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Home » Education Advice » HSC vs International Baccalaureate: What is International Baccalaureate?

HSC vs International Baccalaureate: What is International Baccalaureate?


The HSC has been the main option for NSW students for years. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is slowly growing in Australian secondary schools as a credible alternative.

HSC vs International Baccalaureate: What is the difference?

HSC students aim for an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) as the standard measure of achievement. The HSC program is unique to NSW and each state has a different variation of the program (In Victoria, this is known as the VCE).

The main difference is that the HSC is designed to meet the needs of all NSW students whereas the IB pushes students to prepare for university. This is embedded in the diverse curriculum structure.

Features of the International Baccalaureate

HL courses are recommended to have at least 240 instructional hours and allow students to explore specific areas of personal interest in depth in addition to the core SL curriculum.

SL courses are recommended to have at least 150 instructional hours and allow students to experience a range of disciplines.

The assessment criteria are equally demanding for both levels which are integral to the Diploma Programme.

Curriculum Structure

In addition to the 6 subjects, students must complete the following compulsory core elements:

Features of the HSC

Curriculum Structure

How does the International Baccalaureate apply to tertiary education?

Australia’s leading research universities (The Group of Eight), has collectively expressed its support for IB students.

Most tertiary institutions in Australia accept the International Baccalaureate diploma as an equivalent to an Australian Year 12 qualification. However, students are not guaranteed entry into courses and may have to meet additional requirements.

Most Australian higher education institutions have a scale in place to convert IB results to ATAR.

For students applying for university in 2023, the new IB/UAC conversion schedule will be published in May 2022.

Some universities even offer advanced placement, credit and bonus schemes for IB Diploma students.

Providing your IB Diploma results to UAC

Year 12 students must ensure UAC receives their IB diploma results. Students should:

Why would students choose to do an International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a suitable option for students looking to pursue international study.

Many universities and colleges overseas accept an IB. Each year over 5,000 universities in more than 100 countries receive IB students’ transcripts.

The degree of recognition of IB programmes vary from country to country.

Students should reach out to post-secondary institutions they are interested in and learn about how they recognise IB programmes.

For example, in the United States, there is no national ministry which controls university admission. Universities and colleges set their own policies. Students should explore the specific college’s requirements.

Generally, colleges require students to submit the written application for admission, a transcript of secondary school grades and a Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College test.

Is International Baccalaureate harder?

The IB and HSC provide different opportunities and experiences for different students.

Your child may find it more ‘difficult’ to begin focusing from Year 11. Alternatively, your child may find that accounting for both years of study in the final results removes the stress of Year 12.

The current IB conversions are quite generous. UAC data reveals approximately 5% of IB students last year received scores converting to an ATAR of 99.95, compared to 0.1% of HSC students.

The IB is academically vigorous and encourages independent learning.

However, if your child is considering undertaking the IB they must be academically well rounded due to the course curriculum structure. In the HSC, if your child is not as strong in maths or science, they would not be required to complete these subjects.

Schools in New South Wales that offer International Baccalaureate:

Schools in Victoria that offer International Baccalaureate:

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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