|IB-001| What is the IB program? – International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Hello Exam Seekers,

If you are either a student or a teacher, stay tuned because today, I am demystifying the famous IB, known as the International Baccalaureate program.

When enrolled in a school, many students worldwide are told that they will have to study under the IB program, and even though it is explained to them, it is still hard to understand how it really works. As for the teachers, I’m sure many of you have come across job positions that require “experience with IB”, am I right? Then you asked yourself: what is it, and how can I have experience with it?

It’s been a while since I wanted to talk about this subject here, but I didn’t have enough knowledge about it to share with you. Today, I decided to get some studies done and finally talk about the IB. By the end of this text, you will be able to say that you know what IB is and how it works.

IB International Baccalaureate
International Baccalaureate

What is the IB – International Baccalaureate?

IB stands for International Baccalaureate. It is formerly known as the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), a nonprofit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. They offer four educational programs:

  • Teens aged 16-19:
    • DP: the IB Diploma Programme;
    • the IB Career-related Programme.
  • Teens aged 11-16:
    • MYP: the IB Middle Years Programme.
  • Kids aged 3-12:
    • PYP: the IB Primary Years Programme.

To teach these programs, schools must be authorized by the International Baccalaureate. Founded in 1968, the organization’s name and logo were changed in 2007 to reflect new structural arrangements. Now, “IB” may refer to the organization itself, to any of the four programs, or the diploma or to the certificates awarded at the end of a program.

The Diploma Programme is the most popular. It prepares high school students to enter university. Let’s dig into it.

How does the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme work?

It takes about 2 years for teens aged 16-19 to complete the program. It offers internationally recognized qualifications to enter higher education, and it is recognized by many universities worldwide. It is used in 140 countries, and it’s taught in English, French, or Spanish.

The IB Curriculum is based on the IB learner profile, which compiles 10 traits that students will develop throughout their coursework:

IB Learner Profile - IB TRAITS
IB Learner Profile – IB TRAITS

They are Reflective, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced, Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Principled, Thinkers, Communicators, and Open-minded. And these traits will be developed by different assessments, for example:

A requirement for a Group 4: Experimental Science class aimed at analyzing the nature of science and scientific inquiry will help students develop traits of inquiry, communicators, and open-mindedness. For other assignments, students might be asked to complete a reflection document throughout the process which will help students develop traits of a reflective student.

The 6 Study Groups / IB Curriculum

There are six categories (or groups of study):

  • Group 1: Language and Literature – it involves studying literature and aspects of the student’s native language (L1/LA);
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition – it involves learning a new language, including Latin and classic Greek (L2/LB);
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies – it involves courses focused on humanities and social sciences with classes such as economics, geography, history, business, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and information technology;
  • Group 4: Experimental Science – it involves classes such as biology, chemistry, physics, design technology, and computer science.
  • Group 5: Mathematics – it involves 4 math courses;
  • Group 6: The Arts – it is elective because students can choose from dance, foreign language, music, theater, visual arts, and movies, or waive this group and choose another from the previous groups.

Students are required to take:

  • 3 HL (Higher-Level) subjects: college-level courses focused on analytical and critical thought about the subject. Each HL course takes 240 hours of learning.
  • 3 SL (Standard-Level) subjects: high-school-level-of-difficulty course focused on a greater breadth of the subject area. Each SL course takes 150 hours of learning.

IB Curriculum Structure
IB Curriculum Structure

In addition to the 6 IB classes, students will take 3 core classes: Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity Action and Service (CAS), and Extended Essay (EE).

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK) examines how we know what we know, how we perceive the world around us, and make us question what truth is.
    • Content:
      • Ways of Knowing (WOK): how we take information and process it into knowledge;
      • Areas of Knowledge (AOK): how we have categorized knowledge.
    • Assessment:
      • Presentation graded by the teacher;
      • Essay sent abroad to be corrected by an IB examiner.
  • Creativity Action Service (CAS) extra requirement beyond the students IB academics to ensure that students are well-rounded.
    • Creativity: artistic skills;
    • Action: exercise;
    • Service: volunteering.
  • Extended Essay (EE) is a 4000-word research paper (similar to a senior thesis).
    • Content: students choose the subject and the topic;
    • Grading: a teacher from the students’ school will be their tutor (supervisor), and the paper will be sent abroad for 2 IB examiners to assess.

Both Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Extended Essay (EE) are graded on an A-E scale, with A being the best score and E being a failure. Creativity Action Service (CAS) is not graded. Then the two scores from TOK and EE are averaged and students will get a maximum score of 3 points.

Papers with grades: As and Bs

Internal and External Assessment and Grading System

Each of the 6 subjects students have to take will have at least one Internal Assignment (IA) with different requirements and different formats. They may vary from essays and reports to presentations and group conversations.

Teachers from each subject will assess students’ IA, then a few of these IAs will be sent to a trained IB grader who will assess how well the students’ regular teacher graded to the IB standards. If the teacher is too harsh in the correction, the moderator raises the students’ and their group’s scores. If the teacher grades too easily, the moderator will lower the group’s and the students’ scores. This is called the moderation process.

There are also External Assessed Exams (or Papers) for each class. They vary in quantity (paper 1, paper 2, or paper 3) and format. Students’ exams will be sent outside the school (or even abroad) to an IB examiner called Reader who will use a mark scheme to assess the students’ exams.

Each subject’s total scores are a sum of the Internal Assignments (30% of the grade) and the External Exams (70% of the grade) on a 1-7 scale.

The final score is a sum of the points you got for each of the 6 subjects, and the averaged points of the TOK and the EE. You must have at least 24 points (out of 45 points) to earn the diploma.

IB Grading System
IB Grading System

There are, however, some RULES to get the diploma:

  • Can’t fail EE or TOK;
  • Can’t fail CAS (even though it’s not graded);
  • Can’t have scores of a 1;
  • Can’t have any 2s in HL classes;
  • Can’t have more than one 2 in SL classes;
  • Can’t have more than three 3s in HL and SL classes;
  • You must have at least 12 points in HL classes;
  • You must have at least 9 points in SL classes.

Well, this is an overview of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. If you want some more information about it, check the IBO.com website, check some books about IB, or comment in the comment section to ask for more.


That’s it for today! Please like the post and follow the blog on:

You can also listen to this post at Anchor!!!

Have a great week,
Patricia Moura


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