The International Baccalaureate

Lately, a lot of parents have been asking me about the International Baccalaureate (or IB as it’s commonly known). Over the past few years, many schools across Victoria have begun offering the IB as an option to the VCE. Seven years ago, when I was about to start year 11 at Kardinia International College, I was lucky enough to be able to choose between VCE and IB. I chose IB, and I’m glad that I did. So, I thought I’d use my experience to give you a little bit more information on the Internation Baccalaureate, in case you and your child are in the process of making the important choice between VCE and IB.

So, what is the IB?

The IB is an International secondary qualification. Basically, it’s like the VCE, but it is taken and recognised worldwide. An IB qualification in Australia is exactly the same as one in China, France or America. Instead receiving an ATAR percentile score, IB graduates receive a score out of 45. In order to pass the IB, students must score 24 or above.

When it comes to applying for Australian Universities, each IB score corresponds to an equivalent ATAR score. The table below shows the conversion rate for 2012 IB scores.

When I did the IB, I got a total score of 40. According to the table, that equates to an ATAR score of 98.20.

What is the coursework like?

This is where it gets interesting. Each IB student must complete 6 subjects: an English subject, a Maths subject, a Science subject, a Humanities subject and a Second Language subject and a Creative subject. However, some schools allow students to take on an extra Science subject instead of a Creative subject. Out of these six subjects, three must be taken at “High Level” and the others are taken at “Standard Level.” To give you an idea, these are the subjects I did in IB:

-Maths (Standard Level)

-English (High Level)

-Physics (Standard Level)

-Psychology (High Level)

-Art (High Level)

-French (Standard Level)

The point of these rules is to ensure that each IB student gets a well-rounded education. The IB is designed to produce students with a broad range of abilities. Students have to learn to think scientifically, logically and creatively. This is part of what makes the IB so challenging, and so rewarding.

How are the subjects marked?

Here’s the bit that might sound a bit silly. Whilst in VCE subjects are marked out of 50, IB subjects are marked out of 7. Also, whilst VCE subject scores are scaled based on difficulty, all IB scores, whether they are high or standard level, are worth exactly the same. All six subjects count equally to the final score. In VCE, you can often get away with one bad subject; in IB, students need to make sure they are performing well across the board.

Now, the more mathematical of you readers may have noticed a problem so far…

If there are six subjects, and each subject is scored out of 7, then 6 x 7 = 42. That doesn’t add up to a total score of 45. So, where to the other 3 points come from?

They come from the Extended essay and Theory of Knowledge subjects.

The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge.

In the Extended Essay, students are given a chance to explore an area that they find particularly interested in and write a 4,000 word essay on the topic. This task continues throughout both year 11 and 12. The Essay topic is chosen by students and can be about History, Literature, Maths, Science, Art, Music, or any other subject that they may be taking.

Theory of Knowledge is a small, compulsory subject that examines the ways in which humans can claim to achieve “knowledge.” Theory of Knowledge examines questions such as “How do we know things?” and “How can we prove that what we know is true?”. As you might guess, this is one of the more challenging areas of the IB. Students are required to think in many abstract and critical ways. Students are assessed for this subject based on an essay and an oral presentation.

The Extended essay and Theory of Knowledge are each given a letter grade and the following table is used to award the students a mark out of 3. This mark is then added to the six subject scored to give the final grade out of 45.

So, why should my child do the IB?

There are many advantages to doing the International Baccalaureate.

-It encourages students to gain a wide and diverse education.

-It is recognised by all Australian and International Universities.

-Subjects such as Theory of Knowledge gives students abstract thinking skills that will help them throughout their later education.

-The Extended Essay project is a great way of preparing for University work.

-Although the workload is heavy, the intense nature of the course pushes students to work harder to achieve their goals.

Want to know more?

Keep reading. Next week, I will talk more about the IB coursework, how the subjects differ from VCE, and what skills are examined. See you then!