IB Overview What is IB?

Overview: What is the International Baccalaureate (IB)?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, mostly called the IB, is a course that students can do before they leave high school. There are other IB programmes: for primary years, middle school years, and for career preparation.

It is organised and administrated by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, then taught independently by schools. Sometimes schools offer it alongside other courses, while others use the IB as the whole framework for 2 years of teaching. It is highly regarded and widely taught around the world.


The IB comprises of 6 subjects. At least 3 of these are taken at Higher Level (HL), and usually then 3 at Standard Level (SL). SL subjects have roughly 60% of the teaching time of an HL subject.

For each subject, you are scored from 1-7, based on exams at the end of the 2 years and formally assessed coursework. The final grade is out of 45 points. This is made up of your grade out of 7 in the 6 subjects (with a maximum of 42 points) and then 3 points which you can score through the Extended Essay (EE) and Theory of Knowledge (ToK).

These 3 extra points can be obtained if you get an A in the EE and an A in ToK, or if you get an A or a B. If you get a B and a C or higher, you can get 2 points. Fuller information about these 3 points can be seen from the table below.

Tok/EE Bonus Points Matrix
From IBDP Assessment Procedures

There are guidelines for the subjects you have to take. You must take a subject from Groups 1 – 5, then you can take a subject from Group 6 or another subject from Groups 2, 3, or 4. There are no restrictions on whether you have to take any subjects at HL or SL.


  • Group 1 – Studies in Language and Literature (usually your native language)
  • Group 2 – Language acquisition (a new or second language)
  • Group 3 – Individuals and societies (including History, Geography, Psychology, Economics, Philosophy)
  • Group 4 – Sciences (including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Sports science, Computer science)
  • Group 5 – Mathematics (Applications and Interpretations OR Analysis and Approaches)
  • Group 6 – The arts (Dance, Music, Film, Drama, or Visual Arts)

Common acronyms

IBDP = International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. This is what ‘IB’ usually refers to. It is a course akin to a high school diploma, which facilitates access to further education or the workplace.

EE = Extended Essay. A 4000 word essay completed in a subject of your choice, researched and written at some point over your IBDP. This is assessed externally from A-E.

TOK = Theory of Knowledge. A course evaluating what knowledge is, types of knowledge, and how we know things. This is assessed through an essay and a presentation. This is assessed from A-E.

IAs = Internal Assessments. Coursework (non-exam assessments) which make up part of the final grade. These are internally assessed but may be moderated.

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  1. I decided to take three sciences and thus I didn’t need to take Economics. I took Biology HL, Chemistry HL, Physics SL. What are your views on this this and what advice do you have to offer for a student like me? Is there something really important I should remember? I know it is going to be challenging but I had to take 3 sciences due to unfortunate circumstances.

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