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I had not heard of IB before my school announced that they would offer this course to Sixth Form students, with my year group being the first students for who it became available to. It was almost a mythical alternative to A Level.

My parents encouraged me to study IB rather than A Levels, a) because of its reputation to produce “well rounded” students (a phrase drilled into students who take the IB) and b) as it was recognized to be far more challenging than A Levels.

Unfortunately, the IB course was not as I expected it to be. The students who chose to take IB in my year group, which included myself, were the highest achieving students in our school, and therefore thought to be the most suitable as the first batch to study the IB. However, it became apparent to me within the first few weeks of the course, that it was far more difficult than any of us could envisage.

While A Level students studied three subjects, IB students studied six subjects throughout the two years. Despite the IB boasting that the six subjects helped students to become more “well rounded”, I found it to be more of a hindrance than an advantage. I had to devote my time to six subjects, I found that it was difficult to focus on subjects that I was most passionate about and that which I intended to study at university.

The hefty workload meant that I was unable to finish all my homework on time, and had difficulty prioritising my subjects. The pressure of undertaking such a high level of work at school, as well as having to complete the 150 hours of IB CAS (Creativity, Activity, Society) and attend the extra lessons of Theory of Knowledge, left me physically ill from stress. I found the pace of IB difficult because there was such a significant difference between the standard of state taught GCSE and the IB.

I believe that potentially IB is a good choice of study for students. But one should be cautious, as it is easy to assume that IB may be similar to A Levels, when in fact the standard of the curriculum is closer to that of undergraduate study. To prepare for this, and better handle the stresses that inevitably come with the IB, I would urge students to go through Pre-IB before starting the Diploma level IB. If one wants to study IB, it may also be better to do this at a private school, as you are almost always guaranteed the support needed to propel you through the IB. Whereas, from my own experience (and from what I have read on sites such as the Student Room), studying the IB at a state comprehensive school is risky, particularly when state school teachers are accustomed to teaching at an A Level standard.

I don’t regret studying the IB, although I know I would have definitely achieved higher grades had I studied A Levels (I was predicted 3 A*s at A Level and yet only received 32 IB points), I believe that the stress that is associated with the IB study will enable students to cope better in their undergraduate years at university. Although UCAS has tariff points that equate both A Level and IB, the university admissions do not recognize these tariff points. For example, the UCAS tariff point system shows that 32 IB points is equivalent to 2 As and 1 A* at A Level, however most universities equate this to A, B, C at A Level.

Our exam results were disastrous: three students failed the IB completely, only one student got into their first choice of university, while the rest of us struggled to secure our insurance choices or scrambled into Clearing.

Blog post written by Ananya, a Sixth Form student who completed an International Baccalaureate or IB, this year.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Studying an International Baccalaureate”

  1. chromosaurus

    i completely agree with this. i find it horrible to try and balance the subjects i love with maths and french that i don’t mind but i don’t really care for which means i put less effort in to those and it brings my whole grade down and means i find learning is now a chore. i spoke to a girl who had completed ib and now is studying english and film at university that she felt uni was really easy in comparison. the teachers at my school seem to find it hard to remember that you have six other subjects to study for as well as theirs as they’re so used to a-level and some teachers are just too unrelible for you to reach the deadlines as i experienced trying to get my tok teacher to look at my essay which he sometimes left for a week and due to this i only had a day to make my final corrections >_> having few free lessons and 2 seven hour days a week with no breaks due to the timetabling is not fun either :/ i think at an ib only school these problems would be avoided.

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  2. ananyarm

    Hi Chromosaurus!

    I think the one thing you have to keep in mind when studying IB is how it’ll benefit you in the future. Of course, the long school hours, and the piles of essays you receive each week often just leaves you feeling a bit let down and stressed out, however, I can not emphasis enough how much the IB has helped me now that I am in university. For starters, since the majority of higher level IB subjects to extend into university level study, many IB students will find their first year of university quite straightforward, compared to A Level students, who aren’t used to university-level work at all. Another thing that IB helps you with in university is time management and the ability to think critically – these skills will definitely benefit you in your degree, and I’ve seen many of my peers, who did A Levels, struggle these past few months with getting into the pace of university life.
    So, even though IB may seem really hard now, I promise you, when you get to university, it will pay off : ).

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