Education Matters

IB or HSC? Discover the best option for your son

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on Sep 29, 2017 5:00:00 PM

IB or HSC? Discover the best option for your sonThe decision about whether to take the IB or HSC path is an important choice for you and your son.

Trinity has a wide-ranging curriculum that caters for all students – from high potential learners to those more interested in vocational courses – with arguably the most extensive curriculum of academics, sports and the arts of any non-selective Independent Boys Schools across NSW.

Trinity offers two alternative academic programmes to cater for the different needs of our Senior School boys – the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the Higher School Certificate (HSC). Both programmes have integrity and rigour, and while the HSC and the IB Diploma have much in common, there are important differences, and it is on those differences that boys, and their parents should base their decision.

For example:

  • The IB Diploma is measured against international standards and the HSC against state-wide standards.
  • The IB Diploma is a course taught over two years in Years 11 and 12, whereas the HSC is taught over one year in Year 12 with the Preliminary course in Year 11.

Below we compare and contrast the two qualifications against the following criteria to help you discover the best option for your son:

  • Course structure
  • Styles of learning
  • Method of assessment
  • Student requirements
  • University entry

IB or HSC? Discover the best option for your son:

Course structure

IB Diploma

  • Six academic subjects studied over two years
  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK)
  • Extended Essay (EE)
  • Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), minimum 150 hours
  • Mandatory studies in a native language, a second language, individuals and societies, science and mathematics.


  • Y11 Preliminary Course: subjects studied to the value of a minimum of 12 units and preferably 13 units
  • Y12 HSC Course: a minimum of four subjects, representing a minimum of 10 units with mandatory study in English, though 11 or 12 units are preferable.

Styles of learning

IB Diploma

  • Critical and high order thinking and analytical skills
  • University level essay writing skills
  • International outlook and focus
  • Encourages inter-cultural understanding
  • TOK threads run through all academic subjects
  • Opportunity in the EE for in-depth research beyond the confines of the syllabus
  • Three subjects studied at Higher Level and 3 at Standard Level
  • Co-operative learning through the Group 4 project
  • Immersion second language study
  • Prepares students very well for the demands of university study.


  • Opportunity to narrow the focus of academic study
  • Opportunity to explore strengths and interests via the extension courses in Mathematics, History, Music and Continuers languages
  • Foundation preliminary course in Year 11
  • The examinable course content/assessment in Year 12 allows for the development and application of skills and the development of individual maturity
  • Opportunity to study more than one subject in the Arts
  • Opportunity to study vocational subjects
  • No mandatory study of a foreign language, Science or Mathematics.

Methods of Assessment

IB Diploma

  • Up to 35 percent internally and 80 percent externally assessed components across all academic subjects
  • Internal assessments either integrated into the teaching programme or completed by mid-Term 3 of Year 12
  • Wide range of internal assessments which are internally marked and externally moderated
  • Oral presentations in all languages and TOK
  • TOK essay and EE completed end Term 2/early Term 3 of Year 12 to allow for maturity and experience to be incorporated into the finished works
  • All subjects contribute equally to the final Diploma score allowing for a true measure of academic achievement
  • Criterion referenced assessment with performance measured against well-defined levels of achievement consistent from one examination session to the next and applied equally to all schools
  • Graded on a 45-point scale, with a minimum requirement of 24 points for award of the Diploma, subject to additional regulations.
  • There are no limits on how many students can be awarded full marks.


  • 50 percent school-based and 50 percent final examination in all subjects
  • The school based assessments are spread across Year 12 and encompass a wide range of assessments in every subject
  • Oral/aural assessments in continuer and beginners languages
  • Independent studies are required in most subjects
  • All subjects contribute equally according to their unit value to the HSC credential
  • Final marks in each subject are standards referenced against defined levels of achievement consistent from one examination session to the next and applied equally to all schools
  • The HSC credential is achieved by all candidates who have met the basic course requirements in and have satisfactorily completed at least ten units of study including two units of English
  • The HSC mark is subject to scaling, with only the top 0.5 percent of students being eligible to attain the maximum marks.

Student requirements

IB Diploma

  • Likes to question and be challenged
  • Willing to participate and become an active learner
  • Willing to develop independent learning, good time management and organisational skills
  • Willing to develop as a well-rounded individual and an engaged citizen of a multicultural world.


  • Willing to follow the prescribed course of study with diligence and sustained effort
  • Willing to develop independent learning, good time management and organisational skills.

University entry

IB Diploma 

  • IB Diploma score of 24+ converted to an ATAR for entry to NSW universities, a scale between 70.00 and 99.95
  • Provides direct and recognised entry to universities worldwide including Australia.


  • Scaled by UAC so that the best 2 scaled units in English and the best 8 scaled units in a student’s remaining subjects are combined to calculate the ATAR, a scale with a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 99.95
  • Provides direct access to Australian universities and recognised entry to many universities worldwide.


To learn more about the Trinity difference, and how the IB Diploma can assist boys to grow in mind, body and spirit, download our IB Diploma brochure.

IB Diploma brochure download

Topics: Boys' education, Trinity difference, Academic excellence, International Baccalaureate