Unlike A-Levels and GCSEs, the IB requires a deeper understanding of a wider range of subjects demonstrated through coursework, exams and even oral presentations or experiments depending on the chosen subject.
How is the IB assessed?
The IB is assessed both internally and externally. External assessment takes place in the form of exams. Each subject normally requires more than one exam to be sat, and each exam generally has a different focus. For example, in science subjects one exam may be multiple choice and the second exam may be more essay based. Internal assessment takes the form of coursework, oral presentations for language subject or experiments and lab work for science subjects. Between 1 and 7 points are awarded for each exam, with 7 corresponding with an A*, 6 with an A and so on.
IB exams have a reputation for being more difficult than A level exams, students often have to retake exams. More material is covered and there tends to be a greater range of marks. There are also a lot fewer students who achieve the very top grades in the IB versus the A level. Universities appreciate this because it allows for clear differentiation between candidates. The Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and Creative and Active schemes all contribute to the student's final grade, although they are worth less than the other exams.
What are the pros and cons?
An IB diploma is not for everyone. The qualification is recognised in 75 countries, and has earned a reputation for rigour and depth. However, the IB is a more general diploma than specialist A-Levels, and may carry less weight with a specific institution.
- As a truly international qualification, the IB is recognised in 75 countries worldwide
- It is a more rigorous qualification, often containing content that is not typically taught until university
- It encourages a greater depth and breadth of learning compared with A levels
- Both the extended essay and the rigour of the programme as a whole prepare the student extremely well for university education.
- The higher difficulty of the content allows for greater differentiation between students, something universities prefer.
- It is unaffiliated with any national government, meaning that examiners are not pressured to achieve particular grade quotas, leading to fairer and more representative assessment.
- Universities have a mixed relationship with the IB. Most admissions tours are extremely knowledgeable but there is a perception that universities still favour the qualification taken by the majority in their country, over the minority IB.
- There is a greater focus placed on independent learning in the IB. Some students, especially coming from the relatively easy schedule of GCSEs, are unprepared for the rigours of the IB
- For some degrees, typically science based, admissions tutors prefer students who have taken three science based A levels, IB does not give this option.
- Some students do not enjoy the requirement to continue with mathematics and a language after GCSE. not everyone is a generalist, some students enjoy the opportunity to specialise in what they really like that A levels offer.
How can parents help?
It’s important to recognise that during study for an IB, your child will be under more academic pressure than ever before, and support them accordingly. That support can be providing access to resources, emotional support, or enlisting outside help and specialist tuition.
There are plenty of study books and revision aids available specifically for the IB. OSC's IB revision guides are amongst the most popular. We also really like Alex McInnes-Ostruch’s IB Survival Handbook, which you can download here. Beyond providing your children with the resources that they need to succeed, it is important for parents to recognise that their child is probably under more academic stress or pressure than they have ever been before. For this reason it is helpful to have a structured working day and to understand the pressure your child is under.
To this end, before enrolling in an IB programme it is important to consider whether it is the direction for which your child is best suited. There are helpful guides on this on our blog and the Telegraph website. This can be a hard decision to make and it is one of the reasons for which Simply Learning Tuition Consultancy offers educational consultancy. Our consultants are all experts in the field and will quickly ascertain what is best for your child. We can even help your child with their time management to make sure that they are working as effectively as possible.
How can Simply Learning help?
SLT will introduce an experienced private tutor with a history of providing effective IB tuition. They will support your child with tailored tuition for each subject as well as help with the Extended Essay, and Theory of Knowledge. They will also provide your child with the skills and information needed to produce an outstanding UCAS application.
Simply Learning Tuition introduces tutors with experience in the particulars of the IB system. Every assessment system is different and the tutors' expertise will ensures that your child is fully prepared. This preparation is not limited to exams. The IB also requires an Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge qualification as well as Creative and Active work. At Simply Learning Tuition we also understand the stresses of the IB, introducing IB tutors who act not only as tutors but as mentors and role models to help you child through.
Importantly, we understand that an IB tutor requires different qualifications to an A level tutor. The IB demands more depth of knowledge and our impeccably qualified tutors, all with at least an undergraduate degree in their subject, are able to provide the extra knowledge which really makes a difference in the IB. Top universities, including Oxbridge, look kindly on the IB qualification and we can help your child maximise this advantage to ensure they achieve the best university place possible.