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Glasscock School of Continuing Studies

IB and College Readiness

Campus and Medical CenterThe International Baccalaureate Program is one example of a fast-growing reform curriculum that focuses on critical thinking and purports to infuse an international outlook into all subjects. Research supports the conclusion that the IB curriculum introduces rigor and international mindedness in the classroom.

One of the most extensive studies on the effectiveness of the IB program was conducted by William Kolb, director of admissions for the University of Florida. The University of Florida enrolls more IB diploma holders than any other institution in the world, in large part because of a state policy that provides full scholarships for IB diploma holders. Kolb analyzed data for the university’s 1996 freshmen class and found that IB students were better prepared for the shock of college academic demands and suffered less of a drop in grade point average in their first year of college compared to their high school performance level. The IB students on average had a GPA decline of 3.8 to 3.3, while AP students dropped from 3.9 to 3.1, compared to regular college prep students who lost a whole grade point, from 3.6 to 2.6  (Kolb, 1996).

Panich’s 2001 research, “A study of the university performance of students with International Baccalaureate high school experience” matched 1998, 1999 and 2000 IB graduates attending the University of Florida with students entering with comparable SAT verbal and math scores. She compared three groups: students with no IB experience, students with IB experience and students with an IB diploma. Panich found that IB diploma students had the highest freshman GPA while IB non‐diploma students had the lowest. The difference between the IB diploma students’ GPA and the non‐IB and IB non‐diploma students’ GPAs were statistically significant in all but one year (Panich, 2001).

Additional studies looking at post‐secondary outcomes for IB students include Taylor and Porath’s “Reflections on the International Baccalaureate Program,” (Taylor & Porath, 2006). Based on a survey administered in the Spring of 2005 of IB graduates from two public high schools in British Columbia who graduated in the years 1996 or 2000, the researchers report that the graduates felt that the rich curriculum to which they were exposed and the critical thinking and time management skills that they developed were well worth the extra effort required to earn an IB diploma. Furthermore, they felt that the IB experience prepared them well for post-secondary studies. 

An Oxford University study examined case studies on the implementation of IB at several schools in the United States. The study found that as a result of IB program, schools were able to raise academic standards and change perceptions towards academic achievement, increase diversity within the school, bring international perspectives to the classroom, raise awareness around intercultural understanding and improve the reputation of the school in the community (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007).

The College of William and Mary also studied the impact of the IB program by analyzing it as an advanced academic option, comparing the curricular goals of the IB program to 21 recommended practices for gifted and general education. The researcher, Hutchinson, found that the IB curricular goals and the 21 recommended practices aligned with one another. IB teachers implement a variety of instructional strategies with high levels of instructional clarity and complexity and high expectations for student learning in and out of class (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007).

“Preparing today's students for success and eventual leadership in the global economy is the single most important task facing U.S. education. If young Americans are to take on challenging global leadership roles in the future, they must possess a deep understanding and appreciation for other cultures, geography, history and languages." - Stephanie Bell-Rose, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation 

Kyra Caspary (2011) examines the rates of college enrollments and graduation amongst IB students across nation to identify correlations between the program and university. In her findings she notes that of all high school students in the US, only 56% enroll into a full-time 4 year institution, while the same is true for 71% of all IB students.  In comparing achievements of college students, IB students exhibit a graduation rate (64%) significantly higher than that of the national average (36%). All together these findings show that IB students are not only more likely to enroll in postsecondary education but also complete the required college coursework, when compared to the general college student population.

In attempting to gauge the efficacy of the IB program, the Center for Education Policy conducted research to examine the enrollment patterns of international students in American higher education programs. This study concludes that students that completed IB classes in their home countries exhibited high test performance and graduation rates in American higher education institutions. Of those studied, 86% of diploma recipients graduated from their respective higher education institution within 6 years of enrollment (Caspary, 2011). Furthermore, many of institutions indicated the rates of graduation amongst IB alumni were higher than the greater institution average. These results indicate that not only does the IB program fosters communities of multicultural and diverse outlooks within American universities but also encourages students to remain high-achieving in their postsecondary education careers.

Beyond the academics of the IB program, Conley et al. (2014) conclude that the IB program in part contributed to the comprehensive preparedness of many college students. When asking college students “What makes you unique or distinctive from your peers?”, IB were amongst the group that indicated answers regarding an excitement towards  learning, the development of holistic outlooks and personally challenging oneself. Furthermore when discussing the adjustment to college, IB students self-identified as more prepared for the difficulty of college so much so that “every [IB Diploma Programme] student agreed that they were academically adjusted the moment their stepped on campus” (15).

For many college students, the first year is often the toughest and the one of greatest highest drop-out rates. University of Wisconsin’s Liz Bergeron (2015) revealed that a significantly larger percentage of IB diploma program students will return for their second year of college when compared to the national average (96% and 77% respectively). Nationally, the rates of first year retention have decreased amongst the general student populations, causing concern as the demand for workplace employees with degrees has increased. However, first year retention rates amongst IB students indicate a strong constant of 98% over the past 10 years.


Bergeron, L. (2015). Diploma Programme students’ enrollment and outcomes at US postsecondary institutions 2008-2014

Caspary, K. (2011). Postsecondary enrollment patterns of IB certificate and diploma candidates from U.S. high schools. Research Brief. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Conley, D., McGaughy, C., Davis-Molin, W., Farkas, R., & Fukuda, E. (2014).International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme: Examining college readiness.

International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Research on the IB. Retrieved May 22, 2008 from http://www.ibo.org/ibna/research/documents/IBResearch-Sep05-1_000.ppt  

Kolb, William. (1996). Study of the effectiveness of the IB Curriculum. University of Florida.

Panich, C. (2001). A study of the university performance of students with International Baccalaureate high school experience. Ed.D. dissertation, Duquesne University, United States ‐‐ Pennsylvania. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection.(Publication No. AAT 3103065).

Taylor, M. and Porath, ML. (2006). Reflections on the International Baccalaureate Program: Graduates’ perspectives. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education,17(3), 149‐158.