International Baccalaureate - Diploma Programme curriculum Programme model

The curriculum is modeled by a hexagon with six academic areas surrounding the three core requirements

Over the course of the two-year programme, students:

    • study six subjects chosen from the six subject groups

    • complete an extended essay

    • follow a theory of knowledge course (TOK)

    • participate in creativity, action, service (CAS).


    • three of the six subjects are studied at higher level (courses representing 240 teaching hours)

    • the remaining three subjects are studied at standard level (courses representing 150 teaching hours).

Subjects, other than languages, may be taught and examined in:

    • English

    • French

    • Spanish

    • There are pilot projects taking place in German and Chinese.

Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 1: language A1

It is a requirement of the programme that students study at least one subject from group 1.

Language A1 is the study of literature in a student’s first language, including the study of selections of world literature.

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) assesses student work as direct evidence of achievement against the stated goals of the Diploma Programme courses.

The Diploma Programme goals provide students with:

    • a broad and balanced, yet academically demanding, programme of study

    • the development of critical-thinking and reflective skills

    • the development of research skills

    • the development of independent learning skills

    • the development of intercultural understanding

    • a globally recognized university entrance qualification.

Diploma Programme assessment procedures measure the extent to which students have mastered advanced academic skills in fulfilling these goals, for example:

    • analysing and presenting information

    • evaluating and constructing arguments

    • solving problems creatively.

Basic skills are also assessed, including:

    • retaining knowledge

    • understanding key concepts

    • applying standard methods.

In addition to academic skills, Diploma Programme assessment encourages an international outlook and intercultural skills where appropriate.

Assessment tasks are designed to support and encourage good classroom teaching and learning.

Student results are determined by performance against set standards, not by each student's position in the overall rank order.

Forty five languages are regularly available at either higher level or standard level.

Other languages may be studied provided:

    • there is sufficient written literature available

    • a request is received by the IB well in advance of the examination period.

In studying their first language, students are able to develop:

    • a personal appreciation of the literature

    • skills in literary criticism

    • strong written and oral skills

    • respect for the literary heritage of their first language

    • an international perspective.

The range of texts studied in language A1 courses is broad, and students grow to appreciate a language’s complexity, wealth and subtleties in a variety of contexts. A specific aim is to engender a lifelong interest in literature and a love for the elegance and richness of human expression. In 2011, for first examinations in 2013, two new subjects will be offered in group 1; Language and literature, and Literature and performance. The latter is a subject meeting the group 1 and 6 requirements.

Group 2: Second language

It is a requirement of the programme that students study at least one subject from group 2.

The aim is to promote an understanding of another culture through the study of a second language. A large range of modern languages are available as well as two classical languages (Latin and Classical Greek).

The main emphasis of the modern language courses is on language acquisition and use in a range of contexts and for different purposes. Three options are available to accommodate students with different backgrounds.

    • Language ab initio courses are for beginners (that is, students who have no previous experience of learning the language they have chosen). These courses are only available at standard level.

    • Language B courses are intended for students who have had some previous experience of learning the language. They may be studied at either higher level or standard level.

    • Language A2 courses are designed for students who have a high level of competence in the language they have chosen. They include the study of both language and literature, and are available at higher level and standard level. Language A2 courses will be phased out in 2011 with final examinations offered in 2012.

Read about group 3: individuals and societies

Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 3: Individuals and societies

Students are required to choose one subject from each of the six academic areas, including one from group 3. They can choose a second from groups 1 – 5 instead of a group 6 subject.

Eight subjects are available:

    • business and management

    • economics

    • geography

    • history

    • information technology in a global society

    • philosophy

    • psychology

    • social and cultural anthropology.

All of these subjects may be studied at higher level or standard level.

A new course—world religions—will become a mainstream SL only course for first year teaching in September 2011, first examinations in May 2013. Please note that no candidates may be anticipated candidates during this period.

Studying any one of these subjects provides for the development of a critical appreciation of:

    • human experience and behaviour

    • the varieties of physical, economic and social environments that people inhabit

    • the history of social and cultural institutions.

In addition, each subject is designed to foster in students the capacity to identify, to analyse critically and to evaluate theories, concepts and arguments relating to the nature and activities of individuals and societies.

Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 4: Experimental sciences

It is a requirement of the programme that students study at least one subject from group 4.

Four subjects are available:

    • biology

    • chemistry

    • design technology

    • physics

    • Environmental systems and societies - which meets the group 3 and group 4 requirements (see additional subjecst section).

All of these subjects may be studied at higher level or standard level.

Students explore the concepts, theories, models and techniques that underpin each subject area and through these develop their understanding of the scientific method.

A compulsory project encourages students to appreciate the environmental, social and ethical implications of science. This exercise is collaborative and interdisciplinary and provides an opportunity for students to explore scientific solutions to global questions.

Sports, exercise and health science is a pilot subject at standard level. It will become a mainstream group 4 subject in 2012 with first examinations in 2014.

Read about group 5: mathematics and computer science

Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 5: Mathematics and computer science

It is a requirement of the programme that students study at least one course in mathematics; computer science is an elective.


Four courses in mathematics are available:

    • mathematical studies standard level

    • mathematics SL

    • mathematics higher level

    • further mathematics standard level which will become a higher level course in 2012 with first examinations in 2014.

These four courses serve to accommodate the range of needs, interests and abilities of students, and to fulfill the requirements of various university and career aspirations.

The aims of these courses are to enable students to:

    • develop mathematical knowledge, concepts and principles

    • develop logical, critical and creative thinking

    • employ and refine their powers of abstraction and generalization.

Students are also encouraged to appreciate the international dimensions of mathematics and the multiplicity of its cultural and historical perspectives.

Computer science

Computer science higher level or standard level, if chosen, must be studied in addition to a mathematics subject.

The aims of computer science are to develop an understanding of:

    • the range and organization of computer systems

    • the use of computers in a variety of disciplines, applications and contexts.

Read about group 6: the arts

Diploma Programme curriculum

Group 6: The arts

Students are required to choose one subject from each of the six academic areas, including one from group 6 although instead of a group 6 subject they can choose a second from groups 1 – 5.

Four subjects are available:

    • film

    • music

    • theatre

    • visual arts.

These subjects may be studied at higher level or standard level.

A new course—dance—will become a mainstream SL/HL course for first year teaching in September 2011, first examinations in May 2013. Please note that no candidates may be anticipated candidates during this period.

The subjects in group 6 allow a high degree of adaptability to different cultural contexts. The emphasis is on creativity in the context of disciplined, practical research into the relevant genres.

In addition, each subject is designed to foster critical, reflective and informed practice, help students understand the dynamic and changing nature of the arts, explore the diversity of arts across time, place and cultures and express themselves with confidence and competence.

Diploma Programme curriculum

Additional subjects

With approval from the IB, schools may also offer the following types of courses.

School-based syllabuses

A school-based syllabus is designed by the school according to its own needs and teaching resources. This option may be studied at standard level only and may replace a subject from groups 2 to 6.

Further information on school-based syllabuses can be obtained from the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme or by contacting the IB Curriculum and assessment centre.

Transdisciplinary subjects

From September 2008 schools began teaching (for first examinations in 2010) environmental systems and societies as a standard level transdisciplinary course. This will enable students to satisfy the requirements of two groups (group 3 and group 4) while studying one course. Students then select another course to complete the requirement of six.

Text and performance is a transdisciplinary pilot subject allowing students to combine literary analysis with the investigation of the role of performance in our understanding of dramatic literature.

Students have the opportunity to undertake their own performance work which is assessed. Central to the course is the idea of transformation where a literary text is transformed to a performance piece. The close examination and analysis of the details of the text this requires contributes to the academic rigour of the course.

Currently a pilot subject it will become mainstream in 2011 with first examinations in 2013 and will be renamed Literature and performance.