Although the vast majority of undergraduate applicants to Oxford study A-Levels, more and more students from the UK and abroad are applying, having studied the International Baccalaureate at school. There’s quite a lot less information about how best to tackle the IB in regards to applying to university and what elements of it will be most beneficial to your application and your future study. As a current Oxford student and IB alumna, hopefully I will be able to shed a light on some useful tips on tailoring the IB to help you best for university.
The university requires between 38-40 points, depending on your subject, and you are expected to get 7s and 6s at higher level. This is the most important thing – whatever you do and no matter how much attention you pay to the points below, ultimately you need to achieve the points that are required for the course to take you.
1. Extended Essay
Your extended essay can be extremely helpful for interviews and submitting work. I recommend choosing something you are particularly interested in and that relates directly to the subject you are planning to study. Having a substantial piece of research that you can talk about can be an incredibly useful tool when you need to submit work with your application or talk about something that interest you in the interview. As an undergraduate, you will – regardless of subject –end up having to do substantial writing or a project on something that interests and will require lots of research, so showing that you already have the academic skills in this already is fantastic.
2. Don’t forget TOK
While I know most IB students groan at the idea of Theory of Knowledge (I know your pain, I’ve been there), don’t just write it off as a means to securing your 3 core points. If you are planning to study a humanities subject particularly (but definitely not exclusively), remembering the skills of scrutinizing how you know things will definitely come up in your course through different scholarship. Remembering the work and scholarship from studying TOK can actually be applicable to your degree (so don’t fall asleep just yet!)
3. Make your CAS useful to your subject
For most subjects there is a way to make CAS vaguely useful to subject. As a music student, quite obviously performing and engaging with music as part of Creativity was then useful when applying, and the skills I learnt helped with interviews. For a medic, volunteering as part of Service will also be useful to securing a place to go into a career working with others. However, for all subjects you can find interesting links – whether engaging in an extracurricular philosophy society as ‘creativity’, or volunteer language teaching to local refugees, or even learning about physiology through ‘action’, there may be a way to earn your hours while relating back to the degree you are applying for.
4. Don’t forget your language
This is just a general point – you’ll regret it, and actually humanities students will back me up that often you’ll work with other languages, so having one under your belt already will make your life easier.
5. Maths – and what to take!
The course is changing for IB maths, and departments will recommend different options for different subjects (so pay attention to that), but think about what is most useful. For most humanities subjects, ‘maths studies’ is more than sufficient (no need to maths SL), and for subjects like psychology maths studies or the new analysis-related maths subject on the new syllabus may be more beneficial because of the big focus on statistics.
6. Look at the subject requirements… but don’t be put off trying things
Obviously certain higher levels are required for certain subjects – particularly for the sciences, where you’ll probably need two sciences. Think about what you may want to study at university when you choose your higher level subjects, as these will be most important in determining what you are eligible to apply for. On the other hand, as an IB student, you probably enjoy studying a range of subjects (hence choosing it) so don’t necessarily force yourself to study things that you initially think will be most useful – particularly for standard level subjects. Just because you want to study English, doesn’t mean that you can take two sciences at IB, for example. Those different skills may become very useful later in your degree.
7. The subject that your planning to study may not even be the most useful IB subject you study
I study music and, whilst I did enjoy the music course of the IB, I actually think that the philosophy IB course I studied may have actually been more useful when it actually came to degree. Sometimes very broad subjects, like philosophy, can teach you skills and scholarship that is applicable to lots of wide-ranging subjects (so also don’t burn you notes when you finish – you may want to go over them after all!)