The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is a challenging and well-rounded programme of education for sixth form students. The IB is becoming more and more popular; many independent, and a handful of state schools, now offer it. Find a school offering IB near you.  

A close up of a squared notebook, Parker pen and biology textbook

The IB is accepted by UK universities and is an advantage for students who want to study overseas. It has a reputation for being demanding but very rewarding. It offers a broader programme of study than A Levels, and encourages students to think creatively and independently.

There are three compulsory, core ‘elements’ to the IB:

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK) - introduces students to theories about the nature and limitations of knowledge, and provides practice in determining the meaning and validity of knowledge.
  • Extended Essay (EE) - an independent research essay of up to 4,000 words.
  • Creativity, action and service (CAS) - provides students with opportunities for personal growth, self-reflection and intellectual, physical and creative challenges through voluntary work, sports or creative activities.

As well as the three compulsory elements, students undertake six subjects, three at standard level and three at higher level. One subject is taken from each of the following subject groups:

  • Studies in Language & Literature
  • Language Acquisition (a second language)
  • Individuals and Societies (social sciences i.e. business, economics, geography, history, philosophy, psychology and anthropology)
  • Experimental Sciences (chemistry, biology and physics)
  • Maths
  • The Arts - including dance, music and theatre

The final group (The Arts) is an elective and at most schools students can instead choose to study two subjects from one of the other groups. Points are awarded from 1 to 7, with 7 being equal to an A*, 6 equal to an A and so on. Up to three additional points are awarded depending on grades achieved in the EE and TOK, so the maximum possible mark is 45. In order to receive the IB Diploma, students must receive a minimum of 24 points. The top UK universities usually make offers to students who achieve between 32 and 40 points.

Exams take place at the end of two years and there are two or three papers for each subject. The IB also uses internal assessments through oral presentations, practical work or written work and these assessments account for 20-50% of the mark awarded for each subject. Students must also complete the requirements for the EE, CAS and TOK to be awarded the diploma regardless of the points they receive in their other subjects.

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