International Baccalaureate Diploma valued highly by universities

The International Baccalaureate diploma has once again topped the charts as the exam system that best prepares its students for higher education in an annual survey of university admissions officers.

IB student, international baccalaureate diploma
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), according to UK university admissions officers, is the best preparation for university. The University Admissions Officers survey, now in its eleventh year, asked admissions officers to rate three exam systems, A levels, the IBDP and BTEC and rank them against factors such as ‘encouraging independent enquiry,’ and ‘developing ability to cope with pressure.’Take a look at the results:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: Best preparation for university

Out of the the 81 UK universities surveyed, the IBDP was rated top in developing 13 out of 14 factors considered useful in preparing students to thrive at university.The survey was commissioned by ACS International Schools, International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) and International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA).

International Baccalaureate Diploma v A-Levels

In the survey, A-Levels scored top in just the one category – developing in-depth subject expertise; while the BTEC scored highest top in one area too - developing workplace skills. It is often argued that A-Levels, which require greater depth of study into fewer individual subject areas as opposed to the broader academic scope of the IB, are more highly prized by university admissions officers. In fact, at the COBIS Annual Conference earlier this year, Rebecca Williams of Oxbridge Applications suggested that IB students could be at a disadvantage when applying to Oxford and Cambridge.“The IB prepares students for a vast programme of study, and is academically very broad,” said Rebecca Williams. “In contrast, Oxbridge are looking for students who are incredibly passionate and focused on just one subject. That is not to say that these two things are incompatible, simply that the A level system of fewer subjects at a higher level lends itself to this type of study more appropriately.”The results of the survey indeed back this up with the overwhelming response from admissions officers that A-Levels indeed offer the best route to in-depth subject expertise. But asked how they thought students could be better prepared to thrive at university and successfully complete their degree, all respondents cited ‘by ensuring that they are ready to think and learn independently’. The IB has consistently scored the highest in the survey for encouraging independent enquiry and self-management skills. The survey also highlighted how admissions officers believe that success at university is down to students ensuring that they choose a subject they are passionate about.  Fortunately, it seems that students are quite adept at doing this: just three per cent of admissions offers believe this attribute to be missing.

Difference between IB and A-Levels 

The results of the university admissions officer's survey offer a direct comparison bewteen the two exam exam systems: 
A LevelsThe IB DiplomaBTECs
Encouraging independent inquiry48959
Developing in-depth subject expertise904943
Developing workplace skills51881
Developing ability to cope with pressure40588
Nurturing an open mind23828
Developing self-management skills298415
Encouraging citizenship1713
Nurturing communication skills426619
Encouraging creativity64210
Developing intercultural skills5743
Instilling a positive approach to risk taking9262
Skills to lead work and study groups152813
Propensity to complete their degree828611
Likelihood to contribute to the research life of the university55605
“It is no accident that the IBDP is consistently rated by universities as the best preparation to thrive and succeed at university,” said Dr Peter Fidczuk, UK Development and Recognition Manager, IB.“The IBDP puts great emphasis on independent enquiry, but also engagement and interest in a wide range of areas.  University admission officers recognise the different qualities which IBDP students offer, and how important these skills are when student engagement and completion make such a huge contribution to the quality of the overall university experience.”

Relocate Global’s new annual Guide to International Education & Schools provides a wealth of advice to anyone searching for a new school in the UK and in an international setting, and offers insights into what it takes to make the right school choice. 

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