The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB)

The Diploma Programme was set up in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organisation and is a leading, international qualification as well as a symbol of academic excellence that is recognised by universities and governments throughout the world. The Diploma Programme involves a strong commitment to learning, both in terms of mastery of subject content and in developing wide ranging skills. It offers a two-year course of study designed for highly motivated and well-organised Sixth Form students with an emphasis on learning and not just passing exams.

The aims of the IB Programme include:

• The development of thinking skills and the capacity to reflect upon and evaluate actions critically

• The education of the whole person, emphasising intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth

• The promotion of international understanding

What are the subject areas in the Diploma?

The IB Diploma programme involves the study of subjects chosen from each of the six groups:

Group 1: Language/Literature (usually your native tongue)

Group 2: A second language (another modern language)

Group 3: Individuals and Society (Economics, Geography, History, Psychology)

Group 4: Experimental Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)

Group 5: Mathematics

Group 6: The Arts

There is a wide choice of subjects on offer and students select three to be studied at Higher Level and three at Standard Level.

How do universities regard the IB Diploma?

The IB Diploma is internationally recognised as a rigorous pre-university qualification and universities in the UK and abroad accept that the programme goes beyond the academic disciplines, with considerable candidate achievement across the subjects, together with the Theory of Knowledge, extended essay and CAS. The flexibility in choice of subjects within the Diploma programme allows students to pursue areas of personal interest and to meet any special requirements for university entrance. Those students who have studied the IB Diploma Programme are regarded as having developed the skills for independent study to a high level and are exceptionally well prepared for Higher Education as well as employment. Universities will usually ask for a points score for entry.  (

The Extended Essay

This is a supervised assignment on a topic that students choose for themselves. The topic must be chosen from one of the IB subjects but does not have to be in a subject which you are studying for the Diploma. It should take about 40 hours in total and may be experimental or library research based. Students should choose a subject that is both interesting and challenging but one that can be examined in depth. A teacher supervisor will give the student guidance and advice on the research and presentation of the essay. The maximum length is 4000 words. The processes of research and writing develop important skills that will be good preparation for university.

Theory of Knowledge

The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) aspect of the International Baccalaureate is fundamental to the way the whole Diploma course operates. TOK comes into the way each subject in every one of the six groups is taught. In addition there will be two timetabled periods per week dedicated to discussion and development of ideas. The main theme of TOK is a questioning approach. Knowledge and “known facts” are considered – are they true, and can we be sure that they are true? Contemporary issues, moral and ethical issues, and some issues which have been around for centuries will all be debated. Students may have a certain leaning towards one subject more than another. Teachers will obviously have a leaning to their specialist subject. This will affect how individuals approach TOK. Mathematicians will “know” things in a very different way to historians. Throughout the course students will study the way in which a number of different subject areas approach “truth”. The areas are Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Religious Systems, Indigenous Systems, Arts and Ethics. The assessment for this section of the IB Diploma will be in two parts. The first is an essay – the choice of titles is given by the IB. Students will also have to prepare, give and evaluate a presentation for the rest of the class on a topic of their choice, assessed by the teacher.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

The International Baccalaureate Programme was designed to meet the needs of a well-rounded student. The Creative, Active, and Service (CAS) requirements encourage IB students to excel in non-academic pursuits. Successful completion of CAS is a requirement for the award of the IB Diploma. The CAS programme formally begins at the start of the Diploma Programme and continues regularly, ideally on a weekly basis, for at least 18 months with a reasonable balance between creativity, activity, and service.

All CAS students are expected to maintain and complete a CAS portfolio as evidence of their engagement with CAS. The CAS portfolio is a collection of evidence that showcases CAS experiences and for student reflections; it is not formally assessed.  Completion of CAS is based on student achievement of the seven CAS learning outcomes. Through their CAS portfolio, students provide the school with evidence demonstrating achievement of each learning outcome.

Students engage in CAS experiences involving one or more of the three CAS strands. A CAS experience can be a single event or may be an extended series of events. Further, students undertake a CAS project of at least one month’s duration that challenges students to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance, and develop skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and decision-making.