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What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma?

Choosing the right curriculum for your child can be quite a challenge, especially in those critical few years before college or university. Here’s a quick guide to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme to help you decide if it’s the right choice for your child at 16 to 19 years old.

  • IB students studying at a Nord Anglia Education school

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate, commonly known as the IB, is a comprehensive education program taught in more than 150 countries across the globe. Comprised of four age-targeted programs, the international curriculum takes a holistic approach to education, nurturing intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills. The IB Organisation states that they aim to teach students “to think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic”. The four programs offered by the IB are:

Primary Years Programme (PYP): Ages 3 to 12 years old

Middle Years Programme (MYP): Ages 11 to 16 years old

Diploma Programme (DP): Ages 16 to 19 years old

Careers-Related Programme: Ages 16 to 19 years old

Each of the four programs stands on its own merits. A student does not have to have completed the PYP or MYP to study for the IB Diploma. For full details of our schools’ curriculum options, please see the list of our IB schools’ pages.


What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma?

The IB Diploma is designed for students between the age of 16 and 19 years old. It is based on the philosophy that students should apply critical thinking skills to their experiences and learn to assess the world around them. The course encourages the development of students’ academic, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing, and prepares them to participate in our global society through the comprehensive study of six subjects and three core components over two years. The program is also widely recognized by the world’s top universities as it gives students the right skills and attitude needed for higher education.


IB Subjects and Structure

The subjects in the IB curriculum are split into six groups. Students must study one subject from each of group one to five, and another from either group six or an additional subject from one of the other groups. Three of the six subjects must be studied at Higher Level, while the other three can be studied at Standard Level. If the student wishes, more subjects can be studied to higher level in the IB. The groups of subjects are:

  • Group 1 – Studies in Language and Literature: These are usually taken in the student’s native language and can focus on literature alone or a combination of language and literature together.
  • Group 2 – Language Acquisition: This is a second language for the student. It is usually a modern language but can also be Latin or Classical Greek.
  • Group 3 – Individuals and Societies: Subjects in this group relate to the humanities. They include Business and Management, Economics, Geography, Global Politics, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Social and Cultural Anthropology, World Religion and others.
  • Group 4 – Sciences: This includes a range of sciences such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, and Design Technology.
  • Group 5 – Mathematics:  This group includes Mathematical Studies, Mathematics, and Further Mathematics.
  • Group 6 – The Arts: These include Music, Theatre, Dance, Film, and Visual Arts. Alternatively, students can choose to study another subject from the groups above instead.

In addition to these six chosen subjects, students must also complete the following three core elements of the IB, designed to broaden their experience and skills:

  1. Theory of Knowledge (ToK): ToK is important in the IB as it provides an opportunity for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we can claim to know what we know. Questions students will examine include ‘what counts as evidence?’ and ‘how can theories be applied in the real world?’. From this study, they are taught to recognize the need to act responsibly in the world around them for their benefit and the benefit of others.
  2. The Extended Essay: This is an in-depth 4,000-word study on a subject of the student’s choosing. Their essay can be an in-depth investigation into something relating to one of their six chosen subjects, or it can be an interdisciplinary approach combining themes from two IB disciplines.
  3. Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS): To fulfill this component, students need to participate in various personally challenging activities related to these three areas with significant outcomes.


IB Assessments

In the six chosen subjects, students must complete, they will sit regulated exams, graded by external markers, as well as extended tasks in their classrooms. Both will contribute to final grades.

In addition to this, students are required to submit a Theory of Knowledge essay, their Extended Essay project, and evidence of their CAS activity.


IB Grades & Requirements

For each of the six chosen subjects, students receive a grade of between 1 and 7, with 7 being the highest. The Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay can collectively contribute another three points to a student’s total score.

To pass the IB, students must receive a total score of 24 or above. The CAS element of the IB does not add to the score of the student, but the IB Diploma cannot be awarded without it.


IB Diploma Benefits

There are many benefits to studying for the IB Diploma, from its holistic approach to education to its real-world applications. Some of the important advantages to consider are:

  • Universities hold the IB Diploma in high esteem, so IB Diploma students can be accepted at the best colleges and universities around the world.
  • It encourages a global perspective – students are required to master a foreign language, learn about other cultures and political systems, and apply this knowledge to their experiences.
  • Studying the IB means your child will learn about a broad range of subjects, developing a holistic understanding of the world around them.
  • The structure of the IB emphasizes independent, self-directed learning.
  • The IB is taught in 4,000 schools across 150 countries, so it’s a good fit for expats or families who may move around.
  • The IB Diploma is internationally recognized and therefore well suited to global, internationally mobile students

For students with a wide interest in developing their knowledge and understanding of the world, the IB Diploma is a fantastic choice. It unlocks outstanding opportunities in higher education and future employment while developing well-rounded young adults with a holistic understanding of the world around them. Talk to our IB schools today for more information.


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