What Does Your Final IB Score Mean for Your Career?

With 29 schools now offering the IB diploma program in Hong Kong, it is safe to say that an ample number of local students view the IB program as their best shot at a successful academic career. Having attained a global reputation, the program continues to grow, offering students the freedom to explore their academic strengths in exchange for their commitment to take on one of the most challenging diplomas available to high schoolers today.

Many IB students begin this journey with few expectations, but soon become engulfed in an arduous struggle to strive for the diploma’s magic number: 45. As the maximum score available in the IB program, 45 has become the staple of success in the IB world and many crave attaining it. Now, given the sacrifices that one needs to make to comfortably score a 45, it is only fair to ask ourselves whether graduating with the highest score is in fact all that important. I have decided to explore this question further, by approaching it from two different angles and looking at what your IB performance really means for your university plans and career prospects. Let us begin with a look at how your IB score will impact your chances of success at the university level. By the way, note that while the message in this article applies to everyone, this first section will be mainly centred on UK universities. That is because, unlike US colleges and universities, higher education institutions in the UK do expect their applicants to have attained a certain IB score before they can be considered for their degree programs, thus making my job of illustrating the true value of a high IB score much easier.

Those of you who have applied or will soon apply to a university program in the UK know exactly what I’m talking about. Your IB experience was probably marked by a constant battle to maintain a desired score, hoping that your predicted grades wouldn’t dip below the expected cut-off score set by your university of choice. Unfortunately, this is something that you must do. There is no way around it. You have to meet the minimum score required by the university. The good news is that the minimum score is rarely a 45.

Table 1: Minimum IB Requirements by Program

The table above shows the minimum IB score required to be considered for admission at two of the most renowned universities in the UK for three of the most popular degree programs among applicants. As you can see, 45 is nowhere to be seen.

Naturally, the higher your IB score, the better positioned you will be for success. But a high score alone will not cut it. Over the years I have met countless students who did manage to graduate with that magic number proudly shining on their diplomas but who failed to get into high-ranking universities like Oxbridge. A solid IB performance must always be supplemented by something else, which brings me to my next point.

When the members of a highly selective university’s admissions office sit down to review your application credentials, their job is to find out whether you will be able to succeed not just as a part of their university community, but also in your future career. If they feel that as a candidate you lack the necessary  skills to become, say, an effective physician, your IB score will likely be of little consequence, no matter how high it may be. This is why universities will often interview you or ask you to sit complex entrance exams like UCAT or LNAT. They want to see whether or not you have developed the soft skills, critical thinking skills, and character traits needed to excel in your future career.

Table 2: Top 5 Soft Skills by Career

For example, a successful doctor should be personable, a great listener, and empathetic to the concerns of his or her patients, traits that one can hardly get out of a purely academic experience.

In short, if you are among the thousands of Hong Kong students currently pursuing an IB diploma, understand that a high IB score alone won’t be enough to achieve your career goals. Of course you should always strive for academic excellence, but on your journey to university you must be ready to further your skillset beyond the confines of the classroom. Universities and employers alike understand that a single two-digit number is not enough to illustrate what you can do and what you can become. 

NTK Education Consulting Team