Think about your university choices before you start the IB Diploma?

You may think it’s  too early to start thinking of what you want to study in university before you have even embarked on your IB Diploma adventure, but it may be a good idea to take a look at the following information.

OSC runs both a University Application Course in Boston and University Tour here in the UK, for students who have already been through one year of the IB Diploma Programme. Last year on the tour, it became apparent that many of them should have perhaps tailored their IB Diploma subjects to their university choices.

Admittedly, some universities in the UK do not know much about the IBO or the DP. A quick search through the UCAS website, however, is very revealing: there are some universities out there that are very specific as to IB course requirements, according to the subjects you want to study in those institutions.

Let’s take a look at some specific examples:

  • Let’s say you are interested in Business and Management (B&M) and you have an uncle who lives in Birmingham. To study B&M the University of Birmingham will ask you for 35 points in your IB diploma, with a 5 in SL maths or a 6 in Maths studies (or a B in GCSE maths). It will undoubtedly help if B&M is one of your DP courses.
  • If you want to study Biomedical Chemistry at the University of Warwick, they specifically ask for a 36 with a 6 in HL Chemistry and a 5 in HL Maths or another physical science.  It is useful to know this BEFORE you make your subject choices, because they have stipulated two of your HL subjects here. Don’t bother applying unless you have them under your belt.
  • Thinking of Russian and Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh? They require an overall 34, with 5,5,5 in your Highers. BUT, they also ask for an HL in one of the languages chosen (ie: Russian or any Scandinavian language) and a 4 in French if it is required, as well as an SL math or science. They could hardly be more specific, could they?
  • If you want to study Archaeology at UCL, where the emphasis is on digging rather than on purely academic work, you will need a 34, with 16 points in your Higher Level subjects and nothing below a 5. Again, pretty specific in their mark choices.

University students

Higher Level grade requirements

At the next level, you have the universities that require an overall mark and specific marks for your Higher Level subjects. Take Bournemouth University, for example: if you want to study Accounting and Finance, they require a 32 overall with 5,5,5, at HL. It might be worth checking what their Maths requirements are; they do not specify on the UCAS website what you would need, so definitely give the admissions office a call – the number can be found on the UCAS web site. You don’t want to take a year of Maths studies and then find that for Accounting and Finance they would rather you had opted for Maths SL.

If anthropology is a subject you find fascinating and would like to spend three years at university going in to greater anthropological depth, then take a look at Durham University, where they require a 36 overall with 6, 6, 6, in your Higher Level subjects.  Computer sciences in York require 36 points, but they only specify a 6 in HL Maths. Tougher than this is Psychology at Bath University, which wants 38 points with a 7, 7, 6 in your Highers.

And if we are looking at tough courses, let’s look at the three “biggies.”  Possibly the most oversubscribed course in the UK is PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics.) Oxford University ONLY asks for 38 – 40 points, but they have the usual disclaimer: “These [marks] give an indication of the range of offers likely to be made to successful candidates. Achievement of these grades does not guarantee a place as admissions for all courses are competitive.”  This is just to let you know that even if your teachers predict these marks for you, you may not even get an interview.

Let’s say you want to study Economics at the world-renowned London School of Economics:  they want a total of 38 points with a 7 in Maths HL (gulp!) and two 6s in your other Highers. Veterinary Science at Cambridge University, anyone?  How about 40-41 points with 7, 7, 6 in Higher Level subjects? They do not specify on the web site that one should take Chemistry or Biology at Higher Level and it is probably worth phoning admissions to double check, though it does seem pretty obvious that they might want Chemistry, Biology and Maths at Higher Level. If these are not your best subjects, you may want to reconsider your university choice.


Course specific requirements

To look for the requirements for each specific course and university go to the UCAS website and click on “Course Search.”  You will be taken to a page that gives you a choice: are you an international student or a “home and EU applicant”?  Once you have input that information the next page will take you to one with a red “search by subject” tab/button.  Click on this and, on the next page, take your pick alphabetically of the subjects you might be interested in.  The following page will give you three choices: all of the courses dealing with that particular subject, or that subject as an individual one or that subject combined with others.  Once you have narrowed that field, you will come to a page showing you the universities that offer the course you want.  The following page has a wealth of useful information about the particular university, a link to the university web site and the admissions phone numbers and email addresses.  If, however, you need information on IB requirements, go to “Entry routes and application” or “Entry Requirements” or “What qualifications do I need?” You will then land on a page where you will have to find the red lines that say“Other tariff qualifications.”  And on the next page: Eureka! There you have it, at last.

Get ahead

Tooling around the UCAS website, while it supplies you with vital information and is something you definitely should do early on in the game, can also actually be quite a fun exercise. If you go to the specific university web sites, you can, in some cases, even take a virtual tour of the campus. Not as good as visiting, but you will definitely be ahead of the game when university application time comes along. And information is the name of the game!