Most NSW Year 12 students enter their final year of high school ready to take on the HSC. In recent years, however, the IB has steadily become a more and more accessible choice of curriculum for high school students in Year 11 and 12.
The IB is not available in every high school, but if it is an option you are considering, there are some important differences you should know about. This article will break down these differences and highlight some of the key similarities between the two systems, for those who are wondering which would be best for them.
First up – what are they?
The HSC refers to the Higher School Certificate. New South Wales students in Year 11 undertake the HSC Preliminary Course and then go on to study the HSC Course in Year 12.
The IB is short for the International Baccalaureate. It is an internationally recognised curriculum that is taught across the globe. Students in Years 11 and 12 complete the IBs Diploma Program.
Differences between the IB and the HSC:
The first difference between the IB and the HSC is the course duration. The IB Diploma Program is a two-year course taught in Years 11 and 12. The HSC Course on the other hand, is a one-year course completed throughout Year 12. The HSC does have a preliminary course that is studied by Year 11 students, but this course does not count towards a student’s final HSC marks.
The subject choices are also very different. Students undertaking the IB will study six subjects, but the program is more regimented than the HSC. IB students need to study one Native Language subject (here it’s English) as well as a second Language subject. They will also need to study one Humanities, one Maths and one Science subject. For their sixth and final subject, they can chose to study one Arts subject or a second subject from the Humanities, Maths or Science list. HSC students have greater freedom in their choice of subjects – the only mandatory HSC subject is English.
There are three additional, mandatory requirements that IB students complete on top of their subjects. These are; the ‘Theory of Knowledge’ component, an ‘Extended Essay’ and the ‘Creativity, Activity and Service’ component.
The structure of assessments is another considerable difference between the HSC and the IB. For a Year 12 HSC student, their final mark will be comprised of 50% internal assessments (undertaken throughout the school year) and 50% external assessments (the final HSC exams that take place in October-November). Over the two-year course, IB students on the other hand, have fewer internal assessments. An IB student’s final mark will be made up of 20% internal assessments, with the other 80% coming from a final, external assessment that takes place in November.
The final difference between the HSC and the IB is the final mark. The HSC final mark relies on scaling as the marking system is on a bell curve – i.e. only a certain number of people will get the highest mark of 99.95. The IB, however, is not dependent on scaling. This means that there is no limit to the number of students who can achieve the highest mark of 45/45. If a student completes the IB and receives the top mark of 45/45, they can translate that mark into a 99.95 ATAR if they wish to apply for a degree with an Australian University.
Similarities between the IB and the HSC:
There are a couple of similarities between these two curriculums. The first is that both the IB and the HSC offer standard levels and higher/extension levels for certain subjects. If you really enjoy maths, for example, and wish to pursue it at a higher level, you can do so under both the IB and the HSC system.
While the final marks for the IB and the HSC are different, the subjects grade descriptors are very similar. Both systems differentiate between grades using a ‘bands’ system that starts at ‘Band 1’. The only slight difference here is that the highest ‘band’ for the IB is ‘Band 7’, whereas ‘Band 6’ is the highest ‘band’ for the HSC.