Pre-IB Programmes

Students typically go through the IGCSE, GCE (O levels), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) or equivalent form of Integrated Programme (IP)/ internal examination in their school between 13-16 years old, before starting the international baccalaureate(IB) in high school.

Introduction to the different curricula


The IGCSE is one of the world’s most popular international qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds with over 70 subjects available to students. The IGCSE exams are conducted at the end of the Grade 10 and are taken by students in almost 5,000 schools in over 145 countries around the world. The exams evaluate the overall subject knowledge and content mastery of students.

GCE O Level

The O-levels exam is an annual national examination that is taken by students in Singapore. It is similar to the IGCSEs taken in international schools but is customised to meet specific local curricula needs, such as minority languages and content-specific knowledge in subjects like History and Geography.

Middle Years Programme

Students between the ages of 11 to 16 around the world as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum. Middle Year Programme is intended to prepare students for the two-year IB Diploma Programme.

Integrated Programme

The integrated programme is a 6-year course leading to the GCE A-Level examination or International Baccalaureate Diploma. Students in the Integrated Programme do not need to take the GCE O-Level examination in Secondary 4.


The GCSE is an academic qualification for students aged 14+ in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Students typically start to prepare for the GCSE from Year 10 and take the GCSE exams at the end of Year 11. The GCSE is considered equivalent to the IGCSE (the ‘I’ stands for the international aspect of the IGCSE) and verifies that students have mastered academic course work and are ready to graduate from Key Stage 4 of the English National Curriculum.

IB Diploma

What is the IB Diploma?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a pre-tertiary educational programme for students aged 16-19.

It is the equivalent qualification to the A-Levels and the AP exams, and is internationally recognised for entrance into universities worldwide.

How is the Diploma Programme structured?

Every student takes 6 academic subjects, 3 at Higher and 3 at Standard level, alongside a research paper known as the Extended Essay (EE). Additionally, a presentation and final essay for Theory of Knowledge (TOK) are required, alongside multiple projects to fulfil the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) requirements. The maximum score attainable is 45 – ‘7’ for each subject and the 3 bonus points from the EE and TOK.

Subject requirements

All IBDP students are required to take 6 academic subjects, fulfilling the IBO’s specific criteria that students pursue a broad and balanced selection of subjects. Completion of all components of the IBDP is necessary for a student to be awarded the Diploma.


Students must take a subject which falls into each of Groups 1-5. Students can choose not to take a Group 6 subject (‘The Art’) and can instead take another Group 1-4 subject to bring their total subjects to the compulsory six.

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition
  • Group 3: Individuals & Societies
  • Group 4: Sciences
  • Group 5: Maths
  • Group 6: The Arts

Points, Gradings & Assessment

Diploma subjects are graded 1-7, with 7 being A* equivalent. On average, about 5% of IB students globally achieve a grade 7, and the mean grade for any subject across the Diploma is 4.8. This gives a possible score of 42 from six academic subjects, and an additional 3 bonus points are available for TOK and EE; the maximum possible IB score is therefore 45.

The DP runs for two academic years, with final exams taking place at the end of the second year. The DP is assessed in a linear, not modular, manner, and all external (exams-based) assessment therefore takes place at the end of the student’s second year (“IBDP2”).

Candidates who successfully complete all the requirements of the IBDP and one or more of the following combinations are eligible to receive a bilingual diploma: two Group 1 subjects (of different languages), a Group 3 or 4 subject taken in a language other than candidate’s Group 1 language, or an Extended Essay in Group 3 or 4 subject written in a language other than the candidate’s Group 1 language. IB certificates are issued to indicate completion of diploma courses and exams for non-diploma candidate students.

Each Group has its own way of assessing students, and Higher/Standard level discrepancies; we recommend viewing the specific ‘subject brief’ for each of your preferred subjects before making a final decision on which to take.

For most IB subjects, the most significant percentage of student’s grade are derived from the final exams. However, internally assessed work or Internal Assessment (IA) still make up 15-30% of each subject’s final grade. This allows students to consistently work to improve on their coursework over the academic year. There are also various additional mandatory aspects to the Diploma Programme, one of which is known as the Theory of Knowledge (TOK). This along with the Extended Essay (EE), makes up the extra 3 bonus points that students may accumulate. Students must score a minimum grade of D in this component; failing which they will not be awarded the IB diploma, regardless of the student’s academic grades.

