With its diversity of subjects and reputation for rigour and nurturing independent students, the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme continues to snap at the heels of our home-grown A-levels.

We asked some of the highest-scoring alumni and top teachers for their pearls of wisdom on how to best prepare for IB success.


Rachel Hughes-Morgan, 19, from North London Collegiate School

“When it comes to your extended essay, choose a subject you love. I didn’t study politics but I chose to do a politics essay. I wrote about the failures of UN intervention in Somalia in the 90s and I was lucky to have a supervisor who was as passionate about the subject as I was.

“Writing about a subject I didn’t study was a bit of a risk, but I knew I wanted to do it at uni and at my Oxford interview I spoke about my essay for an extended period of time.”


Annie Hale, head of sixth form at Dane Court Grammar School, Kent, English teacher and IB coordinator

“Trust your teacher’s judgment about deadlines – they are there to help you achieve and guide you towards doing your best.

“English students should read more widely than what is just covered in class. The IB is hot on independent reading and research, so read around a subject, including critical sources.”


Milo Thursfield, 18, from Ardingly College, Sussex

“The IBDP is a marathon rather than a sprint. You need a routine of work, obviously, but you also need a routine of socialising to keep you sane. Having something regular guarantees a work-free space in your week. Caffeine is good too – get into coffee! (Sorry for unhealthy advice.)

“Get into a physically tough individual sport (ideally outdoors). Running was mine.”


Sam Thater, head of the IB and head of Spanish, Whitgift School, Croydon

“Make sure you prioritise your Higher Level subjects, otherwise it can get unmanageable. Think of it as three subjects, plus three, not six. Universities will be making offers based on your scores at Higher Level.

“When it comes to your language option, lots of schools offer an ab initio language. If you’ve done French, don’t be afraid to take up a language from scratch. The diversity of the IB is what is so great, and it will help you stand out from the crowd later – particularly from A-level students.”