Most teachers and guidance counselors delivering the IB curriculum may be aware that changes to the IB language, literature and maths curricula will be rolled out in September 2019.

The IB have already published a number of resources to help IB schools with this transition. BridgeU’s work with IB guidance counselors and teachers has shown us that many continue to have some pressing questions about the new curricula such as:

  • How will these curriculum changes affect the subjects that students may choose to take at university?
  • Will the subject choices that students make have any bearing on how a university assesses their application?

Universities are currently in the process of reassessing their entry requirements and criteria in the wake of these proposed curriculum reforms. Let’s take a quick look at these changes, and what they mean if your students are about to start the new IB literature, language or maths programmes.

What are the IB curriculum changes?

The IB have made changes to their language, literature and maths course content, as part of a standard curriculum review that they conduct every seven years with IB teachers, examiners and experts. Here’s what teachers and students of the IB curriculum can expect from September 2019 onwards.

Literature & language

Language and literature have been redesigned to have a more common syllabus structure, with a focus on teaching students conceptual understanding of concepts across language and literature.


The IB Maths curriculum is undergoing a big change, with two new maths courses each testing slightly different skill-sets. Students taking the IB from September 2019 can expect the following:

Maths Analysis & Approaches (SL and HL)

This Maths qualification is designed more for students who enjoy mathematical problem solving, exploring both the real and abstract applications of mathematics.

Maths Applications and Interpretation (SL and HL)

This second maths pathway is designed for students who are more interested in using mathematics in a practical, real-world context, as opposed to the more theoretical route offered by students of Analysis and Approaches.

These new qualifications reflect the IB’s decision to incorporate more critical thinking and into the maths curriculum, especially as advances in technology make some traditional skills and competencies redundant and the real world applications of mathematics-based subjects are likely to change.

But these changes to the IB course have, understandably, prompted questions about what this means for IB students applying to university.

What do the new IB qualifications mean for students applying to university?

The changes to IB Language and Literature will probably not have as much bearing on students who may, for example, be applying to literature, language or humanities courses at university.

However, the changes to maths have prompted questions as to which of the two new qualifications will be more sought after by universities. More specifically, what kind of university pathways do each of the two maths courses prepare students for?

Luckily, both the IBO and certain universities have released some guidance on which Maths courses will suit different students.

Maths Analysis & Approaches

Because Analysis and Approaches has more of a focus on pure maths and analytical methods, this course is better suited to students who may be thinking of studying a university subject with substantial maths-based content.

As well as mathematics itself, this pathway is also useful for students who may be thinking about studying university courses like engineering, physical sciences or some economics courses.

Maths Applications and Interpretation

Because this course is designed to teach IB students about the practical application of mathematics, the IBO recommends that this course is more suitable for students who are looking to study university degrees in disciplines like social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, statistics, business, some economics courses, psychology and design.

How have universities responded to these changes in the IB curriculum?

It’s worth pointing out that the changes to the IB curriculum will be as much of a learning curve for universities as they are for schools. The good news is that, because the new curricula aren’t rolled out until September 2019, the first students taking it won’t matriculate until 2021.

This gives universities some time to review their admissions criteria to take account of these changes to the IB.

Admissions officers at universities worldwide have stressed that students should ultimately choose between the two maths courses based on their personal preferences and long term goals. There is no indication that universities will favour one IB maths qualification over the other.

That said, there seems to be agreement that the Analysis and Approaches course is a better option for those students who may be thinking about a university course with a heavy mathematical component.

Ultimately, it’s best that students, teachers and guidance counselors try not to second-guess universities’ admissions criteria. Instead, they should choose their IB maths course based on where they believe their own strengths and interests lie.

About BridgeU

An integration partner with ManageBac since 2017, BridgeU empowers international schools to provide a premium, robust university and careers guidance service to students and parents. With customers in 100 countries, BridgeU has developed unique expertise in supporting schools who have a globally minded student and parent base.

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