Your IB Questions Answered

Since the launch of the IB, current and prospective parents have asked questions regarding the two-year programme and how it affects their child. Please find below a list of questions and answers. If you have a question about IB that is not listed below, please email

Is the International Baccalaureate a new programme?

Far from it. For over 50 years, the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO)  has built a reputation for high-quality, challenging programmes of education that develop internationally minded young people who are well prepared for the challenges of life in the 21st century and are able to contribute to creating a better, more peaceful world.

Which International Baccalaureate programmes are offered by Lomond?

Lomond School offer two International Baccalaureate programmes: the Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the Career-related Programme (IBCP) is a two-year programme for S5 and S6. All pupils study six subjects: three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. In addition, pupils engage in the Core: they research and write an Extended Essay and follow a critical-thinking course entitled Theory of Knowledge. Participation in, and reflection on, CAS (creativity, activity and service) is also required and is a mandatory requirement of the Diploma.

What is the IBCP?

The International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (CP) is also a two-year programme for S5 and S6. The school chooses which career pathway to focus on and  Lomond has begun with Business. The heart of the IBCP is a vocational qualification and  Lomond has chosen the SQA HNC Business. An HNC (Higher National Certificate) is usually a college level qualification, leading either to HND, University or employment. As part of the CP, pupils also choose 2-3 subjects from the Diploma programme. They cannot choose French, Spanish, Italian or Maths, however. In addition, pupils write a Reflective Project and follow a course entitled Personal and Professional Skills which enables them to become self-confident, skilled and career-ready learners. Participation in Language Development (a non-assessed beginners Italian language course in the context of Business) and Service Learning are also required and are mandatory requirements of the CP.

Both programmes encourage critical thinking through the study of a wide range of subjects while encouraging an international perspective, and require development of the mind, the body and the soul.

What do you need to do to pass the Diploma Programme?

The Diploma is awarded to candidates who achieve a minimum score of 24 points (out of 45) and fulfil the other minimum requirements:

  • CAS requirements have been met.
  • There is no “N” awarded for theory of knowledge, the extended essay or for a contributing subject.
  • No grade E awarded for theory of knowledge and/or the extended essay.
  • No grade 1 awarded in a subject/level.
  • No more than two grade 2s awarded (HL or SL).
  • No more than three grade 3s or below awarded (HL or SL).
  • 12 points or more on HL subjects combined
  •  9 points or more on SL subjects combined
  • The candidate has not received a penalty for academic misconduct from the Final Award Committee.

As you can see, the Diploma is a ‘big house’ which celebrates breadth and acknowledges that pupils should not have to achieve the top scores in every subject to excel. 

For example, a Medical applicant might require 37 points and their scores might look something like this:

  • SL Eng Lit – 5
  • SL Ab Initio – 6
  • SL Economics – 5
  • HL Chemistry – 6
  • HL Maths – 6
  • HL Biology – 7
  • Core – 2

An applicant to Law might require 32 points:

  • HL Eng Lit – 6
  • SL French – 5
  • HL Geography – 5
  • SL Maths AI – 4
  • SL Biology – 5
  • HL Theatre – 5
  • Core – 2

Sports Science might require 24 points:

  • HL Eng Lit – 4
  • SL French – 4
  • HL Geography – 4
  • SL Maths AI – 3
  • SL Sports Science – 4
  • HL Visual Art – 4
  • Core – 1
What do you need to pass the Career-related Programme?

The CP comprises several component parts. Each is valuable in its own right and will be understood by Universities and Colleges once it is broken down into these component parts and itemised on the UCAS application.

The HNC is assessed and moderated by SQA. The final piece of work (Graded Unit), undertaken at the culmination of the course in year 2, is awarded A-C

Pupils take written examinations in their IB Diploma Programme courses which are marked by external IB examiners and scored 1-7. CP pupils must score a 4 or above in two of their DP courses to satisfy the requirements of the full Programme.

The components of the CP Core are assessed by the school and all pupils must complete the four elements of the CP core.

The reflective project is assessed by the school and then moderated and graded by the IB. It is graded from A to E, with A being the highest.

The school is responsible for confirming with the IB that students have completed the requirements for service learning, personal and professional skills and language development.

What Is The Difference Between IBDP and IBCP?

While both the IBDP and the IBCP are designed to prepare pupils for further education and career success, they differ in their focus, structure, and assessment methods. The IBDP provides a broad and balanced education with a strong academic focus, while the IBCP combines academic and vocational education to develop practical skills and knowledge in a specific career field. We’ve selected HNC Business as this was representative of our pupils’ destinations.

