FAQ: The IB

What is the IB?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a two-year programme for Sixth Form students. All students study six subjects: three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. In addition, students write an Extended Essay and follow a critical thinking course entitled Theory of Knowledge. Participation in creative activities, sport and service is also required.

How does the points system work?

Each of the six subjects is graded out of seven. The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge are combined to give up to three core points. The total Diploma score is therefore a maximum 45 points.

How does the IB compare to A-levels?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a complete programme of study, and overall is more comprehensive and rigorous than A-levels. The IB has not suffered from grade inflation and therefore is more able to distinguish between good and excellent students. All universities recognise the IB as at least an equivalent qualification, and in many cases indicate a preference for it.

Is the IB accepted by universities?

The IB is accepted by universities in the UK, the US and across the world.

What subjects are available?

For details of the wide range of subjects currently available, please see our booklet The IB at Sevenoaks.

Can I study more than three higher levels/more than six subjects?

All of our Sixth Form students follow a six-subject Diploma with three higher level subjects. We think that the Diploma is properly weighted in its normal form and is already a challenging enough course. We support the IBDP in its promotion of a broad curriculum and suggest that if a student does have a little extra time or energy, he or she contributes further to the co-curricular programme or some other aspect of the Diploma. If a student wishes to attend some extra lessons out of intellectual curiosity, this is usually fine, although they will not be entered for the examination.

Does the IB include coursework? 

Yes, around 20 per cent for each subject and then three core points awarded for Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay coursework.

How many students gain top grades?

A number of Sevenoaks students gain the maximum 45 points each year, with a substantial number gaining between 40 and 44 points. Our average points score is 39. Universities and programmes understand the challenge of the IB and therefore ask for a wide range of grades. Students do not need 45 or 44 points to earn places at the UK’s best universities. 

How does HL Maths equate to Maths A-level courses?

Higher Level Maths is more rigorous than A-level Maths. For the most able students we offer extra courses tailored to individual needs. Not all university courses that would normally require A-level Maths require IB higher level Maths; many will accept standard level Maths.

What is the difference between A, B and ab initio language courses?

Language A courses are for native speakers and are correspondingly more advanced. Language B courses are for second language speakers, ie those who have been learning the language for three to five years. Ab initio courses presume no previous knowledge of the language and are only available at standard level.

Do students need to be competent at a foreign language to pursue the IB?

The vast majority of our pupils – including those who do not classify themselves as ‘linguists’ – find the language component of the IB both accessible and rewarding. Those who do not relish the oral element of modern languages can choose to study Latin as their language option, whilst many of those who do study a modern language choose to take it at standard level. Finally, a good number of pupils decide to start a new language from scratch at the IB, taking an ab initio course that is roughly in line with an IGCSE in terms of level and difficulty.

This gives plenty of options to those who do not wish to specialise in a language, but understand the importance of being able to engage with a foreign culture and language. They will still have plenty of time to focus on the other IB subjects that they do want to pursue to a higher level.  

Students who have done the IB don't struggle in years 3 or 4 when there is more emphasis on socio-economic aspects in Chemical Engineering. They have the ability to see the bigger picture. 

Imperial College - Admissions Tutors

Can you take three sciences?

Because of its emphasis upon breadth, the International Baccalaureate Diploma does not allow a student to take three sciences. UK medical schools do not require three sciences: Chemistry and one other Science (generally Biology) or Maths are standard subject requirements.

Read more: The IB at Sevenoaks book 

Further information