Advance Blog

October 27, 2017
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The IB Diploma: Excellent Preparation for University

By Linda Belonje, Director of Marketing and Development, KIS International School, Bangkok.

As global citizens, many of us would like our children to have access to the best universities around the world. Competition for a place at some universities can be fierce, so we try to support our children by providing them with a strong foundation for their tertiary education.

Universities, in turn, are looking for applicants who are likely to succeed or excel at their institution. They aim to enroll students who can write and think critically and coherently, who can stretch the boundaries of research and knowledge and who take an active part in university life. Bearing that in mind, how does the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma prepare students for this?

There are many pre-university qualifications. One of most established ones, and particularly well-known in expat circles, is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. The IB Diploma was first offered to students in 1968 as an internationally transferable curriculum, designed to provide an independent, consistent and high quality program for globally mobile families. The IB Middle Years Programme, for 11-16 year olds and the IB Primary Years Programme for 3-12 year olds followed in the 1990s. The IB Career-related Programme is the newest of the IB offerings, having been introduced in 2012.

There are a few schools in Bangkok, such as KIS International School, that offer three IB programmes (PYP, MYP and the IB Diploma), providing the IB for students of all ages. In addition, many international schools in Bangkok offer students the option of taking the IB Diploma in the last 2 years of High School. The IB Diploma is widely recognized and respected by universities all around the world, offering not only high rates of acceptance, but also, in some countries, university credits or scholarships.

All students doing the IB Diploma will take 6 different subjects from 5 or 6 different subject groups (Studies in language and literature, Language acquisition, Individuals and societies, Sciences, Mathematics, The arts).  Covering a wide range of subjects allows students to be well rounded and receive a broad education. Depth is ensured by having the students take three subjects at Higher level and three at Standard level. In addition to the six subjects, there are three mandatory core elements:  Theory of Knowledge, which is a class where students discuss knowledge and how we know what we know, the extended essay, a 4,000 word original research paper, and CAS, which stands for Creativity, Action and Service and encompasses activities outside of the school curriculum.

The interdisciplinary nature of the IB, as well as its depth and breadth, gives high school students more time before “specializing”. In addition it taps into the trend of universities offering more customisable majors and approaching their courses in an interdisciplinary manner.  No longer are all university students simply delving into their subjects in isolation.

The IB regularly collaborates with research companies and universities to assess the effectiveness and value of the IB Diploma. Results show that IB students are more likely than non-IB students to complete their university degree and they do so in less time. IB students are also better able to adjust to university expectations, thanks to their ability to think critically, manage their time and perform research.  [1]

According to one graduate of KIS International School in Bangkok who went to UC Berkeley: “I can’t stress enough how well the IB program has prepared me for university…The IB has taught me how to be an active learner who is unafraid to ask challenging questions and a learner who knows how to reflect and think critically.”

The IB Diploma requires students to be organised, self-motivated and to manage their time. Having this experience facilitates their transition to university life, where there will be many distractions and students may not be held accountable for their work by anybody else except themselves.

A large proportion of course work and assessment in the IB Diploma is based on students doing independent research. Students formulate their research questions and using research skills developed throughout the IB programmes they will state, discuss and evaluate their findings, using appropriate citation techniques. These skills are requirements at university and having already mastered them during high school students are better prepared and have a distinct advantage.

Universities also appreciate the fact that IB grades have always been consistent. With a maximum score of 45 points and a minimum passing score of 24, it is easy for universities to identify the great students and the good students, and establish the students’ areas of strength.  Unlike some other programmes, the IB does not suffer from “grade inflation”, which is when more and more students are receiving top grades making it difficult for universities to identify excellence, nor is it pressured by any government to take a specific direction. The IB was developed for students, not for a particular country.

Many of the universities our children are interested in attending value international-mindedness and the ability to think further than the local arena. IB students learn to appreciate different cultural perspectives, their learning crosses different cultural contexts and they learn an additional language.

The IB explains this further. “Like all IB programmes, the Diploma Programme aims to encourage students to become internationally minded people who recognize their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet”…”IB World Schools help students engage in inquiry, action and reflection on locally and globally significant issues across the curriculum. And fittingly, the qualification is internationally benchmarked, allowing graduates to continue their studies anywhere in the world.”[2]

The Theory of Knowledge class, one of the three core elements of the IB Diploma, helps students think critically and understand different perspectives. CAS “helps students to become better at “taking on new challenges,” “learning to persevere” and “developing better interpersonal skills.””[3].  Furthermore, CAS encourages students to pursue interests outside of school and to be actively involved in their communities. According to the IB “IB students can tend to make more contributions to campus life by participating in activities such as community service, tutoring, assisting faculty in research, study abroad, internships, and joining clubs and other student groups. “. [4] The extended essay gives students experience with choosing a subject they are interested in, conducting research, processing the information and writing a formal paper. The entire process gives students valuable experience for research projects at the university level.

Not only does the IB prepare students well for university, having the Diploma also increases an applicant’s chances of being accepted. One of the IB’s research papers show that “DP students were significantly more likely than their A level peers to attend a top twenty university in the UK and to receive a first-class honours degree.”[5]

While there are many roads that lead to university, the IB does an excellent job of preparing students for the rigours of taking on an undergraduate degree. With a strong academic foundation, the ability to make connections between different disciplines, an open mind that sees challenges from different perspectives, international awareness, well-roundedness and self-management skills; it comes as no surprise that universities in Australia and around the world welcome students with an IB Diploma.


[1] International Baccalaureate. “Key Findings from Research on the Impact of the Diploma Programme.” Benefits of the IB, International Baccalaureate , 2016,

[2] Iborganization. “How the IB Diploma Programme Prepares You for University.” International Baccalaureate®, May 2012,

[3] Hayden, Mary, et al. “How Does CAS Impact Students, Educators and Life beyond IB?” News from around the IB Community, IB Research Department, July 2017,

[4] Iborganization. “Effectiveness of an IB Education.” International Baccalaureate®,

[5] International Baccalaureate. “Key Findings from Research on the Impact of the Diploma Programme.” Benefits of the IB, International Baccalaureate , 2016,

Linda Belonje, Director of Marketing and Development, KIS International School, Bangkok.
Linda Belonje, Director of Marketing and Development, KIS International School, Bangkok . As a third-culture child, Linda grew up in several countries around the world, and attended international schools, graduating from high school in Germany with an IB Diploma. She went back to her home country, the Netherlands to attend the University of Groningen, where she obtained her Master’s degree in Communications. In 1995 Linda moved to Thailand to work in the field of Marketing. She made the switch from a multinational company to KIS International School in 2008. KIS International School was established in 1998 and is a full IB School with a vision to Inspire Individuals. The school has a warm and caring community and is located in the city center. Linda is responsible for the Marketing and Development aspects of KIS and passionately enjoys telling stories about the IB and the school, both as a parent and member of staff.

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