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

TOK is assessed through two forms of work submissions from every student: an essay and an exhibition.

The essay (2/3 of TOK grade) is made up of 1200 to 1600 words. There are six set of questions, interchangeable annually, which test students on their understanding of knowledge questions, philosophical construct, standard of analysis and ultilisation of real-life examples applied.

For the exhibition (last 1/3 of TOK grade), It is assessed internally, but moderated externally. The exhibition is done individually and students have to ensure no one in their TOK class/school uses the same objects/images in their exhibition. Students need to choose 3 ‘objects’ and one of the 35 IA prompts, and writing a commentary to demonstrate how TOK concepts manifest in the real world.

Extended Essay (EE)

The EE is the second mandatory component of the Diploma. It is a 4000 word study in a subject and particular area decided by the student. Even though students are generally advised to base their EE in a subject that they already take, the World Studies EE option provides an integrative choice as it isnot an independent Diploma subject.

Though the EE is marked by external invigilators, every student is under attentive observation by a subject teacher (who will also conduct an ending interview upon completion of the EE). For the significant percentage of IB students who continue to pursue and advance their studies, the Extended Essay will comprise their first ‘university-level’ academic submission, and students often re-explore various themes in their EE during future studies.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

The last mandatory component of the IBDP does not award final IB points to Diploma students, but must be done so as to receive the full Diploma. Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) involves students taking up various projects signifying Creativity, Activity and Service across both years of the IBDP to support versatile, active and charitable students.

Students are expected to have fulfilled the eight learning objectives throughout the programme and numerous schools support students to start and record one project in each area per month while taking the Diploma, as well as finish a CAS project (involves teamwork with other students to show persistence, dedication, forethought and lastly excellent team chemistry).

Regular examples for Creativity consists of musical performances such as acting, dancing, singing or even cooking new delicacies! With regards to activity, all solo and group physical sports, training and events are counted, so long as they promote beneficial health effects. Lastly, there is service by volunteering (e.g. working in a charity shop, mentoring younger students).

How is IB regarded?

The IBDP is widely seen as a highly challenging certification and welcomed by all international top universities for undergraduate studies. Therefore, applying through local university channels for an IBDP student is relatively simple, since many universities have conversions from A-level entry requirements to IBDP points. Stated below is a selection of university entry requirements for 2023 entry BSc Mathematics at a range of UK universities in IB points and their A-level equivalents:

  • Cambridge: A*A*A + STEP; 41-42 points (HLs of 776) + STEP
  • Durham: A*A*A; 38 (HL subject requirements apply)
  • York: AAA; 36 including 6 in HL Mathematics
  • King’s College London: A*AA (subject requirements); 35 including Core (HLs of 766)

It is evident that universities across the UK differ in conversions between their IBDP points and UK equivalent, but are all available to IBDP graduates.

The IBDP is also viewed upon favourably in the US, with universities widely regarding it to be identical to the AP programmed of study. The IB is also of extremely high standing in universities worldwide, consisting of (but not limited to) Canada, mainland Europe and Australia. On some occasions, IB studies can be utilised during the premature phrases of a university degree.

Subject Selection

Numerous students are often mind-wracked when deciding which subjects to take for the Diploma Programme, as well as whether to take it at a Higher or Standard Level. The answer is, there is no right or wrong to this question itself since each and every student varies.

Begin by asking yourself a few questions:

Firstly, what are your end goals?

Secondly, what are your strengths and weaknesses? Put some thought into your current studies: which subjects are you doing well in, and which are you not?

Thirdly, you should integrate the two above questions and do some exploring of your own. For example, you wish to attend Cambridge and have a passion for the sciences. What grades do you need to achieve in order to pursue Natural Sciences there? You will need to score 40-41 points, with 776 at HL. Your subject choice will also play a major role. At HL you will need to study two of the sciences, being a mix of Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics. Furthermore, you will also need to take another of the above at SL.

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