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International Baccalaureate: Pros & Cons

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is globally renowned and highly regarded as an awesome qualification. In fact, it’s probably recognised more widely in mainland Europe than it is in the UK.

This could really open up your future university and career prospects but do the advantages of the IB work for everyone?

With an IB you will study a wide range of subjects including languages, sciences, mathematics and the arts.

This will support you to develop all round knowledge on a wider level of subjects than if you were studying science A-levels in physics, biology and chemistry or art A-levels in history, music and sociology. 

This broad brush approach will be welcomed with open arms by universities if you’re wanting to study degrees in business, economics, politics etc. as it showcases your ability to learn across many different subjects.

However, if you’re thinking of a degree in medicine, veterinary care or engineering, you may achieve more by studying A-levels in a narrower range of subjects, but in more depth. This means your specialist knowledge and skills is at a far deeper level when you start university.

Many people who want to experience university life aren’t sure exactly what they want to learn and study. In this case an IB can be a great solution as the wide ranging subjects studied, can open up more options to choose from.

In addition, if you’re not sure which university to go to (as well as which subject to study) with the current university course fees and student loans system in England, studying abroad in certain European countries may be cheaper (and an opportunity to experience first- hand a different culture).

In Europe an IB is widely accepted and more easily understood than A-levels.

Whether you’re in the state sector or studying at an independent school or college, it’s worth considering the subjects within an IB that your school is offering and compare these to the A-level subjects offered. Not all schools in this country offer the full range of IB subjects and this can limit your choice somewhat.

If the subjects are as wide ranging as they should be, you also need to consider the hard work and magnitude of study which is needed.

A quick comparison will show you that the maximum number of points you can achieve with an IB Diploma is 45.

UCAS shows that this is equivalent to 6 A-Levels at A grade and you’re probably aware from your friends and siblings how much time, effort and dedication is needed to aim for 3 to 4 A-levels at A grade, never mind 6!

In contrast to A-levels, compulsory units in the IB will develop your communication skills, both verbal and written. You’ll take part in debates, initiate research and analysis and write extensive and thorough essays.

All these skills are vital parts of university study and very attractive to employers when you’re searching for a job. A great advantage to have at the start of your university life.

A rather cool aspect of gaining an IB Diploma is that you can join the IB Alumni network. IB Alumni live all around the world, so the knowledge you built up of different cultures as part of the compulsory section of your IB will be really useful when making new Alumni friends.

An IB Diploma is not for everyone but for those who do take on the challenge, the rewards at university level and for future job prospects can be immense and wide reaching.

Further reading on IB Diplomas is available via our IB guide and via the IB website.