Understanding the International Baccalaureate (IB)

DictionaryAn increasingly popular alternative to the HSC, QCE or VCE is the International Baccalaureate (IB). Growing out of the need to facilitate the mobility of students internationally, it specialises in preparing students for a more global environment. The IB is recognised by leading universities in Australia and around the world.

A key advantage of the IB is that it allows students to hone in on their areas of strength and, through development, improve on areas of weakness. The international nature of the IB is also a great bonus — the program encourages students to think globally as the curriculum is based on international standards. Coursework and exams are graded by an international assessment team.

The IB consists of three parts:

While each of these qualifications forms a pathway into the next, they can also be studied independently of one another. Consequently, you may find that some schools offer all three qualifications, while others only offer one or two. Any school wishing to offer one or more of the IB programs must first be authorised to become an IB World School through the International Baccalaureate organisation. The programs are available in 147 countries around the world.

Primary Years Programme (PYP)

The Primary Years Programme is catered towards students between the ages of three and 12. It focuses on the development of the child and centres around six transdisciplinary themes: who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organise ourselves and sharing the planet.

Middle Years Programme (MYP)

The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is the first qualification available to secondary students and can be adapted to meet the demands of the Victorian and Australian curriculum. It focuses on developing an international mindset through a focus on communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement.

The MYP consists of eight subject groups, including at least two languages (their own language as well as an additional language), humanities, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology. In their final year, students undertake an independent ‘personal project’ to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout the program. Assessment tasks are set by teachers, and all subjects (including the personal project) are assessed against set criteria established by the International Baccalaureate organisation.

Diploma Programme (DP)

The Diploma Programme (DP) is a two-year pre-university course designed for highly motivated secondary students aged 16 to 19. It leads to examinations and is recognised by universities not only in Australia but around the world. It is currently recognised in around 140 countries for university entry, including every major tertiary institution in Australia.

Subjects
All IB candidates are required to choose and complete six subjects from separate groups in order to complete the qualification. These include:

  • two language subjects (the student’s own language, as well as an additional language)
  • a social sciences subject
  • an experimental sciences subject
  • mathematics.

For the sixth subject, students can choose either an arts subject or a second subject from the aforementioned groups.

Core studies
In addition, all DP students are required to undertake three core studies:

  • Extended essay: The extended essay enables students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of around 4000 words relating to one of their chosen subjects.
  • Theory of knowledge (TOK): TOK is a course in critical thinking that teaches students ‘how’ to learn, helping them to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the learning process that they can apply to various disciplines and across all their subjects.
     
  • Creativity, action, service (CAS): CAS involves students in a range of activities outside the classroom for around three hours per week, including involvement in the arts, physical activity and community service.

Assessment
Students complete assessment tasks at school throughout the DP, which may be marked initially by teachers and then moderated by external moderators or sent directly to external examiners. At the end of the DP, students undertake written examinations that are marked by external IB examiners. For each subject, students are awarded a grade between 1 and 7. Their success in the extended essay and TOK may see them awarded up to three bonus points. Students must gain a minimum of 24 points to pass the DP, with the maximum grade being 45. Unlike the state-based senior secondary certificates, where results are based on each student’s comparative performance against all other students taking the same subjects, the IB measures student performance against pre-specified assessment criteria.

Further information

For a list of schools that offer the IB in your state, see the following pages:

If you require more information about the IB, this should be sought from schools directly. See Find a school to search for schools in your area. 

For more information about the IB and how it is conducted in schools, visit the International Baccalaureate organisation website.

Parents and students can find further information about tertiary study on the Good Universities Guide website. The Good Universities Guide provides course and institution searches, institution ratings and helpful editorial for prospective university and vocational students.

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