• International Baccalaureate

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > International Baccalaureate

The IB Diploma programme is taught in one of three languages, English, French or Spanish. It is particularly popular in international schools (private schools that cater mainly to children who are not nationals of the host country). The programme is now one of the most widely accepted pre-university qualifications in the world.

The IB diploma is becoming more and more popular in the UK mainly due to its flexibility, as it allows students to continue with more subjects post-16 than would be possible with the A-level system.


Summary of the IB

Programme Structure

The IB diploma is made up of a minimum of 6 subjects (3 at Higher Level), from set groups: Group 1 - Native/Best Language, Group 2 - Second Language, Group 3 - Individuals and Societies, Group 4 - Experimental Sciences, Group 5 - Mathematics, Group 6 - Electives; as chosen by the student, an extended essay (EE) based on a subject area, also of the students choice, a Theory of Knowledge class, and 150 hours of creative, active and service pursuits(CAS). It is this breadth that makes the IB diploma particularly well regarded.


Each of the subjects is assessed individually, with an Internal Assessment component and an External Examination (consisting of 2-3 Papers) each contributing to the final IB grade to different degrees (percentage wise). Internal Assessments are carried out throughout the two years of study, deadlines set by the individual schools, and External Examinations are taken at the end of the two years either in May or November. Students are allocated points out of 7 for each area of study, the maximum number of total points being 42 +3 bonus points, derived from EE and ToK grades.


Almost all UK universities accept the IB as equivalent to A-levels, some, such as The University of Nottingham actually prefer it. UCAS's new tariff system for the IB is due to be in place for 2008. The tariff suggests that a modest score of 30 IB points (419 UCAS points) is roughly equivalent to 3 A-grades at A Level and 1 A-grade at AS Level (420 UCAS points), whereas the maximum score of 45 IB points (768 UCAS points) is roughly equivalent to 6 A-grades at A Level and 1 B-grade at AS Level (770 UCAS points)# <ref>Wikipedia "IB Diploma Programme"</ref>.

However, one should consider that these tariff system do not account for much in the eyes of Universities. Offers are made on the overall grade as well as those of individual subjects crucial to the course, which tend to be higher than the UCAS tariff conversion table.

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, often colloquially referred to simply as "IB", is an educational programme taught in one of three languages (English, French or Spanish) and is intended for students in their final two years of secondary school, often before entering university. It is taught in 1,469 schools, to a great extent in international schools, in 121 countries (as of 2005). The programme, administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization, is one of the most widely recognised pre-university educational programmes in the world.

image:IB model.gif


The Diploma Programme (DP) curriculum consists of completing six courses from six different subject areas, writing an Extended Essay (EE) of up to 4,000 words, taking part in the Theory of Knowledge(TOK) class, and fulfilling a requirement of 50 hours in each of the Creative, Active and Service (CAS) pursuits. Grades are awarded from 1 to 7 in each subject, and up to three 'bonus' points may be awarded depending on the grade results of the EE and TOK. Thus, a total of 45 points may be obtained by the candidate for their final diploma. In order to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma you must receive a minimum of 24 points.

Read more about the IB curriculum.


There are two types of award available in the IB Diploma Programme. A student can be awarded the full Diploma or Certificates of Merit in individual subjects.

Diploma conditions

In order to be awarded the full IB Diploma the following requirements must have been met:

  • at least three subjects are completed at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL).
    • should four subjects be completed at HL then only two need be completed at SL.
  • all six subjects have been awarded a numerical grade higher than 1, with a minimum total score of 24.
  • the CAS (Creativity - Action - Service; community service) requirement of 150 hours has been completed
  • the Extended Essay and TOK course have been completed and essays submitted.
    • additionally a grade D or better has been awarded in either the Extended Essay or TOK.
  • if the overall score is 24-27, there is no grade 2 at HL and not more than one grade 2 at SL; if the overall score is greater than or equal to 28, not more than one grade 2 at HL and no more than two grades 2 at SL; altogether, there are no more than three grades 3 or below
  • at least 12 points (12 for overall score 24-27; 16 if four HL subjects are taken) have been gained on HL subjects, and 9/8 (6/5 if only two SL subjects are taken) on SL subjects
  • the final award committee has not judged the candidate to be guilty of malpractice
  • A minimum amount of hours must be achieved per year by studentss in order to pass. If an excessive amount of hours are missed, they may have to resit the year.


A candidate may also choose not to take the whole Diploma, but to aim for a Certificate in a particular subject. Candidates doing certificates do not have to take part in the extra requirements of the Diploma (the Extended Essay, TOK and CAS). Those candidates who complete extra courses in addition to a Diploma will also receive a Certificate.


