International baccalaureate curriculum


The Diploma Programme (DP) curriculum consists of completing six courses from six different subject areas, writing an Extended Essay (EE) of up to 4,000 words, taking part in the Theory of Knowledge(TOK) class, and fulfilling a requirement of 50 hours in each of the Creative, Active and Service (CAS) pursuits. Grades are awarded from 1 to 7 in each subject, and up to three 'bonus' points may be awarded depending on the grade results of the EE and TOK. Thus, a total of 45 points may be obtained by the candidate for their final diploma. In order to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma you must receive a minimum of 24 points.

If candidates study in a language other than their native language (i.e. their language A1), they may receive a Bilingual Diploma. If students choose not to fulfil all parts of the programme they can receive 'subject certificates' for the IB classes they take.

Subject areas

Students pursuing the Diploma take six courses, usually from six different subject areas (detailed below), with three (or four) of them taken at higher level (HL) and the rest at standard level (SL). Higher level subjects require approximately 240 hours of teaching time, and standard level subjects about 150.

  • Group 1: Language A1 - Generally the student's strongest language, with over 80 different languages available. Students may choose to self-study a language of their choice at standard level if their fluent language is not taught by the school.
  • Group 2: Second Language - An additional language, taken either at A2, B (SL or HL) or ab initio (SL only). This group may also be replaced by a second A1 language.
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies - Humanities and social sciences, such as philosophy, economics, business, management, psychology, social anthropology, information technology in a global society (ITGS), geography and history (or History of the Islamic World). At higher level, there are several different regionalised history classes including: History of the Americas, History of Europe, History of Africa, History of West Asia, and History of East and South-east Asia. The variant/s taught is usually largely dependent on the location of the school. In some schools it is possible to choose three subjects from this group and none from Group 4 with special permission from the IBO. Image:IB model.gif|thumb|right|300px|The components of the IB Diploma course
  • Group 4: Experimental Sciences - Subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, environmental systems and design technology. In some countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Turkey, students are allowed to choose three subjects from this group and none from Group 3, as it is required for admission into some universities.
  • Group 5: Mathematics - The subjects are, in order of increasing difficulty, Mathematical Studies (SL), Mathematics SL, and Mathematics HL. Furthermore, Further Mathematics can be studied at SL in addition to a Mathematics HL course. This group also includes computer science but only as an elective (not a substitute for the other mathematics courses).
  • Group 6: Arts - Subjects such as visual arts, film, music, dance, and theatre arts. Students can also choose to take another subject from any of the other five groups to substitute for this group. One of the main criticisms of the Diploma Programme is that it discriminates against artists by allowing those specialising in other subject areas to take a second subject within that Group, but offering no such option for those favouring the creative arts. The defence often used to counter this point is that candidates can use their 50 'creativity' hours of their CAS programme to enrich this part of themselves. At some schools it is possible to take ecosystems and societies as both a Group 3 and Group 4 subject, giving the possibility of two subjects from Group 6....

Extended Essay

Students must write an essay of at most 4,000 words in any chosen subject (not necessarily one taken for the final exam) but not across subjects. The topic may be any that the student feels is researchable. This task involves independent research and requires producing a comprehensible written piece. Each student is paired with a supervisor, who provides insight toward the final product. It is essential to submit an Extended Essay, often abbreviated as EE, or the candidate cannot receive the IB Diploma. Each student is awarded a grade ranging from A to E.


CAS is an acronym for Creativity, Action, Service. Each DP student must complete at least 150 hours, spread out over at least one and a half years, engaging in creative activity, participating in sport or other physical activities, and doing community service or social work. The general guideline for CAS is to split it evenly among Creativity, Action and Service, hence a de facto requirement of 50 hours of each. The minimum amount of hours to be spent on any one part of CAS is 25 hours. The hours of work are to be documented by the school using official forms which are to be submitted to the IBO upon request. Failing to complete the CAS requirements will result in disqualification of a candidate from the IB Diploma.

