Newsletter signup Newsletter signup

Receive our free
UK university report,
and join our newsletter

IB Exams vs. University Exams

Congratulations! You have finished the IB. Finito! Fini! Faerdig! Lauk! Gorffenedig! No more exams for ages, eternity, maybe even forever?

Well, ok, that’s not quite true, but you won’t have them for at least a year! Yes, that’s right — spoiler alert — exams don’t stop here. Exams are a significant part of most university courses in the UK and you will probably face them in all three (or four) years of your degree.

We are really sorry about this! But let’s face it, it’s better to be prepared rather than have this all sprung on you. So to show how sorry we really are, we have taken the time to talk to our university consultants and graduates about the difference between the IB and University exams to get you prepped and ready for your first year at uni!

There are 3 key differences between university and the IB; content, structure and difficulty. Here is a step-by-step comparison of the two:


IB Exams University Exams
May be examined on up tp to 4 papers per subject Instead of three papers for one subject like in the IB, your university exams may only comprise of between 3-6 papers in one examination period. While this does depend on the university and course you take, as a general rule you will have fewer exams at uni. For example, a Geography 1st year at Oxford will likely have 4 exams in their exam season.
Exams all take place at the end of 2 years of study At most universities you will have exams every year. Though some courses at some universities, like Oxford, have different structures. For example, at Oxford you take preliminary examinations in first year and then some courses don’t take exams until your third year.
Approximately 1 month examination period At university you will be given a full term of exam prep and sitting, this is often your summer term. You have way more time for revision than at IB level.


IB Exams University Exams
Though this depends on the papers and subjects you take, the IB tends to have a mix of equally weighted short and long responses. Exams at a university level tend to be long-answer focused with a greater emphasis on essay writing and the development of ideas. Naturally, this depends on the degree you do but a good general rule is that you are expected to spend more time on one question at university level.
IB level questions tend to be more directed towards specific topics, case studies,  equations ect. University questions tend to be more explorative, encouraging you to think about applying rather than regurgitating what you have learnt – you no longer get marks for definitions 🙁


IB Exams University Exams
Whether university or IB exams are more difficult really depends on where your academic strengths lie and degree you take at university. While some degrees can be easier because you get more time to really focus on one aspect of academia, other mimic the difficulty of the IB and are very varied in their subject areas – like Liberal Arts, Geography & PPE. Other subjects can be particularly difficult due to a particular culture of being hard e.g. Law, Medicine, Chemistry. For many, university exams are actually an easier process! You have more time to revise, you understand the content better and you are surrounded by a culture of revision at your university!

In saying this, you are expected to simply know more at university level – you have to adapt what you know and there is often no syllabus to work off. But this really shouldn’t scare you! You will be 100% ready — if you did the IB you can do anything!!