Choosing which pre-university course to take can be a lengthy process. With such a range of different options on offer, including A Levels, BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council), and foundation programmes, how are you supposed to know which one will lead you to the university degree of your choice?

According to a 2007 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, pre-university courses help students develop their intellectual and practical skills in preparation for further study.

These skills include inquiry and analysis, critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, information literacy, and finally, teamwork and problem-solving.

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Jeremy Beard, a former Director General of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, believes that the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) program is well-suited to equip students with these skills.

During a recent talk entitled “Trends in Education”, he commented that the “holistic and academically challenging” curriculum of the IBDP, which is the longest running IB programme, “sets out to prepare students with the necessary skills required for a university education”.

However, it is no longer enough for students to satisfy minimum entry requirements. Universities now look for applicants who can display qualities which distinguish them from other candidates, something Beard believes the IBDP achieves, as it seeks to “encourage international-mindedness, develop critical thinking skills, and celebrate cultural identity and cultural diversity”.

The broad and balanced curriculum of the IBDP, aimed at 16-19 year olds, provides them with the flexibility of choice within a structured programme. In addition to six subject modules, students complete three core components, setting the IBDP aside from other pre-university programmes.

Research methods and philosophical approaches are taught, ensuring that students are prepared for the learning methods they will need to adapt to at university.

They must also take part in a community project or activity, totalling 150 hours. Not only does this develop their personal skills, but it can also help to satisfy the work experience element which is required for some university courses.

Research conducted by the IB Global Research department in partnership with the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) also suggests that IBDP students are more likely to attend a Top 20 university, complete their studies, and achieve a higher degree classification in comparison to A Level students in the UK.

Although it is important to be aware that specific entry criteria can vary for different courses, universities, and host countries, the IBDP is recognised by universities around the world, partly thanks to word-of-mouth through students who have graduated from the programme.

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