How the online IB Diploma prepares you for university

The first step to getting into the university of your dreams is choosing a qualification to take during your final year of school. From British A Level courses to the American AP, there are several options to pick from — but which is the best for you?

Every qualification has its own unique strengths, but if you’re searching for a programme with the best university preparedness, you may want to consider the IBDP. The International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme is a highly regarded qualification for students aged 16 to 19, and it’s known to impart all the skills students need to thrive during their degree.

In one study conducted in the UK, 97% of university admissions officers agreed that the IB Diploma prepares students for higher education. In another survey, the same percentage of US college students stated that the IBDP helped them prepare for their degree.

King’s InterHigh is now the world’s first and only school to offer the IB Diploma Programme entirely online, making it more accessible than ever. But just what makes this programme such great preparation for university studies? Here’s everything you need to know.

Recognition and respect

When you’re deciding on the right qualifications to prepare you for university, the most important factor to consider is recognition. If you study for a qualification that your dream university doesn’t officially recognise, you have a difficult time swaying the admissions committee — no matter how good your grades are.

The IB Diploma Programme is recognised in over 100 countries across the globe. Each year, more than 5,000 universities worldwide accept applications from IB students. This includes all Ivy League colleges in the United States, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and all other Russell Group universities in the United Kingdom.

Plus, the IBDP isn’t just recognised around the world; it’s also highly respected by admissions officers at the top universities.

Academic rigour

One of the main reasons why universities hold a lot of respect for the IBDP is the programme’s academic rigour. Just like A Levels, the online IB Diploma imparts students with a high level of knowledge on each subject. In fact, many universities in the US even offer college credit for IBDP Higher Level subjects because these courses are considered equivalent to first-year college classes.

However, unlike A Levels, the IB Diploma Programme carries a higher workload. Learners study six different subjects as part of the IBDP, choosing one from each academic field:

  • English language and literature
  • Foreign language acquisition
  • Humanities and social sciences
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • The arts

That said, don’t fear if you find certain subjects harder than others; you’ll take some at Higher Level (HL), and others at the less rigorous Standard Level (SL). On top of these subject groups, the IBDP also includes the “Diploma Programme core”: three courses intended to broaden your horizons and make you a more well-rounded student. The DP core covers:

  • Theory of knowledge
  • The extended essay
  • Creativity, activity, and service

“The IB is an extremely good qualification in allowing students to transition between high school and university. Learners have the ability to be numerate, through their mathematics. They have good essay-writing skills, through English. They also have other attributes, such as the TOK, the extended essay and CAS, all that provide excellent skills to transition into university.”

— Paul Teulon, Director of Admissions at King’s College London

With so many different areas of study to explore, it’s no surprise that universities see the IBDP as a rigorous qualification. In turn, this prepares learners for the workload they’ll face at university. While systems vary from country to country, many degree students typically take four to six different courses each term or semester. After studying six different subjects and the DP core, IBDP students typically feel ready and able to take on all their coursework and exams when they get to university.

“[At Cambridge], students have to be able to cope, both with courses that play to their strengths from the outset and other courses where maybe they have to work a bit harder. For IB students, this is something they’re quite used to doing, so they take to our approach, really, like ducks to water.”

— Emily Tomlinson, Director of Admissions at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge

Independent study

To get through university, you’ll need to know how to study independently. While you will attend lectures, seminars, and other classes led by subject experts, you’ll also spend a lot of time reading, writing, researching, and practicing on your own. Taking the IBDP is a great way to build those independent study skills, so you’re prepared ahead of time.

As mentioned, one of the core aspects of the IB Diploma Programme is the extended essay. The extended essay is a self-directed piece of research which culminates in a 4,000-word paper. Designed to prepare you for undergraduate research, the extended essay helps you develop a wide variety of skills that will help you in university. After choosing a topic that personally interests you, you’ll learn how to formulate a research proposition, explore your topic in detail, and communicate or debate your ideas. You’ll also build skills in analysis and evaluation, comparing and contrasting your own studies with expertise from scholars before you.

