IB Subject overview

The IB Diploma program offers a range of subjects similar to other qualifications at this level. The key difference in how the IB Diploma programme works is that six subjects must be selected from six different categories. One subject must be chosen from each of the categories apart from group six (the arts) which can be substituted for any other subject in any of the other categories.

IB Diploma Subject Structure

Before discussing the groups of subjects that are available it is worth drawing a distinction between subjects taken at Higher Level (“HL”) and subjects taken at Standard Level (“SL”). In order to be awarded the IB Diploma certificate, three of the six subjects must be at HL. It is possible to perform more than three subjects at HL although this is the minimum requirement. Subjects at HL are typically significantly harder than subjects at SL and may require up to 50% more teaching time.

Six subjects from five or six groups:

The IB Diploma program puts all of the academic subjects that it allows students to take into six categories. One subject must be chosen from each of these groups with the exception of group 6 which can be substituted with a subject in any of the other five groups. The six categories and the subjects that they contain are as follows:

Group 1:

Studies in language and literature – Students must study at least one language at level A. This is typically performed in the student’s mother tongue and can be performed at higher level or standard level.

Group 2:

Language acquisition – Students must also study a second language alongside the language that they chose in group one. This must be a separate language to the one picked in group one and can be studied at either B level (intermediate) or ab initio (beginner). B languages are available at SL or HL but ab initio is only available at SL.

Group 3:

Individuals and societies – This particular group has a list of nine different subjects that can be chosen and are roughly equivalent to the humanities subjects. Each can be studied at HL or SL apart from World Religions which can only be studied at SL.

  • Business and management
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Information technology in a global society
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Social and cultural anthropology
  • World religions

Group 4:

Experimental sciences – This particular group has six different subjects that can be chosen with a number of additions to the traditional biology, chemistry and physics. Each can be studied at either HL or SL.

  • Biology
  • Computer science
  • Chemistry
  • Design technology
  • Physics
  • Environmental systems and societies

Group 5:

Mathematics and Computer Science – It is obligatory to study one of the mathematics course on the International baccalaureate. There are currently four different maths courses that are available which include:

  • Mathematical studies standard level
  • Mathematics standard level
  • Mathematics higher level
  • Further mathematics higher level

Group 6:

The arts – The last group of subjects is the arts which includes any of the following subjects that can be performed at higher level or standard level:

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Film
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts