International Baccalaureate Program

The IB Diploma Programme

The Diploma Programme is a challenging two-year programme of international education for students aged 16 to 19.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is a challenging two-year curriculum, primarily aimed at students aged 16 to 19. It leads to a qualification that is widely recognized by the world's leading universities.

Students learn more than a collection of facts. The Diploma Programme prepares students for university and encourages them to:

  • ask challenging questions
  • learn how to learn
  • develop a strong sense of their own identity and culture
  • develop the ability to communicate with and understand people from other countries and cultures.

Schools teach the programme in English, French and/or Spanish.

The Diploma Programme is one of three programmes offered by the IB.

What is in the curriculum?

The curriculum contains six subject groups together with a core made up of three separate parts.

This is illustrated by a hexagon with the three parts of the core at its centre.

Students study six subjects selected from the subject groups. Normally three subjects are studied at higher level (courses representing 240 teaching hours), and the remaining three subjects are studied at standard level (courses representing 150 teaching hours).

All three parts of the core - extended essay, theory of knowledge and creativity, action, service - are compulsory and are central to the philosophy of the Diploma Programme.

What are the three core requirements?

The three core requirements are:

  • extended essay
  • theory of knowledge
  • creativity, activity, service.

All Diploma Programme students must engage in these three activities.

Extended essay

The extended essay has a prescribed limit of 4,000 words. It offers the opportunity to investigate a topic of individual interest, and acquaints students with the independent research and writing skills expected at university.

Theory of knowledge (TOK)

The interdisciplinary TOK course is designed to provide coherence by exploring the nature of knowledge across disciplines, encouraging an appreciation of other cultural perspectives.

Creativity, action, service (CAS)

Participation in the school's CAS programme encourages students to be involved in artistic pursuits, sports and community service work, thus fostering students' awareness and appreciation of life outside the academic arena.

How are students assessed?

At the end of the two-year programme, students are assessed both internally and externally in ways that measure individual performance against stated objectives for each subject.

Internal assessment

In nearly all subjects at least some of the assessment is carried out internally by teachers, who mark individual pieces of work produced as part of a course of study. Examples include oral exercises in language subjects, projects, student portfolios, class presentations, practical laboratory work, mathematical investigations and artistic performances.

External assessment

  • Some assessment tasks are conducted and overseen by teachers without the restrictions of examination conditions, but are then marked externally by examiners. Examples include world literature assignments for language A1, written tasks for language A2, essays for theory of knowledge and extended essays.
  • Because of the greater degree of objectivity and reliability provided by the standard examination environment, externally marked examinations form the greatest share of the assessment for each subject.

The grading system is criterion based (results are determined by performance against set standards, not by each student's position in the overall rank order); validity, reliability and fairness are the watchwords of the Diploma Programme's assessment strategy.

Do universities recognize the IB diploma?

The IB diploma is widely recognized by the world's leading universities.

The IB works closely with universities in all regions of the world to gain recognition for the IB diploma. To aid this process, university admissions officers and government officials have direct online access to all syllabuses and recent examinations.

To assist IB diploma students in making appropriate choices, the organization holds a database containing contact details of universities around the world together with up-to-date information about their requirements for admission.

Students applying to a particular university may also grant permission for their grades to be accessed directly from the IB's secure website.

Who can offer the programme?

Only schools authorized by the IB as IB World Schools can offer the Diploma Programme.

The authorization process, which may take two or more years, consists of two phases.

  • Feasibility study and identification of resources

    The school makes an in-depth analysis of the philosophy and curriculum, and identifies the resources needed to deliver it.

  • School visit

    On receipt of a formal application to teach the programme, a delegation appointed by the IB visits the school and reports on the school's capacity to deliver the programme. If the outcome is positive, the school becomes authorized to offer the programme and attains the status of IB World School.

The school's delivery of the programme is evaluated by the IB every five years after authorization.

Are teachers trained to teach the programme?

Training is offered to both new and experienced teachers.

Teachers may develop their professional expertise by:

  • participating in IB teacher-training workshops
  • attending regional conferences organized by the IB
  • participating in online discussion and special events on the IB's website for teachers, the online curriculum centre (OCC)
  • reviewing relevant support materials published by the IB online and/or in print
  • responding to appeals from the IB for teachers to participate in other curriculum-related activities (eg curriculum reviews, collecting samples of student work)
  • applying to become an IB examiner for the purpose of moderating internally assessed student work, marking examination papers or marking work submitted by students (eg extended essays)
  • applying to become an IB workshop leader.

Source: International Baccalaureate Organization