IB – International Baccalaureate exams UK

 International Baccalaureate

an alternative to traditional A-levels

A-lelels are not the only exam form, that can be studied for before entering an university. IB or International Baccalaureate is getting more and more popular and recognised by all British universities. Moreover, its results are admitted in universities all over the world.

IB – what is it?

International Baccalaureate is a serious and broad study program for school age children from 16 to 19 years old. IB exams results are universally recognised and the program is taught all over the world. 



Before, only a small persentage of the UK schools gave an opportunity to prepare for IB. Now, it can even be taught in British state schools and up to 200 schools in the UK have IB programs. In the end of the program school children sit exams and get IB diploma on the successful completion of the study.

IB is thought to be a challenging course but at the same time worth undertaking. In comparison with A-levels International Baccalaureate program has a broader approach and motivates students to a lot of independent and innovative studies.  

Three main elements of IB:

– theory of knowledge which studies where the knowledge comes from, how to analise it and how to argue a view point 

– creative part motivates to being a more rounded person by taking interest in drama, arts or music as well as sports or a voluntary project.

– an essay on a subject of a choice with 4000 words minimum

Subjects to be studied for the exam – altogether 6 subjects, where three are taken on an advanced level and three – on a standard level. 



6 subjects for IB exams: first language (usually mother-tangue and in the UK it is almost always English), another modern language, sciences (out of choice of biology, chemistry or physics), maths and/or computer science, creative subjects (a choice of art, drama or music), humanities (history, geography, psychology, etc) 

This is where the main difference of IB from A-levels lays – for A-level exams school children are to choose from three to four subjects, whereas for IB it is six. Moreover, the choice of A-level subjects is largely defined by the university course a student thinks os applying for. With the IB though, even when applying for e.g. a medical course in addition to the main subjects students can study a modern language, a humanity science and a creative subject, which gives a more balanced approach to studies and life in general.

IB advantage

By having to study six subjects school students keep their university options are more open when comparing them for A-levels. Having to narrow choices down to 3 subjects doesn’t suit everyone as some of the children are not prepared don’t yet know what courses in university they will go for. There are a lot of students whose interests are broad and IB allows them to keep their choices open for longer. 

Students are encouraged to think and analyse data independently, which is closer to what they are going to do at university. Research skills is an essential part of the IB program as well as being able to link knowledge taken from different subjects.

Social aspect is an integral part of the IB program – students must be a part of their environment be it a town, a school or even a different country.  

On the other hand,

with the IB program students have to study subjects they are not interested in and then sit an exam for them. If there are not sufficient interest to a subject or more often there is not enough inclination to study seriously, the exam grade may get too low for the necessary one to secure a place in a university. 



How IB is graded

Each of 6 subjects taken is graded on a scale from 1 to 7 where 7 is the highest mark possible. A student’s final Diploma result score is made up of the combined scores for each subject. Students will need at least 24 points to be awarded the diploma, subject to certain minimum levels of performance including successful completion of the three essential elements of the DP (diploma program) core. The highest score possible is 45 points.

Students receive individual grades for The theory of Knowledge (TOK) and extended essay (EE) and might gain up to 3 additional points towards the final Diploma score. The other part of DP core – Creativity, Action, Service – will not bring any points but participation is a strict requirement for the award of the diploma.

Higher level and standard level courses

Both higher level and standard level subjects are awarded the same number of points (1-7) although they do differ in scope. This reflects the IB commitment to the achievement of knowledge across broad range of curriculum.

How many IB points required for top UK universities?

It is generally thought that at 38-40 IB points is what should get a student to top UK universities