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Oct 25, 2019

by David Rosales '16

Now, this is a question that I get asked quite often when it comes to university preparation, particularly with first or foundation year.

There is often an unspoken rivalry between students who think the IB is more in-depth and better preparing for university when compared to other programmes such as A levels. The reality is that I can only speak for one, so now that this has been addressed, I can tell you how well the IB prepared me for university.

The First Steps

Having done higher level biology and chemistry, I found that the first semester of university was more revision than actual learning. Most of the material that we were revising during lectures I had already revised in my final year of high school. So, I was quite surprised to see that my senior year had covered enough materials in-depth for it to ''overlap'' with my first year of university. There were instances where I had even covered topics which my classmates did not, such as biochemistry. It was interesting to see the diversity of students from all over the world and what knowledge they brought to the lectures, and how that varied with my previous education at St. Stephen'sStephen's.

Referencing is Key

One of the most useful skills (dare I say the most important skill) which was taught to me during the IB was how to reference properly. Going into a degree in biotechnology, it was one of the first challenges which I had to face when writing articles, essays and papers. Everything and anything you write, or use has to be backed up with an appropriate reference, we usually used the Harvard system, but depending on the article, we could also use the Vancouver system. Having practiced referencing extensively before coming to university, I was miles ahead of my peers. I remember we spent the three weeks with my tutor going over how to reference with my classmates properly, and it mostly felt like a revision to me.

Creativity, Action and Service

During my time in St. Stephen'sStephen's the importance of creativity, action and service were clear as day to me. The hours put into these three activities shaped my vision on the world and the importance of community service. When I came to university, I saw that there were over 300 societies all offering something different. I quickly joined community outreach and volunteering societies because I felt the need to help people in need. So this was important because the IB did not only prepare me well academically; it also taught me the value of extra-curricular activities.

The Extended Essay

One of the most important skills which I developed with time throughout my degree is writing essays. The extended essay is a university-level research paper which is written in your final of the IB. You can choose the topic, and you will be assigned a supervisor to help you with the task. During my first semester, I already had to write three papers similar to the EE, yet I did not feel daunted by the task. I felt more prepared than most of my peers because I knew the time, effort and level of detail it takes to write a good research paper. Thanks to the rigorous preparation given to me during the IB, I was able to achieve high grades on my essays.

Exam Pressure

Having multiple exams per subject can be a daunting process to endure. Especially during exam season, I found myself revising for multiple papers, all of them structured in different ways and require different levels of preparation. However, the preparation that happens before exam season for every subject gives you the necessary skills to undertake this challenging endeavour. During university, you rarely have more than one exam per subject each semester, and usually, that exam counts for a significant portion or percentage of your grade. The IB taught me how to properly study and prepare for these exams, regardless if they were multiple-choice, short answers or essay prompts.


To conclude, I felt as if the IB had prepared me incredibly well for university in the UK, both from the academic perspective and the volunteering one. I never felt at a disadvantage when it came to lectures or coursework throughout my first and even second semester. In the time that it took for my classmates to review what we had done, I was able to get ahead of deadlines which put me in an incredibly advantageous position and have more free time.

David Rosales is an alumnus of St. Stephen's School, Rome, Italy. He graduated in 2019 with a BSc Hons in Biotechnology from the University of Manchester.