International Baccalaureate

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At a glance

Information about the International Baccalaureate (IB), including which subjects it covers and how it’s assessed.

What is the International Baccalaureate (IB)?

The International Baccalaureate, or IB, is a challenging and well-rounded programme of education for 16-19-year-old students. It’s an internationally recognised course, followed by students around the world. Until recently in the UK it was only taught in a minority of independent schools, but is now an option in some state schools too. It’s currently on offer at 190 schools across the UK.

The IB course leads to a qualification called the IB Diploma, which is very well-respected by universities and is also an advantage if your child is hoping to study overseas.

The IB has a reputation for being demanding but very rewarding. It offers a broader programme of study than A levels, and encourages students to think independently, and to explore their creativity.

The IB will aim to teach your child to:

  • explore what it is to learn
  • ask challenging and thoughtful questions
  • develop a sense of identity and culture
  • develop the ability to communicate with people from different countries and cultures

What subjects would my child study?

There are three compulsory, core 'elements' to the IB. These are:

  • theory of knowledge (TOK): your child will learn about where knowledge comes from, how to analyse evidence and how to argue a point
  • creativity, action and service: your child will be encouraged to get involved in theatre or musical activities, sports and/or community service
  • extended essay: your child will be asked to investigate a topic of interest and to write a 4,000-word essay

In addition, your child will take six subjects – three at standard level, three at higher level. This gives more options than A levels when it comes to choosing a mix of subjects.

The six subjects are:

  • a first language (your child’s mother tongue)
  • a second language
  • experimental sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, design technology)
  • mathematics and computer science
  • the arts (visual, theatre and music)
  • individuals and society (history, psychology, geography)

How is the IB diploma assessed and marked?

IB students complete assessment tasks in school and take written exams at the end of the programme.

Each of the six subjects taken is marked out of 7 (maximum of 42 points). Candidates can gain up to 3 extra points for their extended essay and the TOK elements of the IB. The diploma is awarded to students who gain at least 24 points, out of a total of 45 points. An IB diploma total of 24 points is worth a B and two C grades at A level, rising to the equivalent of six A levels at grade A for the maximum 45 points. The top UK universities usually make offers to students who achieve between 32 and 40 points.

Where can I find out more?

Find out more on the International Baccalaureate Organisation website

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