (%) and average score (out of a top score of 45) over the total past years. In many cases, their cohort may not be large and averages can be affected by the performance of a few students.  

The IB is more holistic than most exams and systems, and looks at the overall result. A pupil can get a decent diploma with high marks in their highers and relatively low marks in their standards courses. There is much room for misinterpretation and so the global score is the best measure.     

Also, look to see whether the school restricts access to the IB Diploma programme to only the most able students, as is the case in many IB schools. (Always try to ascertain whether the school has manipulated its apparent results this way, whether with the GCSE's, AP exams, National Latin Exams, you name it.) If a school is not highly selective but nonetheless produces good IB Diploma results, it is an indication of good 'added value' education.   

Universities like the IB programme. Many universities seek to recruit IB students because they offer both breadth of knowledge and depth, particularly in their higher level subjects.

The British Universities and Admissions Service (UCAS) has developed a new tariff system which now gives greater currency to the IB scores over A-levels. An IB score of 38 points out of a maximum of 45 is equivalent to five A grades at A-level. 30 IB points reflects three and a half A's at A level which is enough to gain admission to most good universities in the UK (Oxbridge would require higher results).

by

Related articles


  • Special Needs introduction

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get an exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Receive our monthly newsletter. For further…

  • Finding a state grammar school

    Counties such as Kent or Buckinghamshire are ‘selective authorities’ and most families will have at least one grammar school close to where they live. Elsewhere, for example in Reading or Kingston-on-Thames, there are just one or two grammar schools and competition for places at these is ferocious. How to find a state grammar school Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston,…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.

  • Education Consultants

    The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants advise parents on everything to do with children and their education  Our service is a personal one-to-one service.You tell us what you want and we tell you how we can help. And then we do! Our education consultants are our most experienced writers. They have visited countless schools. All are parents. You will have your own personal advisor who has the benefit of the combined experience and expertise of the entire team to draw on. All our consultants work as hard for the children of their clients as they do for their own. Call…


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

30000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent friendly interactive directory.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1200+ schools.
Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to North or South London.

Your subscription will activate on checkout

The Good Schools Guide London SouthThe Good Schools Guide London North

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Struggling with an SEN problem? Get advice from our experts.

 

 
 

Struggling with an SEN problem? Get advice from our experts. November 22nd at The Space, Marylebone, NW1 5NX. Limited tickets available