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Explaining the International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate is an international qualification now offered by around 3500 IB schools worldwide. It is overseen by The International Baccalaureate Organisation or IBO in Switzerland. 

There are 80 private UK schools, which offer one or more of the International Baccalaureate programmes.

There are four programmes;

1. The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19
2. The Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 to 16
3. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students from 3 to 12.
4. The IB Career Related Certificate (IBCC) for students 16 to 19

In the UK, the vast majority of schools only offer the IBDP. There are less than 10 schools offering the IBPYP or MYP. They are mostly London schools catering for international expatriate workers.

The IB is favoured by many international parents because it is transferrable from one country to another if their job changes to another part of the world. The IBDP is regarded highly by universities everywhere. However because the IBDP has 6 mandatory subject groups including maths, science and modern languages it is not always suitable for students who want to specialise or drop certain weaker subjects when the get to 16+.

In the UK, the IB Diploma Programme is still a minority curriculum. Only 70 out of 700+ independent senior schools offer it so far, but several more have announced their intention to introduce it. We would expect the number to rise to 100 or more in a couple of years. One reason stems from the changes in the admissions process by the elite UK universities.

Education Advisers Presenting a Crystal Award to North London Collegiate School - The Top IB School 2014

With so many university applicants now presenting with straight As in 3 A Levels, the elite universities feel that A Level grades are no longer a satisfactory way to differentiate between bright candidates. The IB DP offers a more stretching alternative to A Levels and the intention of many independent schools to offer the Pre U exam will open up another curriculum for university applications.

In fact the conversion chart to UCAS tariff points for IB DP exams is exceedingly generous as can be seen here:

IB Diploma Points

UCAS tariff Points

Equivalent A Level A grades

45

720

6.0

40

611

5.1

35

501

4.2

30

392

3.4

Given that the vast majority of UK independent schools with the IB DP are averaging more than 33 points, you can see that even an average IB student achieves sufficient UCAS points to be considered for a top 25 UK university with the equivalent of 4 As at A level. However, please bear in mind that some Universities do not seem to be following the UCAS conversion table, which we will discuss later.

The other interesting aspect of the IB DP is that it is an international qualification. If you need to change schools to another country, the theory is that you can transition to exactly the same curriculum elsewhere. Additionally, the Diploma is recognised by most big international universities including those in the USA.