Overall teaching for the IB usually takes about 2 years. In the UK, it starts in September when the school year starts, and your exam season is in May 2 years from then. For instance, I started IB in September 2017 and took exams in May/ June 2019. There is also an exam season in November, so your time frame may change depending on country and school. You get exam results from May exams in early July, and results from the November exams in early January.
How the programme is divided over the 2 years varies from school to school. The first year is mainly learning course material and starting some IAs (coursework). We had exams at the end of our first year, which informed our predicted grades and university applications.
We prepared for our Extended Essay in the summer term, and over the summer holidays we were expected to complete our Extended Essays and revise first year material. The first term of the second year was spent finishing all our IAs/ EE and our TOK projects, as well as continuing to learn new material. We had mocks at the beginning of the final term – in January – and then the final term was then spent finishing covering course material during lessons, moving to revision in the last couple of weeks before exams.
University applications mostly took place for UK universities in the first term. We thought about it in the summer term, then drafted and wrote our personal statements so they were ready to send off in the winter term. The deadline for Oxbridge applications was early October, and the usual final UCAS deadline in January – though you can apply after this. Results for UK universities trickle in after November, some not responding until March.
US applications happen in 2 rounds. The deadline for the early round is in November – this is Early Decision and Early Action. Early Decision is when, if you get into that university, then you have to attend. Then usual applications for US universities happen in January.