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IB students better prepared for university, UBC admissions director suggests

International Baccalaureate students are more likely to get into selective universities, adjust more quickly and with significantly greater success. That’s according to a decade’s worth of research on IB student performance at the University of British Columbia (UBC), second only to the University of Toronto for admitting IB Diploma Programme graduates.

Such findings were only some of the IB advantages presented by Andrew Arida, associate registrar and director of student recruitment and undergraduate admission at UBC, Nov. 12 in Laidlaw Hall. Co-hosted by the International Baccalaureate Schools of Ontario (IBSO) and UCC, the event was the first in an ongoing series to celebrate UCC’s 20th anniversary as an IB World School.

Arida, who also presented a summary of international research, spoke about how first-semester IB grads at UBC score higher in a host of skills including research (25% higher), library skills (15% higher) and ability to read and comprehend academic material (22% higher), said Arida. This research underscored his broader point that undertaking the IB is not just about getting into university but about doing well once you are there. And, the research suggests, the IB diploma provides the best preparation to do so.

To the surprise of many–who hope for a final IB score of close to 40 out of a possible 45 points on the final IB exam–Arida said UBC’s research suggests a student scoring 27 to 30 points is, nevertheless, operating at the performance level of a straight A student going through other programs. (At UCC the mean average score is 34.)

He also explained that interest in the IB over the last decade has climbed steadily, and the number of IB programs offered worldwide has grown by almost 50 per cent since 2009. Owing to the larger population, the United States boasts the most IB Diploma students in the world, just under 26,000 this year. Remarkably, Canada and the United Kingdom come next, with about 4,000 each.

Yet, while parents and students are drawn to the program for its rigour, focus on critical thinking and preparation for post-secondary study, parents everywhere whom Arida has spoken to, are also concerned about the potential “stress” of this challenging program.

From Arida’s perspective, the data clearly points to the value of the IB diploma especially in helping him make tough admission choices. He also believes that the challenge of the IB program is simply good practise for university.

“A student who struggles with balancing workload and life balance doing their in the IB Diploma Programme will likely struggle in first year university, too.” He says. “One way or another, students are going to have to learn the time management skills required to work at an elevated level.”

For example, he talks about the similarity between the speed at which materials is presented in the IB is similar to the first-year university experience, so IB students don’t actually find first year to be that much of an adjustment.

“So the question is: do you adjust in high school or in first year?,” he says. “I know many would say adjust in first year; that way, you are already in. But I would advocate for adjusting in high school (via the IBDP). That way, you hit the ground running in first year, where the stakes are much higher.”

Overall, there are certainly clear advantages in many other respects. To see a full video of his presentation and to download the slide deck from it, please visit: