Diploma Programme

Preparing students for success in higher education and to be active participants in a global society. The IB Diploma Programme (DP) is an academically challenging and balanced programme of education with final examinations that prepares students, aged 16 to 19, for success at university and life beyond. It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students. The programme has gained recognition and respect from the world’s leading universities.

The Diploma Programme prepares students for effective participation in a rapidly evolving and increasingly global society as they:

  • Develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically.
  • Acquire breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding, studying courses from six subject groups.
  • Develop the skills and a positive attitude towards learning that will prepare them for higher education.
  • Study at least two languages and increase understanding of cultures, including their own.
  • Make connections across traditional academic disciplines and explore the nature of knowledge through the programme’s unique theory of knowledge course.
  • Undertake in-depth research into an area of interest through the lens of one or more academic disciplines in the extended essay.
  • Enhance their personal and interpersonal development through creativity, action and service.

The curriculum

IB Diploma Programme students must choose one subject from each of the five groups (1 to 5), ensuring breadth of knowledge and understanding in their best language, additional language(s), the social sciences, the experimental sciences and mathematics. Students must also choose either an arts subject from group 6, or a second subject from groups 1 to 5.

DP subjects can be taken at higher level or standard level.

At least three and not more than four subjects are taken at higher level (240 teaching hours), while the other subjects are taken at standard level (150 teaching hours). Students can study and take examinations, in English, French or Spanish.

Two DP subjects are classified as interdisciplinary subjects and so satisfy the requirements of more than one subject group:

  • Literature and performance – group 1 and group 6
  • Environmental systems – group 3 and group 4

In addition to disciplinary and interdisciplinary study, the Diploma Programme features three core elements that broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills.

The Diploma Programme core

  • The extended essay asks students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the DP subjects they are studying. The world studies extended essay option allows students to focus on a topic of global significance which they examine through the lens of at least two DP subjects.
  • Theory of knowledge develops a coherent approach to learning that unifies the academic disciplines. In this course on critical thinking, students inquire into the nature of knowing and deepen their understanding of knowledge as a human construction.
  • Creativity, action, service (CAS) involves students in a range of activities alongside their academic studies throughout the Diploma Programme. Creativity encourages students to engage in the arts and creative thinking. Action seeks to develop a healthy lifestyle through physical activity. Service with the community offers a vehicle for new learning with academic value. The three strands of CAS enhance students’ personal and interpersonal development through experiential learning and enable journeys of self-discovery.

Diploma Programme subject groups

Group 1 – Studies in language and literature

Language A: literature – 55 languages offered Language A: language and literature – 16 languages offered Literature and performance (also group 6) – 3 languages offered

Group 2 – Language acquisition
Language B –23 languages offered Language ab initio –12 languages offered Classical languages – 2 languages offered

Group 3 – Individuals and societies
– Business and management – Economics – Geography – History – Information technology in a global society – Philosophy – Psychology – Social and cultural anthropology – World religions (SL only) – Environmental systems and societies (also group 4)

Group 4 – Sciences
Biology – Chemistry- Design technology – Environmental systems and societies (also group 3) – Physics – Computer science – Sports, exercise and health science (SL only)

Group 5 – Mathematics
Mathematical studies SL – Further Mathematics HL – Mathematics SL – Mathematics HL

Group 6 – The arts
Music – Theatre – Visual arts – Dance – Film – Literature and performance (also group 1)


Students take written examinations at the end of the programme, which are marked by external IB examiners. Students also complete assessment tasks in the school, which are either initially marked by teachers and then moderated by external moderators or sent directly to external examiners.

The marks awarded for each course range from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest). Students can also be awarded up to three additional points for their combined results on theory of knowledge and the extended essay. The diploma is awarded to students who gain at least 24 points, subject to certain minimum levels of performance across the whole programme and to satisfactory participation in the creativity, action, service requirement. The highest total that a Diploma Programme student can be awarded is 45 points.

Assessment is criterion-related, which means student performance is measured against pre-specified assessment criteria based on the aims and objectives of each subject curriculum, rather than the performance of other students taking the same examinations. The range of scores that students have attained remains statistically stable, and universities value the rigour and consistency of Diploma Programme assessment practice.