Which IB subject should I choose?

World high school diploma IB and foreign school qualifications

Either the university entrance qualification of the respective country, in Germany the Abitur, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB), the “Weltabitur” or “Internationale Abitur” can be acquired. The latter is not offered by all private schools, but more and more schools are jumping on the IB train. While the IB entitles the holder to take up a university degree worldwide, it remains to be checked in advance for degrees abroad to what extent they are recognized in Germany or in the country in which the student would like to undertake an apprenticeship or study. General information on this topic can be found under the section “Foreign school qualifications”.

World Abitur IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma)

The International Baccalaureate, known under the abbreviation IB, is a non-profit foundation based in Switzerland that was founded in 1968 in Geneva. The foundation describes its goals as follows: "The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect." (Extract from the “Mission Statement”). To do justice to its mission, the foundation has developed four educational programs for schoolchildren between the ages of 3 and 19:

  • the “Primary Years Program” for 3 to 12 year old students
  • the “Middle Years Program” for 11 to 16 year old students
  • the “Diploma Program” for 16 to 19 year old students
  • the “Career-related Program” for 16 to 19 year old students.

The four programs are offered by so-called “IB World Schools”. In principle, any state or private school can acquire the status of such a “World School”, but must meet certain requirements and be officially authorized.

The two-year “Diploma Program” is usually of particular interest to German young people. The oldest of the three programs, which has existed since 1968, can be completed in more than 2,600 schools worldwide. By far the largest number of schools offering it are in the United States. The United States is followed in number by the United Kingdom and Canada. But the IB Diploma can also be obtained at a number of schools in Australia and New Zealand. The “IB Diploma Program” can be the right path to university entrance qualification for many, but does not have to be for every student, which is why the learning content should be discussed for an initial orientation.

Curriculum and learning content IB Diploma Program

The curriculum includes the following six academic subject areas:

Each student takes a total of six subjects and must choose a subject from each group in groups 1 to 5. This ensures a broad spectrum of learning and avoids one-sided specialization. The sixth subject can come from group 6 or alternatively from one of the areas 1 to 5. In the latter case, the student would take two subjects from one group. With regard to the level of the courses, a distinction is made between the “higher level” and the “standard level”. Usually three subjects are taken at the higher level and the remaining three subjects at the regular level. The language of instruction and examination at “IB World Schools” can be: English, French or Spanish. Foreign languages ​​can of course be taught in the respective foreign language.

In addition to the six subjects, there are three further requirements for the students of the “IB Diploma Program”. These are referred to as the three “core requirements” and are considered part of the curriculum. Each student writes a detailed essay (“Extended Essay”) within the two years, ie a technical paper with a content-related relationship to one of the six subjects or to the subject “World Studies”. Among other things, this instructs the students to work independently. All students also attend the “Theory of Knowledge” course, in German “Epistemology”, from the field of philosophy. Every student must also take part in activities within the framework of “CAS”, the abbreviation for the terms “creativity”, “action” and “service”. The young people get involved for at least three hours per week beyond the actual lessons in the artistic-creative, sporting or social-voluntary area. The activities serve as a balance to academic learning.

Exams and IB degree

The “IB Diploma Program” is completed at the end of the program with central written examinations, which are graded by external examiners. In addition, other services such as oral contributions in foreign language lessons, laboratory work in the natural sciences or appearances in the field of theater or music are included in the assessment. Each subject is graded on a scale from 1 (worst grade) to 7 (best grade). To acquire the degree, at least 24 points must be obtained (4 points per subject, which are equivalent to a “passed”), the maximum possible number of points is 45 (per subject the number of points of 7 points plus the one point to be achieved per “core” requirement ”). Experience has shown that 80 percent of students worldwide pass the exams for each examination block, which takes place in May and November of each year, regardless of the host country or the school attended, and thus receive the IB Diploma. Less than one percent achieved the maximum score of 45 points.

Recognition of the IB Diploma

Acquiring the IB Diploma instead of the country-specific school leaving certificate is becoming more and more attractive for students all over the world. (Incidentally, you do not necessarily have to go abroad for this. The IB Diploma can also be obtained at some German schools.) This certainly has to do not only with the philosophy and the curriculum, but is also due to the fact that the IB Diploma is now the Has achieved the status of a “world high school diploma” or “international high school diploma”. Universities around the world recognize the IB Diploma as a university entrance qualification - although you should inform yourself in advance about the guidelines in possible study countries. In itself, the IB Diploma is recognized as a university entrance qualification in Germany if certain conditions are met, which can be looked up in detail in the resolution of the KMK. Information on IB recognition at universities around the world (in other European countries and overseas) can be found on the IB website. Main source for the information on this page: www.ibo.org.

These schools look forward to you

Foreign school qualifications

For a number of young people, the acquisition of a foreign school leaving certificate at a private school is central, either as an alternative to or in addition to the German Abitur. Depending on the host country and school, this usually requires a stay abroad of at least one and a half to two years. The majority of these are two-year stays: The German young people register at the beginning of the “upper level” or the last two school years in the host country. In the English-speaking host countries most popular with German young people, these are the “Sixth Form” in the UK, the “Senior Cycle” in Ireland, “Junior and Senior Year” or “Grades 11 and 12” in the USA, “Grades 11 and 12” in Canada (or “Secondary IV or V” in Quebec) and “Year 12 and 13” in New Zealand and Australia. Some private schools, e.g. in the USA, even see an even earlier entry than necessary.

Recognition in Germany

School-leaving qualifications obtained abroad can, under certain conditions, be treated as equivalent to a German school-leaving certificate. The certificate recognition offices of the federal states are responsible for deciding whether to equate the foreign qualification with the German secondary school qualification, a secondary school qualification (e.g. secondary school qualification) and the university entrance qualification for professional purposes, for example to take up vocational training. The relevant certificate recognition and advice centers can be accessed via the anabin database, the information system for the recognition of foreign educational qualifications.

However, guest students particularly often seek recognition of their foreign qualification as a university entrance qualification (Abitur or advanced technical college entrance qualification). The typical school qualifications of different host countries can entitle them to attend university in the country itself, but if the student wants to return to Germany to start studying, it should be found out in advance whether and under what conditions recognition is possible. In addition to the regular foreign qualification, additional examinations may have to be taken or the qualification obtained in the host country only allows studying certain subjects. This will not be an obstacle for young people who already definitely know what they want to study at the time they are planning their stay abroad. On the contrary: these young people often benefit from an early professional specialization. Pupils who are not able to commit themselves at an early stage may have problems with a subject-related school-leaving qualification, as it restricts their freedom of choice when choosing a course of study.

Depending on the federal state, the German universities are directly responsible for the recognition of foreign secondary degrees for the purpose of university admission, or central certificate recognition offices, which are located, for example, at the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs. In some federal states there are both options. If students want to apply for a subject with restricted admission, they can also contact Hochschulstart directly with the request for recognition. This is the successor to the Central Office for the Allocation of Study Places (ZVS). Hochschulstart evaluates foreign certificates on its own responsibility and for its own purposes. It is not necessary for applicants to take care of recognition in advance. Hochschulstart does not issue a certificate of recognition of certificates.