What You Need to Know Before Pursuing an IB Diploma

By admin February 17, 2017 BS/MD Admissions Consulting International Baccalaureate

IB: the background story

Before you find out about the criteria for an IB diploma, you should know a little about how the International Baccalaureate (IB) was formed. IB was formed by a group of international educators with an aim to provide the best quality education possible to international students so that they could not only gain the required knowledge to go through the rigors of college education but also become complete human beings who excelled even outside classrooms.

The program was initially started in the mid-1960s in Geneva as a pilot project and finally culminated into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) in 1975. It is now offered in three full languages and partially in some other languages across the world. The three languages in which the diploma is offered at present are English, French, and Spanish. There are over 4000 IB schools across the world, which provide the full IBDP program, Primary Years Program and/or the Middle Years Program. Some schools also allow their students to take some courses rather than taking the entire diploma course. There are close to 900 IBDP schools in the United States alone.

The IBDP: a breakdown of requirements

IBDP is a challenging 2-year academic diploma program which high school students in the age group of 16-19 can undertake. It prepares them for academic excellence. It is a very rigorous course and even if you apply for the diploma, there is no guarantee that you would make it through until and unless, you fulfill certain scoring criteria that mark you in critical areas of human understanding and check your cognitive abilities.

If you are an IBDP aspirant, you will have to select 6 subjects in all, one from each subject group and within these, you will have to choose 3 HL (higher level) subjects and 3 SL (standard level) subjects. In addition, you will have to fulfill three core requirements. The higher level languages mandate 240 hours of instructional time while the standard level requires 150 hours of instructional teaching. The number of assessments for HL and SL subjects also varies. Not all subjects are however available both in HL and SL categories.

Mandatory Subject Groups

Group 1: English literature and grammar (for those who choose the English Language as their preferred mode of instruction)

Group 2: Language Acquisition (A foreign language which may include one of the classical languages like Latin or Greek)

Group 3: Individual and Societies (Humanities and Social Sciences and Business Management or Economics related courses)

Group 4: Experimental Science

Group 5: Mathematical Science

Group 6: Performing or visual Art

The Core

The core consists of three parts:

1. Theory of knowledge class

a. This class tries to teach students the nature and limitations of knowledge

2. Extended essay

a. This could be a mini-thesis on a topic or subject of your choice

3. Project on creativity, activity or service (CAS)

a. A subject that aims to develop character and physical growth.

The Grading Criteria

As a student, you will be required to score a minimum of 24 out of a possible 42. Your performance on every subject will be graded on a scale of 1-7 (7 being the highest) and you will also get a chance to earn three bonus points. Your performance will be graded by both internal teachers as well as external IB examiners.

You can get your extended essay evaluated by an authorized IB examiner, from within your school or outside. Remember, you will have to not only get the mandatory 24 points to be a diploma holder but also complete each of the tasks assigned in the core requirement area.


Getting an IB diploma becomes a life-changing experience for most people because colleges put weight on your IB education. Some colleges also offer extra credits or waive the requirement for taking some courses if you have an IB diploma. But most importantly, it makes you a responsible global citizen.