Upon completion of the Diploma Programme, students receive the IB Diploma, which is used to obtain admission to institutions of higher education. This degree is sometimes regarded as a foreign diploma, so its recognition may vary depending on the university.

In Canada and the United States, some IBDP courses are recognised as equivalent to university/college-level courses, and universities and colleges may award entering students with first-year credit for high IB exam scores. In this regard it is similar to the Advanced Placement Program, or superior to it, depending on the institute of higher learning in question. Although credit acceptance varies greatly, receiving a 6 or a 7 in a Higher Level IB Class will grant a student college credit in introductory-level classes.

In the United Kingdom, most universities, including University of Oxford|Oxford and University of Cambridge|Cambridge, accept the IB Diploma as an alternative to A-levels and some universities actively prefer it to A-Levels, such as Nottingham University. UCAS has created a tariff for IB points which will be in use from 2008 university entry onwards. The tariff suggests that a modest score of 30 IB points (419 UCAS points) is roughly equivalent to 3 A-grades at A Level and 1 A-grade at AS Level (420 UCAS points), whereas the maximum score of 45 IB points (768 UCAS points) is roughly equivalent to 6 A-grades at A Level and 1 B-grade at AS Level (770 UCAS points)<ref>The UCAS Tariff</ref>. The increasing attention being directed at the IB Diploma by universities has led many private schools to offer it in place of A-levels (due to the perennial national debate over A-level standards), though the political impossibility of placing elements of education policy in the hands of an outside body makes it unlikely that the IB would ever replace UK-based qualifications in the majority of schools; instead, there has been talk of creating an equivalent British baccalaureate programme (see the Welsh Baccalaureate, a much-maligned attempt to replicate the IB within Wales, and the Mike Tomlinson|Tomlinson Report, which recommended a new baccalaureate system to replace A-levels).

In some countries, such as Turkey or Peru, the IB Diploma is not considered equivalent to the national end-of-school examination scheme, usually because the IB Diploma is not as specialised, or because certain subjects are not offered. Other countries, such as Germany, set certain conditions for the IB Diploma to be convalidated (German at minimum A2 Standard Level, Mathematic Studies or Mathematics standard level minimum, and Maths or a Science at Higher Level). Some universities, on the other hand, prefer the IB to the certificate which the students usually get in their own country. A list of universities admitting the IB can be found on the IBO web site.


Criticism of the Diploma Programme often centers around the limitations of curriculum implementation in the schools. For example, although the IBO may offer many different courses of a particular area, a school may only offer a few, thereby defeating the original intent of the program.{{#if:||{{#if:Category:Articles with unsourced statements|[[Category:Articles with unsourced statements {{#if:|{{#if:|from|since}} }}]]{{#if:|{{#ifexist:Category:Articles with unsourced statements {{#if:|from|since}} ||}}}}}}}}{{#if:citation needed|[citation needed]|}}

Criticism also stems from the lack of interaction between IB students and other non-IB students in schools where programs besides the IB program are offered. This lack of interaction is sometimes referred to as the "IB crew."

Another negative aspect of the program is the unnecessary measures taken to keep control of CAS hours. This can be in the form of proposal forms or excessive logging forms.

Most American colleges will only give college credit to students for taking higher level courses, and require a score of 6 or 7, though sometimes 5 is accepted. While on the other hand, the same colleges give credit to students who get a 4 or higher on a AP exam. However, the AP exam is scored out of 5. Obtaining a 4 on an AP exam is roughly comparable to obtaining a 5 or 6 on an IB exam.

The Diploma Programme is also criticized for its lack of "fair judgment." Rather than the students having a completely anonymous grader as in the AP program most IB grades are given in a ratio of 70% anonymous and 30% teacher based.

The Diploma Programme is run by the school's IB coordinator. All information about the policies and practices is commonly granted exclusively through that coordinator. There is no external overseer of IB coordinators and typically the IB coordinator is the last say in decisions regarding the Diploma Programme. Commonly any student or parent who attempts to discover the IB organization's policies via the IB organization itself is deferred to the school's IB coordinator.

IB Revision Notes, Exams and Grade Boundaries

Read our extensive range of IB revision notes to help you through the exam season.

Want to know grade boundaries for past exams? We have a number of them here, contributed by site members.

Other Links

Study Alternatives

Wiki Pages

External Links


Try Learn together, TSR's study area

revision notes




a study planner

of discussions

Who is most responsible for your success at university

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE