The basics
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The International Baccalaureate

Read our guide to the International Baccalaureate (also known as the ‘IB’) including why it’s becoming an increasingly popular step for those thinking of studying overseas....

International Baccalaureate student

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate is an internationally-recognised education programme which was originally created to make it simpler for students to proceed onto higher education at a university overseas.

The most popular qualification offered is the International Baccalaureate Diploma for those aged 16-19. Increasing numbers of schools around the world are offering the IB as an alternative to the local qualification in that country. In fact, the UK’s Guardian previously wrote that the Diploma was ‘more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels.'


Why study the International Baccalaureate?

As well as opening up opportunities abroad for a student to study at a higher education level, the IB Diploma programme suits those gifted students who have an interest in a broad range of subjects or simply haven’t decided on the area they want to focus on.


Where can you study an IB Diploma?

More and more schools around the world are teaching the IB Diploma seeing as more students are deciding to study abroad. However a school must be authorised to teach the IB Diploma; in fact any school which teaches it is technically an IB School. Nearly 3,500 schools in around 140 countries teach the IB Diploma.


What subjects do you study in the International Baccalaureate?

Students choose 1 subject from the following 6 groups to study:

  • Their first (native) language – including English, German, Italian
  • A second language – including English, French, Spanish, German and Chinese
  • Science – including biology, chemistry and physics
  • Mathematics
  • The arts – including music, theatre and the visual arts
  • Individuals and societies – including history, geography, psychology and business & management

They must study 3 of these at a Standard level and 3 at a Higher level.


Students must also study 3 core subjects:

  • Theory of knowledge – studying the nature of knowledge, how we know what we claim to know and how to form an argument around this
  • The extended essay – an independent, self-directed piece of research (assigned with a 4,000 word paper)
  • Creativity, action, service – a project related to those concepts involving theatre, sports or some sort of community service


How is the International Baccalaureate Diploma assessed?

The IB Diploma is assessed through various assessments as well as written exams at the end of the programme.

The 6 subjects are marked out of 7, giving a total of 42 points. Extra points can be earned in the core subjects too (3 extra points). To earn the Diploma, a student must earn a minimum of 24 points out of 45 points, equating to a B and two C grades at A level in the UK. If a student manages to achieve the maximum 45 points, this would equate to 6 A levels at grade A.


Other benefits of taking the IB Diploma?

A number of universities offer scholarships to IB Diploma graduates so it can be advantageous to take the IB Diploma in terms of financing.


Have you got an International Baccalaureate Diploma? See where it can take you! Find a higher education course overseas using our Ultimate Search and get matched to a course abroad.


Further reading:

Official site for the International Baccalaureate Diploma

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About Author

International Baccalaureate student

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.