The IB (International Baccalaureate) 

The IB Diploma Programme has been in place since 1968. Originally created for children of diplomats, a lot of schools have made it available for all of their students. Exams are either taken in English, Spanish or French.

The Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate (IB) poses one of four offerings:

  • IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 12
  • IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 to 16
  • IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) for students aged 16 to 19
  • IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC) for students aged 16 to 19

The four programmes are offered by so called “IB World Schools”. In principle, any school can achieve the status of a “World School”. In order to accomplish this, candidates have to undergo an authorisation process lasting over several years. In this context, aside from constructional and spatial requirements, there are also requirements concerning the personnel. In Germany, the majority of IB World Schools is privately owned. In some federal states (e.g. Hamburg and Saxony), however, there are public schools that offer the IB Diploma in addition to the Abitur (equivalent to the A-level).

Curriculum and contents of the IB Diploma Programme

The curriculum includes the following six subject groups:

  • Gruppe 1: Literature
  • Gruppe 2: Language Acquisition
  • Gruppe 3: Inpiduals and Societies
  • Gruppe 4: Experimental Sciences
  • Gruppe 5: Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Gruppe 6: Arts

Students sign up for six subjects in total with the obligation to choose one from each of the first five groups. This ensures diversified learning and avoids a one-sided specialisation. The sixth subject can be chosen from group 6 or from groups 1 to 5. In the latter case, the student chooses two subjects out of the same group. In terms of course level, there is a differentiation between "higher level" and "standard level". Normally, three subjects are completed at higher and three at standard level. The examination language as well as the language used during lessons can either be English, Spanish or French. Foreign languages may also be taught using the respective languages in the classroom.

In addition to the six subjects, there are three further requirements that students on the IB Diploma Programme need to fulfil, declared the three “core requirements”. They are considered part of the school curriculum. Within the two years, every student drafts an "Extended Essay", a written paper that refers to one of the six chosen subjects or to the subject "World Studies". Through this, students are, among other things, instructed to work independently. Additionally, all students attend the course "Theory of Knowledge", which belongs to the field of philosophy. CAS (creativity, action and service) stands for the opening of the school to the outside world and puts the students in a position of responsibility towards society. At least three hours a week, the youths get involved in the areas of arts and creativity, sports or they work in a voluntary capacity. These activities go beyond the actual school lessons.

Exams and IB Graduation

The IB Diploma Programme is concluded with central, written exams. Just like in France, they are assessed by external examiners. In this regard, oral contributions in foreign language lessons, work done in natural sciences or theatrical or musical performances are taken into consideration. Every subject is marked with the help of a point scale from 1 (lowest grade) to 7 (highest grade). In order to graduate, students have to reach a minimum of 24 points (four points per subject, which equal a “pass”). The maximum number of points is 45 (seven points per subject plus one point for each of the three "core requirements"). Per examination block, exams take place worldwide twice a year (May and November). The results are made public on the websites of the schools and the IBO.

Recognition of the IB Diploma

These days, the IB Diploma is becoming more and more widespread on a global scale, resulting in the fact that young people all over the world can receive a comparable degree. This, of course, makes it easier for universities to filter suitable student profiles. Institutions of higher education around the world recognise the IB Diploma as a university entrance qualification. Depending on the countries in which students plan to study, it is recommended to make a preliminary enquiry at the local universities. It can be inquired in detail with the KMK (Kultusministerielle Konferenz) what is recognised as a university entrance qualification in Germany. Detailed information about individual countries can be found on the website of the IB.



In England, there is no equivalent to the German “Abitur”, which serves as a general university entrance qualification. Students spending their Sixth Form (Lower and Upper Sixth) at an English school usually graduate receiving the A-level. The Advanced Level (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level), generally shortened to “A-level”, poses the highest school-leaving qualification within the school systems of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Germany, this corresponds roughly to the “Fachabitur”. To be included in the selection process of the universities, the marks in a student’s A-level have to fulfil a certain minimum. Since the educational reform in 2001, the two-year educational programme has been structured modularly. The first three modules are assessed after the first year, forming a self-contained degree (AS-level). The three modules of the second year are assessed as the A2-level. Students receive their A-level if they complete the AS- and A2-level in the same subject. It is possible to repeat the courses of the AS modules, if the exam results of the first year do not meet the student’s expectations.

Instead of using the marks 1 to 6 (1 being the highest) as it is the case in Germany, the marks A to E are in use. Students receive an A if they reach 80% of all possible points. Exams are still passed with an E, for which students have to reach 40% of all possible points. Since 2010, there has also been an A*, for which students have to reach 90% of all possible points. This “super mark” was deemed necessary as there had been too many A’s in recent years, which made it hard to differentiate between top candidates. It is only used at A2, which means that AS modules do not count.

The IB is offered in more and more schools in Great Britain and serves as a role model for a reformed school leaving certificate. It is supposed to replace the A-level, which has been criticised for its one-sidedness.

German universities view the GCE (A-level) as a subject-linked university entrance qualification. To receive a university entrance qualification, the school certificate has to be recognised by the authority of degree recognition of the respective federal state.


IGCSE: International General Certificate of Secondary Education

British students receive a document that is similar to the German secondary school leaving certificate in the form of the IGCSE. The IGCSE poses a one and a half year programme for students aged 14 to 16.

The O-Level (= secondary school leaving certificate) is recognised by the authority of degree recognition of the respective federal state.


General information about the examination process in England

All exams are conceptualised and marked by Examination Boards. Some of these Boards are privatised, but they are government-controlled in terms of teaching contents. Core curriculums are established by the government to make sure that the curriculums of the individual Boards stay comparable. In detail, those curriculums differ. Every school can freely select an Examination Board, which then administers the exam. This method is supposed to ensure that the teaching and learning contents deemed most suitable by the schools become prevalent.

The large Examination Boards are:

  • AQA, das Englische Examination Board,
  • OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts Examinations),
  • Edexcel, which has been the only commercially organised Board so far,
  • (NI)CCEA, the Northern Irish Board and
  • WJEC, das walisische Board