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International Baccalaureate (IB)

International Baccalaureate

What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP)?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is an internationally recognized and accredited curriculum offered at many IB world schools during the students’ final two academic years. The IB Diploma has been designed to ensure students are well equipped for their transition to tertiary education worldwide, and life beyond academia.

How can we help?

At Feynman Education we understand how demanding the International Baccalaureate curriculum can be. We know that juggling IA’s for every subject alongside your extended essay and regular class assessments can be a lot to manage. But this is where we can help.

The intensity of your IB course can be lightened by scheduling regular sessions with our experienced tutors who will take time to explain complex ideas in bite-size, easily digestible chunks. Our tutors can provide revision tips and resources, help you to design an achievable revision schedule and help you to understand any of those more challenging concepts.

Frequently asked questions

How old are you when you begin to study the IB DP?

If you attend an IB world school or are looking to complete an IB qualification then you can choose either the diploma or career program in your final two years of secondary school (year 12 and 13 or grade 11 and grade 12) meaning most students begin this course at the age of 16.

How many subjects do you study and are there any compulsory subjects?

The DP requires students to study six subjects in total. Three of these are chosen to be taken at a higher level (HL) and the remaining 3 at a standard level (SL). The HL courses are designed to cover an expanse of topics in great depth requiring approximately 240 teaching hours. The SL courses follow a similar structure to HL but cover a reduced scope of subjects requiring only 150 teaching hours. Both SL and HL courses are marked through the same grade descriptors with students expected to demonstrate a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skill for subjects taken at the higher level.

Students are to choose one subject from each of the following categories:

  1. Language and literature – Including English Language, literature and performance
  2. Language acquisition – Including modern foreign languages such as Spanish or French and classical languages such as Latin
  3. Individuals and societies – Including Business management, geography etc.
  4. Sciences – Including biology, chemistry, physics, computer science etc.
  5. Mathematics – Where students choose between Application and Interpretation (AI) or Analysis and Approaches (AA)
  6. The arts – Including dance, music, film, visual arts etc.

If preferred students may decide to replace ‘the arts’ with an extra subject from one of the other categories, either individuals and societies, sciences or languages.

Are there any additional expectations aside from taking the subjects?

Alongside these 6 subjects you are also required to undertake the core of the DP which includes the following three sections:


  1. Creativity, activity and service (CAS): Students are required to take part in a variety of experiences spanning all three categories as well as the completion of at least one project of their choice (totalling at least 150 hours across the two year program). The project can be from any of the three categories and is chosen individually by the student, for example a creativity project for a musician could be to learn a challenging piece of music, alternatively working on a community based activity would classify as a service project.
    CAS hours are counted and verified by the institute/organisation where they take place and the project will be assessed by a school tutor.
  2. Theory of Knowledge (TOK): TOK is a mandatory course the students have to take to help them understand the origin of knowledge, how to verify evidence as well as how to apply theories to the real world. It is usually taken as a weekly lesson and is composed almost entirely of questions such as, “How do we know?”.
    It is assessed through an oral presentation as well as a 1600 word essay and helps students to appreciate diversity of perspectives.
  3. Extended Essay (EE): An extended essay is an independent piece of research on a relevant academic topic, largely at the choice of the student. Students are allocated an EE supervisor from school who will help with structure, communication of a variety of perspectives as well as the designing of an appropriate essay title.
    On compilation of the research students are required to complete a 4,000-word paper which is marked on a scale of 0-34 which are equated to a band from A to E (excellent to elementary standard).

All three of these sections make up the DP core and each contribute one point towards your final IB score. Please see “What is the IB grading system?” to understand more about the scoring system.

What is the difference between the IB Diploma Program and the IB Career Program?

The Diploma Program consists of six courses and three additional core elements; creativity, activity and service (CAS), theory of knowledge (TOK) and an extended essay (EE). The Diploma Program is a heavily academically focused course that requires students to be motivated, driven and organised to ensure optimal success. Alternatively, the Career program requires the students to choose a minimum of two academic subjects alongside a career focused core. The core consists of four components—service learning, personal and professional skills, language development and a reflective project. The career program would be highly suited to students who have already chosen a career specialization and would like to experience more of an interactive learning experience.

What is the difference between a diploma and a certificate?

A diploma is awarded to students who complete the above detailed requirements (six subjects as well as the DP core). If students decide not to follow the traditional diploma route they can select to complete the courses in subjects they have a particular interest or strength in. If this is the case the student will be awarded certificates on a course by course basis rather than being awarded a qualification for the full program. The certificates are still eligible for university credit but often universities will request additional qualifications alongside them.

Are there any prerequisites when choosing a course?

Every IB school or college will have its own specific set of requirements students need to fulfil before choosing a subject for either HL or SL. Furthermore, each category or subject will have its own grade requirements a student needs to obtain before selecting the level they wish to study, for example often the requirement to study mathematics HL is higher than the requirement to study a humanity at HL.


Generally, there is an expectation that students will have obtained either a B grade or level 6/7 at GCSE (or equivalent) in the subjects they are looking to take at a higher level. There may also be further conditions you need to consider when selecting your options. For example, when considering physics HL there will most likely be a minimum mathematics grade you will need to have achieved, and when choosing history there might be a minimum English Language grade the student needs to obtain. In these cases, please feel free to contact our consultants who can advise you further.

What is the IB grading system?

Each student will be awarded a mark out of 45 as their overall IB grade. They will be given an integer score up to 7 for each of their six subjects, giving a maximum of 42 possible academic points available. The student can then achieve an additional 3 points which are awarded based on their DP core performance (CAS, EE and TOK).

A pass is considered as scoring at least a 4 in each subject, resulting in a total score of 24 or more points.

How are you examined?

Both SL and HL courses are measured according to the same grade descriptors on a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 is the highest possible grade.

Your IB exams are moderated externally. Each subject will require all participating students to complete a number of examinations that are scheduled for specific times and dates during the examination period of May to June.

There is no option for your exams to be rescheduled to another day, if they are missed for any reason the student will need to apply to sit them during another examination period, usually November or the following January.

All IB results are released during the first week of July after they have been marked and moderated externally.

Who is most suited to studying the IB Diploma?

The IB diploma has been hailed as one of the best programs for encouraging a global outlook in students. Where A levels provide depth of knowledge, the IB diploma allows students the opportunity to obtain a greater breadth of knowledge by continuing to study 6 subjects, as opposed to narrowing down their choices to just three. It is an excellent choice for students who would like to keep their tertiary education options open and do not want to become too niche too early. The courses are designed to encourage independent equity as well as to nurture an open mind and develop subject expertise.


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