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The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program

Updated on October 25, 2015


The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is the most prominent component of the International Baccalaureate (IB) educational foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland. This program focuses on providing high school students all over the world with 2 years of intense, university-level education for grades 11 and 12. Although the IBDP is similar to the US-based Advanced Placement program, it has higher recognition abroad, and is praised for providing students with an open-minded and sophisticated “international” education.

The IB program is also held in very high regard by most of the world’s universities. In order to attend the program, prospective students have to be attending an IB school (i.e. a high school with an IB department), and usually undergo an interview with the head of the department, in order to ensure that they are ready for the rigorous nature of the program.


The IBDP focuses on two major areas: 3 core requirements and 6 subject groups. The 3 core requirements are the Extended Essay (essay of up to 4,000 words on one of the approved subjects), the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, which includes 100 hours of instruction on the nature and limitations of knowledge, and a 150 hour CAS (creativity, action, service) requirement, which focuses on community involvement.

The 6 subject groups are more open-ended, and allow students to have some choice. The only requirement for the subjects is that students must take a minimum of 3 or 4 higher level (HL) courses. Higher level courses differ from their standard level counterparts in difficulty and amount of work.

Group 1: language: this is usually the native language of the school, i.e. English.

Group 2: Second Language: students have a large choice of secondary languages they can pursue. Spanish and French are popular choices.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies: this group contains a number of subjects, ranging from Geography to Economics.

Group 4: Experimental Sciences: as the title suggests, this group focuses on the sciences, with courses like Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science: this group includes various math courses and a computer science course.

Group 6: Arts: this group includes Music, Theatre, Visual Art, and Film.

Grading System

Students in the IBDP are assessed on a scale of 1 to 7, both for how well they do in their courses, and on their final IB exams. A 7 is considered to be a very high mark, whereas a 5 is good and 4 satisfactory. In addition to these grades, 3 more points are attainable with a good Extended and TOK essays, the maximum number of points thus being 45. The minimum to graduate with the diploma is 24.

Course Work/Load

The amount of course work in the IBDP is quite high; as the foundation states, the program is designed to emulate first year university. Homework is assigned practically every day for all subjects, and there is a large number of projects, essays, and other assignments which all meet university standards in difficulty and sophistication.


Although the program is difficult and time-consuming, it does provide significant advantages.

Doing well in courses allows you to get transfer credit in college/university

All major universities accept transfer requests for IB courses, provided you achieved a good grade (typically a 5 or higher). This means having to take fewer university courses, and spending less money. For example, if you get a 5 in Geography and a 6 in English, you can get direct or unassigned transfer credit for these courses at your post-secondary institution.

You prepare yourself for university

This works twofold: not only do you learn the material taught in first year university, but you also get used to the workload required in order to succeed at a post-secondary institution. Constant note-taking, essays, projects, presentations and other assignments emulate the situation you are put in at university.

You get priority over other students in post-secondary applications

As the IB program is quite prestigious, it grants you a higher “status” than students who complete normal high school curriculums.

If you do well you get access to IB scholarships

Getting a mark of 6 or higher in most of your subjects and doing well on essays gives you a good chance of being considered for various post-secondary IB scholarships.

You get an international education and open your mind to the world

This may sound cheesy, but it is quite true. TOK in particular allows you to learn about major issues, problems, and ideas of the world. IB provides its students with an open-minded, bias-free perspective of the world and its issues.


Although there may be small, one-time fees for something like a field trip, the IBDP is otherwise completely free.


The most significant disadvantage of the IB diploma program is the amount of work you have to put into it in order to succeed. Students who are struggling in the normal curriculum should not join the IB Program, as you may very well find yourself unable to even graduate.

The IB program is for those who take their education very seriously; while this doesn’t mean that only “nerds” join the IBDP, it does however require good grades and some interest in your education. If you do not apply yourself, you may end up actually shrinking your post-secondary opportunities through the program, rather than expanding them.


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    • profile image

      Ravi Kr 

      2 years ago

      The IB Diploma Programme prepares students for success in higher education and life in a global society. It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students. If you're looking for a holistic education that nurtures students to be open-minded, socially responsible, risk-takers and critical thinkers.

      The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at The Shri Ram School, Moulsari campus is the perfect choice!

      For more details please visit at:

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi,am in my last year of highschool(Kenyan system) I normally get grades such as Bs without barely reading.Is there a chance of me surviving in IBDP because besides being hardworking most of the times,I tend to be lazy?

    • profile image

      Pranav Mehta 

      5 years ago

      Hey Tsion,

      I'm moving to Denmark and am on the lookout for free IB schools in the country. Which school do you study at?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      == ib cost 600$ and I'm in Canada

    • profile image

      Tsion Aklilu 

      6 years ago

      well, Denmark is the right place if you are looking for a free study in the IB programme... I am studying here in Denmark and yes you don't really have to pay for anything, excpet of some minor stuffs like a school trip.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      "The IBDP does NOT cost any money; yes, there are some minor payments, for instance payment for an IB field trip, but outside of that, it is completely free." In Asia, to enroll your child into the school with IB program, the school fee is sky hight! Which country offer IB program and yet cost nothing? Please let me know which country?

    • profile image

      Samwel Emmanuel 

      6 years ago

      thanks for the description!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Sandeep Kumar 

      7 years ago

      I got offer for teaching physics to IBDP students of class XI. The course contents are insignificant. One can not even imagine to qualify Engineering and Medical entrance exams. Neither there is thrill in teaching nor in the students to study. The Indian Educational Board have much better contents. The approach of IB is good but contents are poor. No Engg /med aspirant in my knowledge is opting for IB. The projects submitted by IB stdents in my knowledge were fake with manipulated fake results. The students use Scientific calculators excessively with understanding the sense of what the calc is doing . I say, this course should be allowed only to D graders in INDIA though in reality only those students are choosing it. The books for IB were of poor quality and very costly.The other international BOOKs in Phy like Halliday, Resnick, Krane or Univ. Phy. are far better and low priced in INDIA but they are much above IBs High Level. Don't follow it in India if you wanna be Engineer or Doctor.

    • gypsumgirl profile image


      7 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

      Great hub! You were very realistic in describing the IB program. As an elementary principal who just got authorized for the PYP, I am a huge supporter of providing students with an IB education. I brought the IB vision to my building four years ago. I am a DP graduate and found that it was one of the most grueling, yet satisfying experiences ever!

      Thanks, again, for a great hub!


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