IB Mathematics (SL and HL)

Course description

Mathematics is a core element of the Diploma Programme and must be studied at either Standard or Higher Level.

The IB Course options have changed for first examination in 2021. There are four options available to the current fifth form. At Higher Level, there are two courses which embrace different approaches to mathematics. HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches focuses on abstract elements of maths with a heavy emphasis on algebra and pure mathematics. It is particularly suitable for those students seeking to pursue maths at university, either in isolation or in combination with another subject. It will also be suitable for those aiming for particularly theoretical physics or engineering courses, or for those whose interest in abstract mathematics and algebra is strong. It contains calculator and non-calculator options. In contrast, HL Mathematics: Application and Interpretation focuses on the use of technology to solve mathematical problems and embraces the practical skills that are likely to be relevant to students studying economics or most science degrees. Calculators are allowed in all examinations, and the IB has marketed the course very strongly as more accessible as a result. Students must secure at least an 8 in IGCSE to proceed to these courses; those tackling the A&A course should certainly have a strong 8; most will have 9s.

At Standard Level, two corresponding courses (Analysis and Approaches, and Application and Interpretation) are available from 2021. As with the HL options, they differ in terms of approachability and we are offering SL Application and Interpretation in a single year. This means that next year’s Lower Sixth students will have the opportunity to sit the new SL Analysis and Approaches over two years, or the new SL Application and Interpretation course in one. Those of you already familiar with Wellington’s IB packages will recognise this as a parallel to the old maths studies course, though there are significant differences. SL Application and Interpretation is suitable for students for UK universities for whom maths is not likely to feature as a significant part of their university intentions: languages, arts, humanities, business and management, international relations, law; at some universities, medicine. It is highly accessible, and like the HL Application and Interpretation courses, technology-based. Completing the course in a year gives students the opportunity to focus their Upper Sixth attention on subjects more appropriate to their university intentions.  SL Analysis and Approaches is a smaller version of the corresponding HL course, focusing again on calculus and abstract mathematics, including algebra and trigonometry. It will only be desirable for a minority of students – those who really need it for their university intentions. This may include those taking some science degrees or looking at some courses overseas.  For SL Analysis & Approaches, students need to obtain an 8 at IGCSE. There is no threshold for the current Maths Studies course.


For the Standard Level Analysis and Approaches course, pupils must have attained an 8 in IGCSE Mathematics. Higher Level pupils must have attained a strong 8 or 9 at IGCSE and should have a clear interest and enthusiasm for the subject. Any Wellingtonian can tackle Standard Level Application and Interpretation, and nearly all are capable of at least a 6.

Potential careers

Mathematics is a much sought-after qualification for entry to a wide variety of full-time courses in Higher Education. There are also many areas of employment that see Mathematics as an important qualification and it is often a requirement for the vocational qualifications related to these areas. Careers would include be economics, medicine, architecture, accountancy, teaching, psychology, environmental studies, computing and IT. SL Application and Interpretation offers excellent support and preparation for non-technical subjects at university, and thereafter the world of employment. Successful pupils will have a range of practical skills far superior to those who finished their study of Maths at GCSE

Contact for further information

Mr AJF Sproat: ajfs@wellingtoncollege.org.uk