IB Diploma

Facts and FAQs

What is the IB Diploma?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a two-year programme for Sixth Form pupils. Pupils study six subjects and complete three additional requirements which come under the IB Diploma ‘core’.  These three ‘core’ elements are the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, the Extended Essay (EE) and at least 150 hours of creativity, activity and service (CAS) tasks outside of the classroom.

What subjects do Diploma pupils study?

The IB Diploma is split into six different subject areas:

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies
  • Group 4: Sciences
  • Group 5: Mathematics
  • Group 6: The Arts

The arts course can be replaced by a second humanities subject, a second science, or a third language. Pupils are able to decide which three subjects to take at higher level (HL) and which three to take at standard level (SL); choosing three of each is a requirement of the IB.

The three elements of the IB Diploma core are covered within the six subjects as well as in stand-alone sessions and independent study. These core elements help pupils to develop key skills which will help them to succeed in Higher Education and in the world of work. The TOK course spans several subjects, and is designed to encourage pupils to question how they learn. The CAS element enables pupils to complete a wide variety of extra-curricular community service. The EE introduces pupils to the demands and rewards of independent and in depth study – emphasis is placed on undertaking personal research and communicating ideas effectively in order to write a 4,000 word essay on an area of personal interest.

How many exams are there?

The IB is assessed using a range of Internal and External Assessments (coursework) and Exams depending on the subjects chosen. All subjects in Groups 1-5 have coursework components as well as final exams. Group 6 Arts (not electives) is assessed primarily through a range of coursework which is both Internally and Externally assessed.  

How is the Diploma graded?

Each of the six Diploma subjects is awarded a points score between one and seven. The EE and TOK courses are combined to give a further three points. Pupils must earn a minimum of 24 points (out of a possible 45 points) on the final assessment (externally marked), in order to receive the full Diploma certificate.

How does the IB compare to A levels?

Unlike A Levels, the Diploma does not limit pupils to studying three (or four) subjects, and the IB also provides a coherent programme of study incorporating the pupils’ six chosen subjects alongside all of the core elements outlined above.

Do universities recognise the IB?

All UK and US universities recognise the value of the IB Diploma as preparation for Higher Education, and details of universities’ standard entry requirements can be found on their individual websites or on UCAS Course Search. Universities have extensive experience of welcoming Diploma pupils onto their courses and appreciate the breadth of skills IB students bring to Higher Education institutions, and the success they have in transitioning from school to university.

How does the Diploma prepare pupils for university?

The IB Diploma prepares pupils for successful transition to Higher Education through the breadth of its curriculum, which develops key skills needed to thrive in Higher Education, such as research, inquiry, independent study, analysis and critical thinking. In 2016, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published a report comparing the outcomes of IB Diploma and A Level pupils in higher education, and demonstrated that IB pupils make excellent progress at university. In particular, the report shows:

Do you have to be good at Mathematics to study the IB?

All IB students following the Diploma Programme will choose to study Maths in Group 5 at Higher Level or Standard Level from the Applications and Interpretation course; the Standard Level course includes an extra non-examined unit on Vectors making this a suitable course for all German Universities. Their choice of level will very much depend on prior learning, and future career choices. The course will last two years with a terminal examination consisting of two papers at the end of IB2. In addition, they also complete an internal assessment that counts towards 20% of their final grade. The Standard Level course is designed to be accessible to all whereas the Higher Level course is for those with more fluency in the subject.

What kind of pupil makes a good IB candidate?

The Diploma is a rigorous but rewarding course of study for motivated pupils. A pupil’s dedication to study, willingness to be organised in order to complete the required work, and strong commitment to learning in and beyond the classroom, while managing to lead a balanced life, is a success indicator for prospective IB pupils.