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How does IB prepare a student for life?

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

The IB programme is widely accepted in international schools all over the world. According to the IBO, as of September 3, 2019, there were 6,812 programmes being offered worldwide across 5,175 IB schools in 157 countries. As IB English is one of the most popular courses offered by the IB, and the IB programme is conducted fully in English, students studying the IB are often exempted for language proficiency test. The IB Programme receives a high level of recognition among the higher education institutions throughout the world. IB students are therefore considered competitive among all candidates applying for universities. With the help of IB tutors, IB students are able to improve their academic performance so as to become a better candidate among all university applicants.

What IB offers

The International Baccalaureate (IB) “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. It also aims to provide an education that “crosses disciplinary, cultural, national and geographical boundaries”.

The IB programme consists of three core elements - Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity, Activities and Services (CAS); and the extended essay (EE) - and six subject groups. IB students are required to choose at least 3 subjects at higher level, and the other 3 at standard level, including native language, native/non-native language, mathematics, humanities, and science.

The IB programme emphasizes the breadth and depth of students’ studying. The programme provides a broad scope of learning to students by all three core elements and six subjects. The programme also deepens students’ learning through the higher level subjects, as well as the extended essay which allows students to conduct further independent research on a single subject. Through the higher level subjects and extended essays, students are able to learn more about every subject in details. Some courses even offer knowledge that is indeed included in a degree’s syllabus.

Besides both the depth and breadth in IB students’ academic path provided by the IB programme, it benefits IB students in many other ways. In the following sections, these benefits brought by the IB programme will be discussed to see how IB prepares a student for life.

Acquire learning skills

There are both external and internal assessments in the IB Diploma Programme. IB students are tested on various forms of questions for the external assessment, such as essays, data-response questions, case-study questions and so on. On the other hand, internal assessments including oral work in language courses, laboratory work in science courses and investigation in mathematics are also parts of the curriculum that test students on their extended academic skills. Other than these, IB students need to complete the Extended Essay as well as Theory of Knowledge essay.

IB students are required to complete coursework and exams in various aspects. Although the requirements by the IB programme is challenging, different types of assessments enables students to train their analytical writing, independent and critical thinking that would benefit them not only during the IB programme, but also further studies in their lives.

Besides paperwork, IB students are also required to carry out presentations during their study. Students are not only assessed on their presentation content, but also their presentation skills such as use of words, speaking speed, tone and so on. The IB programme provides students many opportunities to train their speaking skills and confidence to speak in public. Students with an IB background in the universities are generally more confident in presenting in front of the whole class.

Learn how to study

Acquiring different academic skills is not enough for a student. The IB programme takes a unique way of teaching that encourages students’ critical thinking. IB is rarely based on memorization, it is more based on understanding. Students usually find it difficult at the early stage of the programme. Although memorizing knowledge can only help students in a short period of time, IB tests students on two years worth of material for each subject while the exams only last one month. In order to excel in the exams, students should not just memorize everything which is almost impossible in this case. Therefore, IB encourages students to find their own way of studying, and helps students on how to learn and understand knowledge instead of just memorization.

IB also trains students to provide a full explanation of every detail of an answer. Multiple questions are barely seen in the IB exams. Instead, multiple-page essays explaining the process of human digestion are the only type of exam that exist in the IB world. The study skills required are far more demanding than that of the typical high school test. This encourages IB students to think of questions more comprehensively. Additionally, this skill can not only be applied in learning processes, but also every aspect of life. Students are encouraged to be more careful about every detail in their lives, and also trained to consider problems more completely.

Bridge to university

The IB programme provides IB students with the opportunity to experience the transition from middle school learning to the autonomy of university learning.

Besides final exams, IB students are required to complete coursework throughout the two years of IB Diploma Programme, such as the internal assessments and further oral activity. The grade components are more similar to the one in universities where coursework and projects are the major component of the final grades.

The extended essay in the IB programme requires students to write a 4000-word essay on a topic of a chosen subject. Students are able to improve their skills in independent research, writing skills and presentation, which are more like the study mode in universities. The freedom given in the IB programme prepares IB students for further study in university. IB students learn how to learn, study and review on their own. The outcome is mostly dependent on how much effort the student is willing to put in.