How does the points system work?

Diploma Programme:

Each of the six subjects is scored out of seven points (with 7 being the highest) giving a maximum total of 42. The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge grades are combined and, depending on the grades achieved, could offer up to an additional 3 points. Therefore, the final Diploma result score is made up of the combined scores for each subject plus up to three points for the Core. The total Diploma score is a maximum of 45 points.

Career-related Programme:

The HNC is graded A – C. Each of the IBDP subjects is scored out of seven points (with 7 being the highest). The Reflective Project is graded. Universities and colleges will look at the CP as individual component parts, and will most often make an offer based on the HNC and/or the points scored in the DP subjects.

What subjects are on offer in the Diploma Programme?

Pupils must choose one subject from each of groups 1 to 5 thus ensuring breadth of experience in languages, humanities, the experimental sciences and mathematics. The sixth subject may be an arts subject chosen from group 6, or you may choose another subject from groups 1 to 5, subject to timetabling. Currently, Lomond permits a second science (Chemistry), a second humanity (History) and a second language.

What is the difference between Higher Level and Standard Level?

Higher Level (HL) subjects have approximately 240 teaching hours which gives pupils the opportunity to study these subjects in great depth, while Standard Level (SL) courses cover 150 teaching hours. Exam lengths and Internal Assessments vary depending on whether a subject is HL or SL:  for example, there may be a third exam paper to sit, or an additional assignment/essay to write as coursework. At Lomond, over the two years,  HL classes have 5 X 50 minute periods per week, and SL classes have 3 X 50 minute periods per week.

What DP courses do I take for the Career-related Programme: do they have to be at HL?

CP pupils can choose 2-3 DP courses at either HL or SL. The CP does not have a requirement for anything at HL, however if a pupil wishes to apply to a more competitive course or University, we would recommend 3 HL alongside Business and the Core. A CP graduate was recently accepted into the University of Cambridge with this combination.

We recommend beginning S5 with three HL subjects because at the start of the CP, with no big coursework or Core deadlines, there is time and scope for this within the timetable. Also, it allows pupils to know their capacity and preferences. We would then review this, at the latest, after the end-of-year S5 IB assessments when we might advise pupils to change to SL in order to prioritise their HNC.

Will my child be at a disadvantage by selecting IB as opposed to SQA Highers?

The opposite – All universities recognise the IB and even indicate a preference for it. The International Baccalaureate is a complete programme of study, and overall is more comprehensive and rigorous than SQA. HESA (the Higher Education Statistics Agency) consistently ranks it as the preferred pre-University qualification. The IB is a global qualification, which has not suffered from grade inflation and is therefore more able to distinguish between good and excellent students – there is ‘headroom’ for the best and brightest.

Is the IB accepted by universities?

The IB is accepted by universities in the UK and throughout the world.

Can I study more than three higher levels/more than six subjects?

All of our S5/6 pupils follow a six-subject Diploma with three higher level subjects. If a pupil is undecided on which subjects should be at HL/SL then it is possible to begin with four HL subjects for a trial period until (at the latest) October of year 1. They would then drop to the 3+3 model.  This is because Diploma is correctly weighted and balanced over two years and is already a challenging enough course. We support the IBO in its promotion of a broad curriculum and suggest that if a pupil does have a little extra time or energy, that they contribute further to the co-curricular programme or focus on some other aspect of the IBDP or IBCP with a view to achieving as close to 7 points or A grades as possible. If a pupil wishes to attend some extra lessons out of intellectual curiosity, this is usually fine, although they will not be entered for the examination. This is because it would reduce their number of study periods, and so might compromise their ability to gain the maximum number of points.

Does the IB include coursework?

Yes, all subjects contain a blend of internally and externally assessed work ranging from 20-100%. Some subjects – Theatre and Visual Arts – do not have a final written exam. Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, Reflective Project, Service Learning and Language Development all count as coursework.

What are the points averages and mean grades around the world?

Please click on the link for the IB Statistical Bulletins which are published twice per year, after each examination diet: Statistical Bulletins

How many IB schools are there in the UK?

At present, there are around 139 IB schools in the UK.

What do I need to get into University?

Universities understand the challenge of the IB and therefore ask for a wide range of grades, sometimes accepting a lower score than originally stated in their conditional offers. Pupils do not need top points to earn places at the UK’s best universities. In fact, we have been surprised by the low offers this year – evidently an indication of how highly Universities value IB.

