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What Is A Good IB Score For Top Universities?

23 MAY 2022

Is your dream to go overseas for university? If your answer is ‘yes’, it’s time to choose the right curriculum. If you’re looking at top universities in the US or UK, knowing where the IB matters and what scores you need to gain admission to world-leading universities is important.


What is the IB Diploma Programme?

The IB is a global standard academic program run by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), an independent not-for-profit based in Switzerland. They offer four programs that cater to students ages 3 to 19, but the IB Diploma Program (DP) is the most popular, a two-year "pre-university" course that students start in their second-to-last year of high school.

Depending on your location, you can take the DP as an alternative to your high school qualification. However, you need to be a student at an IB accredited school, which means they have teachers specially trained to deliver the DP.

There are about 4,000 IB accredited schools spanning 148 countries. Check to see if your school is one of them.

Why Choose the IB Diploma?

IB diploma courses are designed to provide an excellent foundation for further study. Students who want to go into higher education or professional fields such as medicine, engineering, law, business management, nursing, teaching, and psychology benefit from these courses.

The IB Diploma Program offers students a unique educational experience because they can learn about themselves, others, and the world through rigorous academics, cultural immersion, and personal development. They also develop leadership, teamwork, communication, and creativity skills.

The IB diploma is well known internationally for its high-quality education, and many universities from around the world accept students who complete the IB program. Your IB diploma is recognized worldwide, which means employers all over the globe will be impressed when they see your diploma.

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Will The IB Increase Your Chances of Getting into a US University?

The IB Diploma Program is well-known in the US and unofficially accepted as a "college standard" curriculum. Universities tend to admit IB students at a higher rate than their non-IB counterparts. An IBO survey showed that the acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League universities is up to 18% higher than the total population acceptance rate.

The gap is even more significant for top-ranked universities outside the Ivy League. IB students aren't necessarily given preference over non-IB students in the university selection process. But, their IB education indicates they are stronger candidates because they took the IB.

Regardless, completing the DP definitely won't hurt your chances of admission. If you had the US in mind for university, consider the IB. Most of the top US colleges will even give you credits for your Diploma Program subjects if you get over a particular score. For example:

  • University of Pennsylvania - A score of six in most "higher level" (HL) IB subjects will earn you some credits towards your degree.
  • Stanford University - Specified HL IB exams with scores of five or higher in the subjects listed here are eligible for credit.
  • New York University - Typically awards eight hours of course credits for each HL subject in which you've scored at least a six.
  • State university system (UC Berkeley, UCLA, etc.) - Generous when it comes to the IB. As a policy, DP recipients will earn a minimum of 30 credit hours and up to 45 credit hours of advanced credit.

Strong IB performance can also benefit you when you fill out university scholarship and financial aid assessments.

Will The IB Increase Your Chances of Getting into a UK University?

While the IB is also highly regarded by UK universities, they don't value it quite the same way. Colleges in the US and UK have very different ideas of education. The US encourages diversity, experimentation, and breadth of study, and the UK encourages specialization and focus on a particular subject.

UK universities like to see that you're involved in activities related to what you want to study. If you apply for an English degree, admissions officers will look for evidence of your knowledge in this subject area. You can still talk about activities outside the classroom, but they should be English-related.

You could mention the time you won a creative writing competition, an online writing course you completed, and the blog you run! Since you'll be studying English to the utmost degree at the university level, you'll need to prove that you have a genuine interest in the field and can bring this passion to your studies.

The IB does not hinder your application. US and UK universities understand it takes blood, sweat and tears to complete the IB DP, and they have massive respect for IB students! It just doesn't necessarily add value in the same way as it does in the US.

However, taking the A-Levels can help increase your chances of gaining admission to Oxbridge and other top UK universities. The A-Levels focus on depth of knowledge, as opposed to breadth.

The A-Levels align more with the UK education system. Students who take them could have an advantage when applying for university in the UK. IB students may have an advantage when they apply to US universities.

What IB Scores Do I Need To Get Into A Top University?

US Universities

Universities don’t release specified IB Diploma Program cut-off scores in the US. If you want to apply to the Ivy League and more selective colleges, you’ll need a healthy mix of sixes and sevens (no less than six) in your subjects for a shot at admission.

A score in the 40s will make you a more competitive candidate academically (note: a lot of non-academic factors are at play), but a 38+ is considered a good IB score.

If you’re aiming for the Ivies, you certainly don’t want to be dipping below the 36 mark. If your score is any lower than 36, the rest of your application must be exceptional to compensate for a score on the lower end.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), expects students to achieve a score of at least five in each HL subject. However, given the competitiveness of admissions (UCLA receives the most applications of any university in the US), most admitted students typically score 38+ points.

The table shows IB scores from Crimson students who got into top US universities. 

IB Scores for Top US Universities
UniversityMinimum IB Score Required for Admission
Harvard42
Princeton42
Yale40
Columbia40
Brown40
U Penn38
Cornell38
Dartmouth37
Stanford40
Duke40
MIT40
Northwestern37
U Chicago36
UC Berkeley37
UCLA37
NYU37
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UK Universities

Most universities will not only consider your overall IB DP score but also your grades in specific HL subjects.