“The IB programme develops [key] attributes in students through the combination of the depth, coupled with breadth in the subject learning, the strong research and writing skills that they gain through the extended essay, learning techniques and also having an international outlook.”

— Nicky Stecker-Doxat, Education Policy Development Manager at the University of Southampton

This is very similar to the work you’ll undertake when it’s time to write your dissertation or thesis at university. The same skills will also come in handy for smaller, less intensive university assignments and examinations too.

Studying the IBDP online is another way to boost your independent learning skills. Each IB topic at King’s InterHigh begins with independent or small group research. Students then bring their own insights together with expert input from our experienced and highly qualified teachers.

Additional learning skills

There are also many other learning skills that students develop as part of the IBDP online. According to the International Baccalaureate Organization, IB programmes are designed to support five key skill areas that are fundamental to future success: thinking, communication, research, self-management, and social skills. These categories encompass all the individual skills you’ll learn during your Diploma Programme studies.

For example, if you study English A: Language and Literature, one of the components you’ll be assessed on is the Individual Oral Commentary (IOC). During the IOC, you’ll be assigned a passage from a work you’ve studied. Within 20 minutes, you’ll need to prepare a 10 to 15-minute presentation discussing the passage in question. This will greatly strengthen your ability to communicate on the spot, helping you ace your presentations and contribute to seminars when you get to university.

Theory of knowledge (TOK), meanwhile, is an inquiry into what we know and how we know it. You’ll learn to question and assess evidence, judge and evaluate knowledge presented to you, and apply theories to the real world. These are all core thinking skills that will be essential when it comes to writing essays at university, particularly if you study a non-STEM subject. After studying the IBDP, you’ll have a better understanding of how to critique sources, compare texts, and more.

“Many of the qualities we look for in our students, we actually see in the attributes of students who take the IB programmes. And this includes: having critical thinking abilities, time management skills and actually a strong sense of self-motivation as well.”

— Nicky Stecker-Doxat, Education Policy Development Manager at the University of Southampton

Time management is another crucial skill for university students, and something you’ll learn well with an online education at King’s InterHigh. With a more flexible schedule on your hands, you’ll learn how to balance your free time between academic study, extra-curricular activities, and leisure, before you’re faced with a university workload to manage.

International perspectives

In an increasingly globalised society, more and more universities value students who think with an international mindset. The number of international students admitted to US colleges has grown year on year for decades. Some top universities in the UK, meanwhile, encourage or require students to take a foreign language at GCSE level or higher. An understanding of international perspectives is even more important if you plan to spend a year studying abroad as part of your degree.

“We’re looking for students who are prepared to be international. They’re prepared to think creatively, and they’re prepared to think across academic and country borders. And the IB adequately prepares people in all of those regards.”

— Richard Harvey, Academic Director of Admissions at the University of East Anglia

At its very core, the International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme is designed to foster a global mindset. As part of their studies, all IBDP students must take a modern or ancient foreign language — for example, Spanish or French. The IBDP also brings worldwide situations, events, and problems into other topics of study. As part of Biology, for example, you may learn about sickle cell anaemia in African countries while studying genetics. In Psychology, you might explore the idea of identity among different ethnic groups.

“When students get to university, what they’ll discover is that they’re surrounded by people and ideas from all around the world. And the international perspective that they acquire while studying for the IB prepares them really well for that.”

— Emily Tomlinson, Director of Admissions at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge

Prepare for university with the IB online at King’s InterHigh

Starting this September 2022, King’s InterHigh is offering a fully online way to study the IB Diploma Programme for the very first time. Combining our 16 years of online schooling expertise with a 44-year legacy of IB success across Inspired Education Group, we bring you live, interactive classes with expert teachers and cutting-edge technology. Online learning also gives you more flexibility to learn from anywhere in the world and balance your education with your passions.

To learn more about why you should study the IBDP online at King’s InterHigh, click here.

More IB articles

Why study the IB Diploma Programme online

If you’re looking for a well-rounded, international, independently driven pathway to the world’s top universities, the International Baccalaureate® Diploma...

Read more