What is International Baccalaureate? Why, who for, and what for...

Understanding the IB Diploma qualification and its importance for the student’s future.

How it all started?  

At the end of the 60s, in Switzerland, an international group comprising experts, approved a new educational program, the foundation of which was the concept of universality: implying that a new project - International Baccalaureate (IB) will «cover» all educational programs significant in the world at that time, and "equalize" them recognizing the equivalence to each other for each of them. The program quickly gained popularity, first among private schools, then the demand for IB extended to the public sector. Gradually the IB Diploma was recognized by all reputable universities in Europe, Canada and the United States. Today, the IB DIPLOMA gives its holder the right to enter any university of the world, without passing exams and without passing any interviews. (some universities, however, require an entrant to have a certain passing score).

What is IB Diploma?

Today, there are three IB options: 

  • Primary Years Program – for primary school;  
  • Middle Years Program – for high school;
  • Diploma Program – an IB visiting card.

Prospective students, who plan to continue their education abroad, can only be interested in the latter.

Duration of study - two years. Language of schooling - on student’s choice out of three working ones:

  • english;
  • française;
  • español.

Philological subjects (languages and literature) can be taught in the language of a native speaker. 

IB structure is six specialized subject groups (a student chooses one subject from each one) + three theoretical and practical courses mandatory for all. The program includes two levels of study: 3 subjects are studied by the student at the standard level and 3 - at the higher level.

Subject group

  • studies in language and literature: language arts, language and literature, as well as a transdisciplinary course "Theater and Literature";
  • language acquisition: a student either continues to develop the skills in the previously studied foreign language, or chooses another one and starts language education from scratch; in addition, it is offered to choose one of dead languages – ancient Greek or Latin;
  • individuals and societies: social sciences and humanities (economic, political, environmental, entrepreneurial business, history of philosophy, etc.); 
  • experimental sciences: natural sciences, as well as physics, computer science, design fundamentals and special course "Sports and Health";
  • mathematics: mathematical disciplines of various complexity;  
  • the arts: music and dance history, architectural heritage, theater history and theory, cinematography and arts.

In addition, in the process of study, each student has to perform the following works (the so-called central elements of the program):

  • To listen to "Theory of knowledge" interdisciplinary course, which often takes the form of discussions. This is a completely new discipline, not only for secondary schools of the CIS countries, it also does not occur in any of the European or American educational programs.  Discussion lessons allow students to consider the concept of "knowledge" in all possible aspects: acquisition of knowledge, its types, distribution, etc. The course contributes to the development of critical thinking and covers all areas of life. The course ends with a final essay, which the student writes under the guidance of a teacher.
  • Students write one more essay on the topic that corresponds to one or more subjects, selected by the student at the beginning of the study. This task contributes to the development of analytical thinking and academic writing skills.
  • Extra-curricular activities combined under the name of "creativity, activity, service."

Evaluation system 

The knowledge and practical skills of students are evaluated on a seven score scale. Highest score - 7. For each subject the student gets a separate final score, which is made up of three components: work for a two-year course, final work and a final exam. 3 scores for the central elements (the theory of knowledge, final essays, extracurricular activities) are added to the final score for the subjects. Thus - the maximum that the student can get following the results of the study is 42 + 3.

To obtain an IB diploma it is necessary to get not less than 24 scores, while the student should have not be less than 3 score for any of the subjects.


  • age - not lower than 16 years old;  
  • interview in English (6.5 – IELTS. 550 - TOEFL). 

Following the results of the interview the commission may offer a preparatory annual pre-IBE course, if it considers the knowledge of the applicant insufficient.

International Baccalaureate and other educational programs 

There are at least two things that fundamentally differ the IB program from all other national educational systems.

Firstly, a compulsory philosophical course of the theory of knowledge, which "teaches to learn" and lays the foundations necessary for self-education.

Secondly, the mandatory program of "Creativity, Action, Service", which is understood as any implementation of creative potentials (from the organization of a school Christmas tree party to writing a novel on 350 pages), physical activity (sports, dancing), and any activities beneficial to the society.

The attitude to the subject matter of the study distinguishes IB from the post-Soviet educational program.

If, for example, we got used to study literature at stages, and chronologically, covering almost all the names and texts in accordance with their historical development, the IB approach is comparative. As a result, a smaller number of writings, is studied in the framework of the INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE system, but the process is deeper and more thorough.

The same applies to history. Our pupils used to study the historical process by dates and names - the more dates you "memorize" the better you have "learned" the material. The IB program focuses on the most interesting and significant historical events and is oriented at the development of pupil’s skills in analyzing historical material.

The IB mathematics includes more sections, and tasks are usually easier than ours, but the insufficiently high level of complexity of tasks is compensated by thematic breadth: ID students learn the basics of the probability theory, mathematical statistics, higher mathematics over two years.

Natural sciences make experiments as the center of the study, and many subjects of the program (political science, anthropology, business, management, etc.) are not studied at CIS schools at all.

Why International Baccalaureate Diploma?

IB is an alternative to the pre-university preparatory program, A-LEVEL. IB DIPLOMA obtaining also guarantees admission by any of the leading universities, but the A-LEVEL focuses more on the English-language education, the IB also includes educational institutions around the world.

When choosing a program it should be taken into account what goals you pursue and what you expect from the study.

A-LEVEL focuses on a narrow specialization and a teenager is forced to make a choice at the age early enough for this, when many of them are still not quite ready for this. Of course, everything can be decided by parents, as it often happens, but he is the one who will study, work and live. Do not forget about it.

Education on the IB program covers a wide range of the field of knowledge as such. The purpose of this program is a diversified development of an individual, comprehensive preparation of a teenager to study at a prestigious university and adult life in general. The IB training course, of course, is more complicated. It is a stimulating course unmatched in scale with any educational program. According to the statistics, every year at the end of the course about 30% of students do not pass the exam at the appropriate level and do not receive a diploma. But, as they say, "train hard, fight easy", and the most top range universities will always give preference to an applicant who has received comprehensive IB education.

If you want to get a foreign university diploma and rush headlong up the career ladder, as soon as possible, you should, of course, get the A-LEVEL program. If your priorities are somewhat different, and your purpose is not limited to prestige and image-making, your choice is INTERNATIONAL BACCALAURETE DIPLOMA.