The IB encourages independent style of teaching throughout the programme. It prepares IB students not to have teacher constantly standing by to ask them to do work and help them. Students ought to take good care of themselves throughout the programme, including making their own plans, setting internal deadlines to keep track of their own work and so on. IB programme therefore makes students learn to be more independent in the sense that they should be responsible for their actions and decisions as they are no longer under full control of their teachers. This is also a bridge to universities as professors are more likely to take a more hands-off approach to their teachings. University students are in the same class with hundreds of other students. Students are expected to be more independent as there will no longer be teachers chasing after them and ask for the assignments.

Prepare for employment

The IB programme proves its students to be individuals who are broad-minded risk takers with excellent collaborative skills. IB students are considered to be well trained for interdisciplinary knowledge and motivating personality. It shapes students into a more considerate, patient, detailed and confident individuals that are generally welcomed at the workplace. IB students do not only acquire relevant knowledge, but also receive education of the whole person. IB equips students with adequate personality traits that are useful in their future life, not only restricted to university.

Develop soft skills

By the junior year of high school, everything about an IB student becomes centered around IB. When IB students are not studying for exams or drafting extended essays, they are trying to earn enough CAS hours by volunteering at an NGO.

The coursework of the IB programme is often one of students’ concerns during their two-year study under the IB programme. In order to achieve a satisfactory grade for each subject and an overall for the diploma, IB students need to learn and know how to manage their time. IB pushes students to be more organized, to learn how to plan out the time, especially in a short period of time. Time management is important that students ought to distribute their time reasonably to different tasks and coursework so as to get everything done accordingly.

Learning how to manage time is important not only because it is helpful in the IB programmes, it also helps an individual for his or her entire life. Time management is essential in all aspects of life - university, work, personal life. IB students often comment that IB has helped them a lot in terms of time management, especially in the universities.

Due to the large amount of coursework and exams at the same time, the IB programme is also stressful for students. IB students need to learn how to handle stress so as to complete their coursework and hold a positive attitude for the final exams. Stress management is not only useful for students’ university, but also the entire life. Knowing how to distress enables individuals to get over obstacles more easily and carry onto their lives.

Personal and social responsibility

Besides the provision of challenging academic qualification, the IB programme also emphasizes on development personal qualities and social responsibility. Creativity, Activities and Services (CAS), one of the core elements in the programme, requires students to engage in local and international community activities. After joining the activities, students are expected to be a more caring and active individual in the communities. The IB programme hopes that students can get more insights from the extra-curricular activities so that students do not only know how to study, but also know how to engage in the community. IB students are expected to take up personal and social responsibility to care more for their interpersonal relationships as well as the world.

International mindedness

Students studying in the IB programme are usually together with classmates from all over the world. Being together with people with different cultural backgrounds increases students’ exposure to the world. IB students are able to learn various cultures from different countries. And this helps IB students encounter, learn, and respect the variety of human beings, including gender, race, culture and so on. Learning how to accept and respect differences from one's self is hard. However, as the world is becoming more and more diverse, acceptance and respect are one of the most valuable attributes to acquire.

The IB programme encourages IB students to explore possibilities, to become lifelong learners who value and respect cultural differences and possess international mindedness. International mindedness does not only include global awareness, but also the understanding of the world: how people’s lives are shaped by the socio-economic factor, how different people’s lives all over the world are. Many say that it is an ambitious mission, but educating a person is not only limited to knowledge. Equipping young individuals with knowledge, independence, awareness and relatedness to give their best in the interdependent world is instead an education of the whole person.

The IB Diploma Programme broadens students’ world perspective beyond what the textbooks convey. All the skills learnt in the programme can make students more confident and change how one can view him or herself. By changing how someone sees himself, it also changes how the person sees others, and the world.


The IB programme is not only an education pathway for students to learn and apply knowledge, it is more a bridge to university, preparation for future employment, an opportunity to improve one’s attributes, and an institution to improve and become a better person. Students with IB background often comment that what they miss most from the IB programme is not the knowledge that they acquired, but the time they spent joining social services, the time spent preparing for presentations, time spent with fellow classmates to strive together for a brighter future. IB does not only bring students academic enhancement, but also improvement as an individual, as a human being.

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