How the IB Diploma Programme Prepares Students for University

Jul 11,2024

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is an academic route for 16 to 19-year-olds and it is offered at several GEMS Education schools in the UAE. The IB Diploma Programme aims to provide students with a well-rounded education and an internationally-renowned qualification. 

Potential university students and their parents are keen to know whether the IB diploma is the right step towards their future plans. When visiting our schools, they ask questions such as, ‘What does the IB diploma do to help prepare you for the demands of higher education?’ and ‘What are the benefits of taking the IB diploma programme for university admissions?’.

If you and your child are planning the final stage of their education, you may find this article useful. It explains how and why the IB diploma is the ideal curriculum for students who aspire to gain a place at university

What Is the IB Diploma? A Brief Overview

The IB diploma is a well-established programme covering the final two years of schooling. Ground-breaking educators in Switzerland established the IB curriculum in 1968 and now nearly 5,000 schools teach IB across 173 countries. 

The IB diploma shares similarities with British curriculum A-levels but is distinctive for the following reasons. 

  • The IB ethos is to develop learners who are critical and reflective thinkers, good communicators, and open-minded citizens of the world.
  • All IB diploma students take part in a core programme that covers learning the theory of knowledge, preparation of an extended essay, and completing a real-world project known as Creativity, Action and Service (CAS). 
  • IB diploma students must also study a broad range of academic subjects. They must choose one subject from each of the following groups:
  • The arts
  • The sciences
  • Language and literature
  • Maths
  • Language acquisition
  • Individuals and societies

What Does the IB Diploma Do To Prepare Students for University Entrance? 

Universities regard the IB diploma highly because its curriculum is excellent preparation for the demands of a degree course. Why? What are the benefits of taking the IB diploma? Here are five key advantages for future university students: 

  1. The IB diploma offers academic depth and breadth

By studying six subjects from a range of disciplines, students can develop a broad skill set and keep their options open for university entrance. Three subjects, however, are studied at a higher level and this shows that IB students can also study a subject with the rigour required by universities.

  1. It champions a worldly perspective

The CAS project element of the IB diploma programme encourages students to get out of the classroom and out of their comfort zone. By volunteering on real-world projects that improve lives, students gain a more mature and worldly perspective that can make them stand out during the university application process. 

  1. It develops independent learners 

The core element of the IB diploma programme challenges students to develop independent study skills. The extended essay is a critical component of the IB and it requires extensive research, excellent self-organisation and the development of sophisticated writing skills, all competencies which are vital for university success. Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK have found that IB students entering universities tend to feel more positive about their independent research skills than their counterparts. 

  1. It promotes critical thinking skills

Research at the University of Oxford demonstrates that IB students consistently show higher levels of critical thinking than their non-IB peers. Excellent critical thinking abilities are in high demand by top universities, which seek to recruit students who are reflective, analytical learners, problem solvers, and able to synthesise information from multiple sources. 


  1. It is an internationally recognised qualification 

The IB diploma is recognised by leading universities around the globe. Each year, former IB diploma students gain entrance to Ivy League universities in the USA, Oxbridge in the UK, and many other esteemed universities around the world

The IB diploma is internationally benchmarked, meaning that university admissions officers can understand the merits of an IB-educated candidate, no matter which country they went to school in. Each year, the IB sends results transcripts to around 5,000 universities across around 100 countries with the most popular destinations being the UK, the USA, Germany, Hong Kong and India. The IB is a truly global qualification. 


Life Beyond School: How Former IB Diploma Students Excel

IB diploma students can look forward to excellent prospects in their undergraduate life and beyond. This is because:

IB diploma students have excellent university entrance outcomes. 

Aspirational IB Diploma students can look forward to a high chance of acceptance at a leading university. A 2017 study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in the UK revealed that:

  • IB diploma students had a high likelihood of acceptance to a top 20 UK university
  • IB students were highly likely (5.1%) to study medicine or dentistry at university 

In the USA, there is a similar pattern. Research by the International Insight Research Group has shown that:

  • IB students have a high rate of acceptance to Ivy League universities 
  • IB students also have high entrance rates to other top 25 US universities 

IB diploma students consistently perform well at university. 

The 2017 HESA study also indicated that:

  • A significant percentage (19%) of IB students graduated from their higher education course with first-class honours
  • University drop-out rates tended to be low among IB students, with 91.5% of students continuing at the same institution till graduation

IB students excel beyond undergraduate life.

According to the HESA study, former IB students usually go on to do the following 6 months after graduation:

  • embark on postgraduate study
  • be in graduate-level positions
  • receive a high salary
  • be in a professional, scientific or technical role 

The IB diploma prepares students not just for university, but also for a rewarding and successful career beyond. This is why the number of schools teaching the IB diploma and students enrolling in it is growing every year. 

How Do I Graduate With an IB Diploma? 

In the UAE, GEMS Education is proud to offer the IB diploma qualification at several IB curriculum schools. The IB curriculum is available for children as young as three years old and all the way through to the IB diploma. 

We teach the IB diploma programme for 16- to 19-year-olds at:

We invite you to browse our school websites, make in-person visits, and ask as many questions as you need. Choosing where to spend the final two years of schooling is a pivotal decision. Its significance lies not only in the qualification available but also in the opportunities for university preparation. The IB diploma stands out as an excellent option, and you can witness its merits firsthand at our schools.

More Popular Blogs