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  • Writer's pictureAmelie Liu

Pursuing the IB Diploma

Haven’t heard of the IB Diploma? Simply curious or seriously considering taking the IB route? Here’s a run down of all the IB Program basics so you can feel confident in making the best judgement!

What is the IB Diploma?

The International Baccalaureate, or IB, program is a two-year course offered to high school students at specific schools around the world. If you are looking to pursue this diploma, first check to see if your student’s school offers this diploma option. The IB Diploma is more challenging than the standard and advanced diplomas high schools typically offer.

Diploma Course Requirements

In order to receive the IB Diploma, high school students must take a minimum of 3 High Level, or HL, classes and 3 Standard Level, or SL, classes. Based on how challenging these courses are, HL classes are typically compared to college classes with more analytical content while SL classes are compared to AP classes where the focus is much broader. The six groups or subjects students may choose out of consists of:

Group 1: Language and Literature (English or native language)

Group 2: Language Acquisition (Foreign Language)

Group 3: Individuals and Societies (Business, Economics, History, Psychology)

Group 4: Experimental Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.)

Group 5: Mathematics, Group 6 (optional): The Arts and Electives

Group 6 is optional, meaning the requirements for HL or SL courses can have repeats of the other 5 groups.*


HL: English (Group 1) SL: History (Group 3)

HL: Spanish (Group 2) SL: Math (Group 5)

HL: Physics (Group 4) SL: Chemistry (Group 4)

In addition to the HL and SL course requirements, students are expected to take a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course which includes an Extended Essay (EE) and CAS (Creative, Activity, Service). The Extended Essay is a ~4,000 word research paper on a subject from one of the 6 Groups, primarily student led with some teacher guidance. With CAS, students use reflections and evidence to display their well roundedness.


Excluding TOK and the Extended Essay, each course is graded on a 1-7 scale with 7 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. The TOK and the Extended Essay, combined, are worth 3 points. In order to receive the diploma, students must score at least a 24 out of the possible 45 points, without failing TOK or the EE.

Benefits of the IB Diploma

The IB Diploma helps students feel challenged in all areas, stretching one’s thinking academically and in real-world situations. The skills such as time management, planning, and out-of- the-box thinking are built for better preparation for student’s school careers extending from high school and into college. With the rigor the IB Diploma entails, colleges will recognize students’ well roundedness in taking multiple challenging courses. Additionally, for students seeking to attend college outside of the country, the IB Diploma is recognized internationally.

Is the IB Diploma the Right Fit?

Now knowing the general basics of the IB Program, how do you know if this diploma is something either you or your student wants to pursue? First, ask yourself a few questions:

1. What classes are you thinking of taking? Are there certain classes that are not a part of the IB curriculum that you have a strong interest in taking?

If the classes you are looking to take in the future align with most of the IB Diploma requirements, the diploma might be the right fit for you! However, because the diploma has the course requirement (3 HL, 3 SL, in addition to TOK), there is limited room in a student’s schedule which can prevent students from taking courses they strongly desire.

2. What classes are you currently taking? How are you performing in them?

If you are already challenging yourself with multiple difficult classes and Honors, you are starting to feel some of the IB rigor. However, if you are struggling, maybe the diploma is not the best fit.

3. How willing are you to take time outside of school to work on schoolwork?

Remember, many aspects of IB classes are student driven and require time outside of school to complete (possibly during the summer). Are you up for that?

If uncertainties still arise, arrange a meeting with your counselor or other students who have been through the IB Program. You can also reach out to us directly at, and our experts would be happy to share their advice.

Whatever decision you choose, we believe in you!

Let us know how we can help.

For more information, questions, or feedback, reach out to us!


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