Many CP pupils this year were given offers based only on completion of the HNC. For the more competitive Universities/degree courses, there was a requirement for A or B in the Graded Unit and/or a requirement for a certain point score in the two or three DP subjects. Mostly, this was 5 points.

DP pupils have received very favourable conditional offers, based on their predicted scores which the school submits in March of Year 2. For Medicine, for example, a conditional offer was 37 points. There was an offer for Law of 28 points.

What is the difference between Language A, Language B and Ab Initio courses?

Language A courses are for native speakers and are correspondingly more advanced. At Lomond we offer Language A: English Literature. Language B courses are for second language speakers, i.e. those who have been learning the language for three to five years. Ab Initio courses presume no previous knowledge of the language and are only available at Standard Level. At Lomond we offer Language A (English Literature at both HL and SL); Language B (French and Spanish at HL and SL) and Italian Ab Initio (SL only)

My child does not like languages - do they have to take it?

The vast majority of our pupils – including those who do not consider themselves ‘linguists’ – find the language component of the IB both accessible and rewarding. Often, taking a language is the ‘compromise’ pupils make – they want the kudos of the Diploma but a second language wouldn’t be their first preference of subject. However, remember that your second language does not have to be studied at HL! A good number of our Lomond pupils decide to start a new language from scratch at the IB, taking an Ab Initio Italian course that is roughly in line with a Higher in terms of level and difficulty. NB – this is over two years and is something our pupils find enjoyable and rewarding.

Ab Initio gives plenty of options to those who do not wish to specialise in a language, but understand the importance of being able to engage with a foreign culture. They will still have plenty of time to focus on the other IB subjects that they do want to pursue to a higher level. 

My child wants to study medicine and has to take three sciences, does this mean the IDP is not an option for them?

UK Medical schools do not require three sciences: Chemistry and – sometimes, but not always – one other Science (generally Biology) or Maths would be the only subject requirements. Some universities will specify HL Chemistry alone.

We have not yet encountered a degree course which requires three sciences upon application.

Because of its emphasis upon breadth, rather than narrowing choices to only the subjects a pupil prefers/is best at, the International Baccalaureate Diploma does not currently allow any pupil to take three sciences.

If I don't want to, or can't complete the full Diploma, what can I do?

A pupil who does not satisfy the requirements of the full Diploma Programme, or who has elected to take fewer than six subjects, is awarded a certificate for the examinations completed included the points scored. These are broadly equivalent to Highers and Advanced Highers and are generally viewed by Universities and Colleges as such.

Can you give me more information about how are IBDP pupils assessed?

An essential principle of IB assessment is that standards are the same worldwide. IB examiners represent many cultural and academic traditions, yet the organization measures pupil performance according to established standards and criteria that are consistent from place to place and year to year.

Over the two‑year teaching period, a variety of assessment methods are used to acknowledge both the content and the process of academic achievement and to take into account different learning styles.

Final examinations in each subject take place in either May (northern hemisphere) or November (southern hemisphere). Pupils’’ work is assessed by international teams of examiners, who are themselves trained and monitored by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization). 

Conventional external examination techniques are chosen from a variety of options including short responses, structured questions, text responses, data‑based questions, essays and multiple‑choice questions. Combined, this approach is considered to deliver higher levels of reliability in assessing students. 

Internal assessment is an important component of the IB Diploma assessment process. This recognizes the professional role of the teacher and gives students a chance to show what they can do over time, not just in the pressured context of a final examination without access to outside resources. Marks awarded for internal assessment are externally moderated by IB examiners to ensure international parity.  The predicted grade is the teacher’s prediction of the grade the pupil is expected to achieve in the subject, based on all the evidence of a pupil’s work and the teacher’s knowledge of IB standards. Predicted grades are also required for Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay.

Is it true that the IB is only for very academic pupils?

No! Both programmes are for pupils who are prepared to work hard and commit to a broad range of subjects over two years.

If a pupil fails a subject then do they fail the whole diploma and have nothing to show for their study?

No. There are certain conditions that a pupil has to fulfil to pass the Diploma but they do not need to pass every subject; the pass mark is 24 points. Offers from universities will typically vary from 24 to 42 depending on the university and the demand for the course. If a pupil does need to improve a subject grade in their IB diploma then, they can re-sit that subject. IB allows two re-sits, even after pupils leave school, and pupils can either take these in May or November.