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The International Baccalaureate


All UWCs offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme (commonly known as "the IB"). This is a rigorous pre-university qualification which is accepted by universities all over the world, including the UK, the USA, and Canada. While in the past the IB was limited to a select few international schools and private schools, it is growing in popularity and is increasingly being offered by a wide range of schools in the UK, often as an alternative to A-levels.

The IB requires students to take six main subjects, each selected from a different "group". Out of these six subjects, the student chooses three to study at "higher level" and three to study at "standard level". Some course are only available at standard level. These levels are loosely equivalent to A-level and AS-level in most university entry requirements.

The Groups 

The groups are outlined below:

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

This is a student's first language. Students selected by the UWC GB national committee will normally study English as their group 1 subject. This course may either be literature or a combination of literature and language, depending on the specific UWC and the courses it offers.
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition 

Students will study a second language, either one which they have studied before or one which is new to them. It is also possible to study another first language literature course instead of a second language if the student is bilingual. The specific languages which are offered will vary across UWCs.
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies

These are the humanities. Students normally study history, economics, or geography as their group three option, but most UWCs offer additional group 3 subjects such as religious studies, psychology, philosophy, politics, anthropology, or environmental systems and societies.
  • Group 4: Sciences

Students will normally study either biology, chemistry, or physics as their group 4 option, but many UWCs offer additional group 4 subjects such as design technology or environmental systems and societies.
  • Group 5: Mathematics

All IB Students have to study maths at either higher level or standard level. At standard level there are two options - either "maths standard" or "maths studies" depending on the student's ability and interest in mathematics. Further information is available on individual college websites. Some colleges also offer further maths.
  • Group 6: The Arts

Most UWCs offer visual arts, theatre arts, and music, although some do not offer all three. Some may also offer film or dance. It is also possible for a student to choose a subject from any other group instead of a group 6 subject.

There are a few anomalies and flexibilities in the structure of the IB: for example, environmental systems and societies is what is known as a "transdisciplinary" subject, fulfilling the requirements for both group 3 and group 4. Thus at colleges which offer this, it may be possible for students to take two arts subjects or an extra language. Consult the specific college websites for more information.

Core Requirements

In addition to these subjects, the IB requires students to take a Theory of Knowledge course (TOK) which covers basic philosophy and critical thinking. Students also complete an Extended Essay (EE) in one of their subjects, and do mandatory hours of activities and service known as CAS (Creativity, Action, Service). CAS is a central component of the UWC movement, and UWC requirements for community service and activities will be much greater than the number of hours required by the IB.

Grading and Examinations

Each of the six subjects will be assessed through a combination of examinations and coursework, resulting in a grade out of 7 (a total of 42 possible marks). In addition, the Extended Essay and performance in Theory of Knowledge will lead to the awarding of bonus points, up to a maximum of 3 points. Therefore the total possible IB score is 45 points. Less than 1% of candidates worldwide achieve this score. Unlike A-levels, all IB exams are at the end of the second year.

The worldwide average IB score is about 30 points, and the pass rate hovers at around 80%. IB scores are not directly comparable to A-level grades, but the UCAS tariff suggests that a perfect IB score is equivalent to more than 5 A*s at A-level. Typical offers from British universities tend to be 30-38 points, with Oxford/Cambridge making offers of 38-42 points.

More Information

Please visit the IB's official website at www.ibo.org if you have any further questions.