Curricula and Subject Selection • Pre-College Advising

What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme?

POSTED ON 10/21/2022 BY The Red Pen

What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme? | The Red Pen

Since 1976, there have been schools that have offered Indian students the opportunity to study the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Now, it is offered at about 205 schools across the country. The influx of IB schools has led to confusion among many parents and students about which curriculum is better for grades 11 and 12. However, before you or your child decide to make the switch, it is important to fully understand what the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) is and who would thrive in this environment.

What do I need to know about the IBDP?

Designed in 1968, in Switzerland by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, the IB aims to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable, confident, and caring young people. [It] empower[s] school-aged students to take ownership in their own learning and help them develop future-ready skills to make a difference and thrive in a world that changes fast.”

The IB curriculum is divided into four programmes and follows students from ages three to 19. The programmes are:

  1. Primary Years Programme (PYP)
  2. Middle Years Programme (MYP)
  3. Diploma Programme (DP)
  4. Career-related Programme (CP)

The IBDP is aimed at students in the last two years of high school, in grades 11 and 12 and is recognised by universities worldwide. It enables you to:

  • Gain in-depth knowledge
  • Have a holistic education that focuses not only on intellect but also on physical, emotional and ethical growth
  • Choose the level at which you want to study
  • Learn time-management, critical thinking and other soft skills

What is the IBDP curriculum?

The IBDP curriculum is broken up into subject groups and the DP core.

IBDP subjects groups

Group Subjects offered Key skills developed
Group 1
Studies in language and literature
  • Langage A: literature (55 languages offered)
  • Language A: language and literature (16 languages offered)
  • Critical thinking by studying a variety of texts, including different periods and styles
  • Self-expression through written and oral assignments
  • Deep appreciation for cultures, languages and literature
Group 2
Language acquisition
  • Language B (23 languages offered)
  • Language ab initio (12 languages offered)
  • Classical languages (2 languages offered)
  • Knowledge of a new language Appreciation of different cultures
Group 3
Individuals and societies
  • Business and management
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Information technology in a global society
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Social and cultural anthropology
  • World religions (SL only)
  • Environmental systems and societies
  • An understanding of human behaviour, including physical, economic and social nuances
  • Analytical and evaluation skills by examining theories, concepts and arguments
Group 4
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Design technology
  • Environmental systems and societies
  • Sports, exercise and health science (SL only)
  • An understanding of the scientific method
  • Awareness of science’s environmental, social and ethical implications
Group 5
  • Mathematics: analysis and approaches SL
  • Mathematics: analysis and approaches HL
  • Mathematics: applications and interpretation SL
  • Mathematics: applications and interpretation HL
  • Mathematical theory and concepts
  • Logical, critical and creative thinking
  • Analytical skills by understanding its role in cultural and historical perspectives
Group 6
The arts
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts
  • Dance
  • Film
  • Literature and performance
  • Nuances of each discipline
  • Critical thinking and reflective skills through art theory

IBDP core

The DP core is mandatory for all students. It consists of:

1) Extended Essay (EE):

The EE is an independent piece of research on a subject about which you are passionate. Through the EE, you will develop your research and communication skills, while also teaching you how to develop a strong argument and analyse and evaluate data and text. Throughout this process, you will be guided by a supervisor, who is a part of the faculty.

2) Theory of Knowledge (TOK):

TOK is “a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge.” It requires you to reflect and question everything you know. Through discussions, you will expand your understanding of different thought processes and cultures, teach you how to express your personal thoughts and ideologies and mould you into a thinker.

3) Creativity, activity and service (CAS):

To ensure that your education is holistic, the IBDP ensures that you are involved in a range of activities alongside your academic studies.

  • Creativity refers to the arts and any critical thinking experience
  • Activity deals with sports and other physical actions
  • Service is all about volunteering

Each category requires 50 hours for a total of 150 hours accumulated over the span of two years. CAS helps to develop collaboration, self-determination and respect for all life.

How do I choose my subjects?

Under the IBDP, you must take one course from each group. However, you can opt to study an additional course from group 3 or 4, instead of a course in the arts. This means that if you want to study business and economics, you can. Or if you want to study biology and chemistry, that option is available to you. Remember that your choice will be limited based on what your school offers.

Subjects need to be taken in a combination of two levels: Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL). You need to opt for three or, at the most, four HL subjects and the rest at SL. While HL and SL courses may differ in scope, they are graded similarly. Just because you are studying a subject at SL, it does not make it less rigorous – it just means it is less detailed. You will still need to demonstrate your understanding and skills.

In general, HL courses comprise 240 teaching hours as opposed to the 150 teaching hours allocated for SL courses.

When selecting a course, you should ideally opt for ones that are aligned with your future goals. For example, if you’re planning a career in engineering, taking HL courses in physics, chemistry and the mathematics would be your best choice. Alternately, for a career in Medicine, HL chemistry and biology is your best option.

What are the assessments?

Each IBDP subject has its own internal and external assessments, culminating in a written examination at the end of two years. External assessments could include essays, short and long-form questions, problems, case studies or multiple-choice questions. Internal assessments include oral presentations, fieldwork, laboratory work or artistic performances.

In addition, TOK is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay, EE culminates into a 4,000-word research paper and CAS, though not formally assessed, requires you to detail your reflections in a CAS project.

How is the IBDP graded?

Each IBDP course is graded from 7 to 1, with 7 being the highest, for a total of 45. To receive a diploma, you must achieve an overall score of at least 24 across the six subjects, with at least 12 points from the HL subjects (4 in each) and 9 points from the SL subjects (3 in each). The three additional points are obtained through your EE and TOK.

TOK and EE are graded on an A-E scale, with A being the highest. The combination of the two grades determines the number of additional points received, between 0-3 points.

The bands refer to:
A – work of an excellent standard
B – work of a good standard
C –work of a satisfactory standard
D – work of a mediocre standard
E – work of an elementary standard

What is the IB Certificate?

It is not mandatory for IB students to enrol for the diploma programme. Instead, they can study individual subjects of their choosing and receive IB certificates instead. Certificate and diploma students study together and do the same coursework. However, opting for IB certificates can significantly limit your university choices.

Students who do not opt for the IBDP will also have to take only one of the core components – either TOK, EE or CAS.

What kind of learner is best suited for the IB?

Through the IBDP you will be exposed to various subjects and disciplines. Apart from this, the curriculum allows you to develop strong interpersonal and lifelong skills including critical thinking, research, problem-solving and community engagement.

So, if you are seeking an experiential learning environment and have multiple interests, the IBDP is a good option for you.

How will the IBDP make students successful at university?

Unlike other curricula, which require students to dive-deep into a few subjects, the IBDP encourages students to take various courses from distinct disciplines. This allows them to gain a holistic education. As you select courses from core subjects, you experience learning material across the board; a quality that universities look for in their applicants.

Moreover, the IBDP fosters strong independent research and community engagement. It equips you with the tools to deal with demanding content and workload and helps you cultivate strong time management skills, which are transferable outside the classroom walls.

The IBDP is not the only option if you want to apply to a foreign university. You can study other curricula and still get accepted into the university of your choice as long as you have the right profile.

How will the IBDP prepare students for real-world experiences?

The entirety of the IB encourages students to develop a holistic understanding of the intersection between academia and real-world experiences. Through the combination of subjects, students gain the ability to translate their learning into various skill sets, from strong communication skills, to research skills, and even self-management skills. Students develop the ability to deepen their level of inquiry in a variety of global issues and sociocultural contexts through learning created through empathy. The IB aims to develop students who embody traits of the IB learner profile: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective.