New study reveals university outcomes for further education mathematics students

Research conducted by the School of Education at University of Leeds, shows that International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) students who study mathematics at higher level* are more likely (34 percent) to obtain a first class degree than those studying alternative pre-university mathematics courses, including Scottish Advanced Highers (30 percent) and A Level mathematics (28 percent). The findings relate to a broad range of degree subject choices including Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Economics, Engineering, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Physics.


Mean response on mathematical self-efficacy The research, which comes at a time when ministers are calling for more rigour in mathematics qualifications in the face of declining A Level mathematics standards, shows that these graduates also had high levels of mathematical self-confidence and self-efficacy and felt well prepared for further study in mathematics when embarking upon their university careers.


Adrian Kearney, Regional Director Africa, Europe and Middle East, International Baccalaureate said: “Higher level mathematics is taught as part of a complete IB programme of study. This sets mathematics in the context of other subjects, exposes students to deep research projects, and requires them to apply their knowledge to problem solving, much in the same way as they will need to at university. In this way, IB students are generally better prepared for the levels of independent study that will be required at university.”


The University of Leeds research also examined IB students’ appreciation of aspects of their study; as well as feeling well prepared for university, respondents reported that they most appreciated the range and depth of particular topics; the challenge and rigour of the course; the emphasis on problem-solving; and connections between topic areas.

Mean response on preparedness for mathematical topics


Kearney continued: “Thinking in the international mathematics community continues to evolve, and IB higher level mathematics encourages students to ask questions, conduct research, apply mathematics to real challenges, with the aim of making real contributions to advancements in mathematics. This promotion of ‘thinking mathematics’ makes the students’ learning exciting and brings the subject to life. Students also benefit from the skills they develop through the IB Core including the Theory of Knowledge, the Extended Essay and from exploring mathematics on a deeper level through the Internal Assessment – which thoroughly prepare students for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies.”