Earlier this month, Elite IB Director, Tim Hoffmann and Director of Operations Singapore, Dr Wei Hao travelled around South East Asia delivering school talks to IB students in various different locations. Although you may not yet be thinking about your UCAS application, Tim and Wei Hao received lots of questions from students regarding the application process and everything from how to pick the right subjects to what it is like to live in London as a student. Here are some of the things students were wondering about…
Picking the right subjects
One of the main things students tend to ask about is which subject they should choose for their Diploma. Will the chosen subjects be the right to get you onto your dream University Degree, and what about if you do not know what you want to do once the IB is over? It may also be that since choosing your Diploma options you’ve had a change of heart or for instance, discovered a passion for a Standard Level subject you didn’t know you had. This is particularly applicable to the sciences, which usually have a maths requirement. We find many students suddenly find themselves facing requirements they may not have considered in the first place, such as Higher Level Maths to gain a place to study Physics at Imperial College London. However, if this is something you would find yourself faced with, all hope is not lost. We would recommend you to look into the Sixth Term Examination Paper, or STEP for short. “STEP Mathematics is a well-established mathematics examination designed to test candidates on questions that are similar in style to undergraduate mathematics,” according to the Admissions Testing Service’s website.
STEP consists of 3-hour paper-based examinations – STEP 1, STEP 2, and STEP 3 – and candidates are usually required to sit either one or two of these examinations. While primarily used by the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick, many other other UK Universities recognise the examination as a good reflection of mathematical ability. You can find the STEP Specification here.
You should also always have the confidence to ring the University in question. If the information on the website is unclear, or you would like the opportunity to explain your HL subjects choices in more detail, pick up the phone and ask to speak to the admissions tutor for your chosen subject.
Designing your Extended Essay
The Extended Essay is not only an extremely important part of your Diploma, but is also a very good opportunity to write something of interest to you, to show university admission tutors your aptitude and passion for a subject, and that you have the right skills to make a seamless transition to undergraduate studies. The advice from our experts Tim and Wei Hao is to pick one of your Higher Level subjects to conduct your study into, setting a title and investigation that is very specific, allowing you to specialise and explore a topic in the necessary depth.
Remember to be constantly aware of the grading matrix that the IBO has set. This will allow you not only to plan and structure your essay in a detailed and focused way, but ensure you get the top marks!
Will the IB get any easier?
As with any academic studying, the IB can be as easy or as hard as you wish to make it. There is no doubt that the content is certainly difficult, but the best way to mitigate this and stay on top of your work is to organise, organise, organise! One of Tim’s top tips is to work to the syllabus, setting out all the topics that you need to know for your chosen subjects. Go through each one, be brutally honest and grade yourself on your knowledge. Are you very confident, confident, not so confident, or completely baffled by the topic? This will allow you to plan your revision, focus on areas of weakness, and ensure you dedicate the necessary time to each topic. It is, also, never too early to begin this exercise!
Why you might need work experience
For certain subjects you will need work experience. This is certainly applicable if you want to study Medicine or Veterinary Sciences at UK Universities, and might also apply if you would are applying to study for an under- or postgraduate degree in Education.
In relation to Medicine there are important reasons for this, as UK medical school want you to demonstrate the following, according to the Medical Schools Council:
- That you have had people focused experience of providing care or help to other people and that you understand the realities of working in a caring profession
- That you have developed some of the attitudes and behaviours essential to being a doctor such as conscientiousness, good communication skills, and the ability to interact with a wide variety of people
- That you have a realistic understanding of medicine and in particular the physical, organisational and emotional demands of a medical career.
The Council also advises that the importance of completing work experience is to demonstrate “what you [have] learn[ed] about yourself, about other people and about how effective care is delivered and received… make sure you show… what attributes you demonstrated and what you learned.”
What if you are predicted 35 points, is it worth applying for a 36 point university?
Certainly, it is still worth applying, as the University may also look at your personal statement and the references from your teachers to make a decision about whether to make you an offer. This information should be used as a way of demonstrating your aptitude, dedication to study and that you hold the attributes Universities are looking for.
Also be aware that the guidelines for offers set out on university websites are not final. Again, it is always advisable to ring the University to try and gain further insight into their application process, what they are looking for in students, and what will help your application stand out. With all this information the admissions tutor may be led to believe that you would be an ideal match for their department and programme.
Why might Australian and Singaporean universities require higher grades?
Unfortunately there are still a lot of countries and institutions to which the International Baccalaureate is a new and relatively unknown qualification. However, in the UK there is widespread knowledge of what the Diploma is, how it differs to the British national curriculum, as well as other national curriculums around the world. This has led to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, commonly known as UCAS, to recently re-evaluate the grade weighting system, reducing the weighting of IB subjects to bring it further into line with newly updated A-levels.
What is the cost of living in London?
The cost of living in London is high. The British Government estimates that you will need approximately £104 per week for living costs, in addition to your accommodation costs, but this will vary depending on how much you socialise. In addition, UK Visa and Immigration controls require you to have a budget of at least £1,265 per month to study in London (on top of your tuition fees), in order to obtain a Tier 4 visa up to a maximum of nine months.
While London is certainly expensive to live in, this is countered by the access you have to amazing cultural events and institutions, many of which are free, and the excellent academic and work opportunities living in London can offer!
There are lots of tools and useful websites to help you manage your budget, and break down the costs further, here are a couple: Study London, Brightside Student Calculator, UKCISA International Student Calculator.
UK Visa and Immigration controls
As you may be aware there have been a lot of changes to immigration law in the UK over the past several years, and this is likely to change somewhat more in the coming years as the UK leave the European Union. To ensure you’re up to date with any changes that have been made recently we advise that you always consult the British Government’s website first.
Hopefully this answers some of your questions. Feel like you have many more? Why not invite Elite IB Tutors to come and deliver a talk at your school? Our school talks can target anything from IB subject choice to the UK University application process UCAS. Get in touch!