Theory of Knowledge

Each student must complete the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course of approximately 100 hours, which aims to encourage students to be critical thinkers and to teach students basic epistemology. To complete requirements for TOK, diploma candidates must write a TOK essay of 1200-1600 words on a set title (from a choice of ten issued by the IBO), and present a TOK issue to their class on their choice of topic. Each student is awarded a grade ranging from A to E.

Bonus Points

The grades that the student receives from the TOK essay and presentation are compared with the grade for the Extended Essay by way of a matrix designed by the IBO, which may result in the awarding of 'extra' points for the candidate's Diploma. The candidate may get up to three extra points if he or she achieves an A in both TOK and EE, otherwise their bonus points will be allocated as below:


All subjects are assessed using both internal and external assessment, including final exams given worldwide in May (usually for Northern Hemisphere schools) and in November (usually for Southern Hemisphere schools). Each exam usually consists of two or three papers, generally written on successive days. The different papers may have different forms of questions, or they may focus on different areas of the subject syllabus. For example, chemistry Paper 1 has multiple choice questions, Paper 2 has extended response questions, and Paper 3 focuses on the 'option' topics which can vary according to the student's (or school's) preference. Resits for each paper (sat in the next exam session - November or May) are possible for a maximum of three times.

Each individual paper can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, but usually they are between one and two hours in duration. Because of the large amount of subjects being examined in one examination session (of less than a month in length), students often have to write multiple papers in one day. The external assessment is assessed by examiners appointed by the IBO.

A common practice by schools is to hold mock exams, using exams from a previous year's session to introduce students to the examination process. This is also used to determine predicted grades required by IBO prior to assessment. Another common practice is to allow the students a study leave for independent study without scheduled lesson time.

The nature of the internal assessment (IA) varies by subject. They may be oral presentations (used in languages), practical work (in experimental sciences), or written works to be done at home. Internal assessment accounts for 20 to 50 percent of the mark awarded for each subject and is marked by a teacher in the school. A sample of at least five per subject at each level will also be graded by a moderator appointed by the IBO, in a process called external moderation of internal assessment.

The marks collected from the internal and external moderators are again moderated on a world wide scale. The results of every particular year determine the grade-boundaries of that year. Therefore the effects of very easy or very difficult exams are taken into account, however, very good year groups might receive lower marks than expected as the boundaries are drawn up, and vice-versa, less successful year groups may receive higher marks than expected.

IB Subject List

Group 1 - Mother Tongue (A1) Various A1 languages can be taught by individual schools. However, if a candidate's A1 language is not available at that school then he or she is able to take the course as a self-taught language.

Group 2 - Second language (Ab initio, B, A2) Usually German, French, Spanish, and English are taught as second languages, though other languages such as those of the host country could also be offered.

There are three levels of the language one can learn.

  • Ab initio - Beginner's level, basic communication
  • B language - Some knowledge in the language, focus on grammar and understanding
  • A2 language - Bordering fluency, will also deal with literature

Group 3 - Social Sciences Economics History Psychology Geography

More subjects could be offered at individual schools

Group 4 - Natural Sciences Biology Chemistry Physics Environmental Sciences

Group 5 - Mathematics

  • Studies - Basic mathematics with a focus on statistics
  • Standard Level (formerly known as Methods) - Fairly advanced mathematics
  • Higher Level - Advanced mathematics, with options that touch upon some university level math
  • Further Mathematics SL - Chosen as an elective (see Group 6). All HL options are completed. Must be taken with HL Mathematics.

Group 6 - Electives This group depends on the flexibility of each school. Some may offer Arts, Drama, and/or Music, though most will tell the candidate to choose another subject from Group 2-4. Many do not have Further Mathematics SL either.

NOTE: Each IB school differ in the subjects they offer. Therefore it is crucial to check with the individual schools whether or not they offer a specific subject choice or combination.