For example, to apply for English Language and Literature at Christchurch College, University of Oxford, an applicant needs a total DP grade of 38 points and at least a six in three HL subjects.

Here’s a look at some UK universities’ IB score requirements for their most competitive courses:

University of Cambridge:
  • Course: Natural Sciences
  • IB cut-off: 40 points + 7/7/6 at higher level
University College London:
  • Course: History
  • IB cut-off: 39 points + 19 at higher level
University of Oxford:
  • Course: English
  • IB cut-off: 38 points + 6/6/6 at higher level
Bristol University:
  • Course: Maths
  • IB cut-off: 38 points + 6/6 at higher level
Durham University:
  • Course: Law
  • IB cut-off: 36 points + 6/6/6 at higher level

It’s quite common for UK universities to change their IB score requirements depending on the degree, but usually, these stay within a pretty small range. Check out the table below for a summary of IB scores of Crimson students who got admitted at top UK Universities.

IB Scores for Top UK Universities
UniversityMinimum IB Score Required for Admission
Oxford38
Cambridge40
UCL35
Imperial38
Edinburgh37
Kings College40
LSE37
Manchester32
Warwick34
St Andrews34
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Do Universities Prefer the IB Diploma Program?

The Diploma Program can be up to double the coursework of your school’s standard curriculum and requires a lot of independent study and self-discipline. You need to perform well in all subject fields – not just the arts, humanities, or sciences – everything, including two languages!

It also requires involvement in activities outside the classroom, such as sports and community service.

If you do well, an IB qualification is the best way to demonstrate your strength as a candidate for universities.

There are three reasons for this:

1. It shows that you challenge yourself

When admissions officers see the IB DP qualification on your application, they automatically get a picture of you as a student and an insight into your character. They know that you’ve worked hard and are not afraid of a challenge.

If you apply with your country’s high school qualification, it’s not as easy for these schools to interpret your academic journey. You might have achieved good marks throughout high school, but it’s hard for them to know what was required of you to achieve those grades when they aren’t able to compare like with like.

Universities understand the IB’s rigour, and they know what it takes to come out of the DP with good scores: consistent hard work and dedication. These are the kind of qualities they look for in candidates.

Some universities even say they hold IB applicants in higher stead.

Students who take advantage of HL IB courses are more competitive candidates for admission and more qualified to succeed in college

- Purdue University

2. It shows that you have a breadth of knowledge

The IB offers a broad education by requiring students to pick subjects from a range of academic disciplines. This, in turn, gives students a well-rounded liberal arts perspective, which is highly sought after in the US university admissions process.

That’s because US colleges encourage “intellectual exploration”, which means for the first two years you’ll study a bit of everything before deciding on a specialization, or major.

Students who undertake an IB curriculum are well-prepared for the rigours of university academic life” and that “IB courses are factored into the admission evaluation process because USC recognises the extreme rigour of such a curriculum

- University of Southern California

3. It shows that you are a well-rounded person

This is no surprise considering the IBO aims to create well-rounded students with all of its programs. They do this by making sure students show achievement not only academically, but non-academically as well.

This works in favour of US universities who look for things like community involvement, leadership, research, and impactful projects – all of which are built into the IB curriculum.

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Is The IB Right For You?

If you want to study in the US

Take the IB.

It helps you excel inside and outside the classroom, which is critical for US admissions and liberal arts pedagogy.

It produces students who have developed good self-study patterns and good reading and analytical skills, which are particularly important for university level courses.

And best of all, the IB allows you to explore a range of subjects, which is also what you'll do in your first two years of college in the US.

If you want to study in the UK

Take the A Levels.

It's their national curriculum and trains you for the depth of study required at UK universities. If you love history, take A levels (subjects) in history, art history, and classics.

Then when you go on to study history at university, you'll already be used to the enormous amounts of reading and writing and skilled at source analysis and critical appraisal.

This knowledge and skill are highly desirable for UK universities because they are interested in your knowledge and love of history.

The IB's range doesn't translate well to the depth the UK expects. It forces you to do well in a range of disciplines, which means you can't possibly go into the same depth of study as you would in the CIE.

Final Thoughts

The high school curriculum choice you make now can significantly impact what and where you study later. As you now know, the International Baccalaureate has a solid reputation in the US. Nearly all US universities consider performance in the IB Diploma Program for admissions and other factors, including granting course credit, advanced standing, scholarships and financial aid.

While taking the DP can be an advantage if you perform wellyou will not gain acceptance into a US university because of your curriculum.

Admissions officers won't compare high school syllabi because they're looking at the overall calibre of the candidate. Your US college application relies on more than just your grades.

Students with all types of high school qualifications get into Ivy League colleges. Students have even gotten in before they've even received their qualification!

If you're aiming for a top university in the US and doing the IB isn't an option, the most important thing is that you look to exceed the expectations of your curriculum. Take extra subjects, so you're forced to manage your time better or more difficult subjects that push you to work harder to get a good result.

Make sure you take the same go-getter approach to activities outside the classroom. To have a shot at admission, you need to show that you go above and beyond in everything you do!

Ultimately, that's what will make you stand out in the eyes of admissions officers.

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