The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is an educational programme examined in one of three languages (English, French or Spanish) and is a leading university entrance course. It is taught in 2,075 schools, often in international schools, in 125 countries all around the world (as of 2007). More than half of the schools offering the Diploma Programme are state funded schools. The programme, administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization, is a recognized pre-university educational programme[1]. Students take six subjects, and must also complete 3 extra requirements: the Theory of Knowledge course (ToK), a 4000-word Extended Essay (EE), and at least 150 hours in CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) areas.[2]

Marks are awarded from 1 to 7 in each subject with 7 being the highest, and up to three additional points may be awarded depending on the results of the EE and ToK essays. The maximum possible point total in the Diploma Programme is 45. In order to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma, candidates must receive a minimum of 24 points. There are a number of failing conditions which will prevent a student from being awarded a Diploma regardless of the points they received (such as non-completion of CAS, plagiarism, no EE etc). The IBO also requires that the candidate do fairly well on each individual exam, although these requirements are slightly more lenient if the student has at least 28 total points.[3]

Candidates who successfully pass examinations in two language A1, or one language A1 and one language A2 courses and meet all the other criteria for successful completion of the Diploma Programme are eligible to receive a Bilingual Diploma. [4]

Students who complete individual IB courses and their final exams, but opt out of the full programme (or fail to complete it) do not receive the IB Diploma, but instead receive IB Certificates for each subject. IB Certificates are proof of having taken the exam and of the student's score on it.

Subject areas Edit

Students who pursue the diploma take six subjects; one each from Groups 1 to 5 (below) with an additional subject from 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6.

A minimum of three subjects must be taken at higher level (HL) and the rest at standard level (SL). There must be no more than 4 subjects taken at a Higher Level, unless approved by the IB co-ordinator at the school. Higher level subjects require approximately 240 hours of teaching time, and standard level subjects about 150.

Extended Essay Edit

Students must write an essay of up to 4,000 words in any chosen subject (not necessarily one taken for the final exam, although it is highly suggested that the student have some familiarity with the topic) but not across subjects. All subjects have specific guidelines that must be followed in order for the Extended Essay to be considered. The topic may be any that the student feels is researchable. This task involves teacher guided independent research and requires producing a written thesis. Each student is paired with a supervisor who provides insight and orients his or her work. The Extended Essay must be submitted in order to receive the IB Diploma.

CAS Edit

CAS is an acronym for Creativity, Action, Service. This extracurricular aspect of the IB Diploma involves student engagement in social work or community service (Service), participation in sports (Action), and initiative in creative activity (Creativity). The purpose of CAS is to encourage students to go beyond academic pursuits and experience life outside school. Each Diploma candidate completes 150 hours of CAS related activities over the period of the IB course, where 50 hours each are contributed towards Creativity, Service and Action. Students may increase the number of hours in each category as there is no limit, as long as they complete at least 50 hours in each of Creativity, Action and Service to make the minimum 150 hours. The hours of work completed are documented by the school using official forms (CAS/AEF Forms) which are submitted to the IBO by January of the final year of the IB course. The IB Diploma is awarded only upon successful completion of CAS.

Theory of Knowledge Edit

Each student must complete the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course of at least 100 hours, which aims to encourage students to be critical thinkers and to teach students basic epistemology. To complete requirements for TOK, diploma candidates must write a TOK essay of 1200–1600 words on a set title (from a choice of ten issued by the IBO), and present a TOK issue to their class on their choice of topic.

The grades that the student receives from the TOK essay and presentation are compared with the grade for the Extended Essay by way of a matrix designed by the IBO, which may result in the awarding of 'extra' or 'bonus' points for the candidate's Diploma. The candidate may get up to three extra points if both works are of a sufficient standard.

Assessment Edit

All subjects are assessed using both internal and external assessment, including final exams given worldwide in May (usually for Northern Hemisphere schools) and in November (usually for Southern Hemisphere schools). Each exam usually consists of two or three papers, generally written on the same or successive days [5]. The different papers may have different forms of questions, or they may focus on different areas of the subject syllabus. For example, chemistry Paper 1 has multiple choice questions, Paper 2 has extended response questions, and Paper 3 focuses on the 'option' topics which can vary according to the student's (or school's) preference. Re-sits for each paper (sat in the next exam session - November or May) are possible for a maximum of three times.

Each individual paper can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, but usually they are between one and two hours in duration. Because of the large number of subjects being examined in one examination session (of less than a month in length), students often must write multiple papers in one day. The external assessment is judged by examiners appointed by the IBO.

The nature of the internal assessment (IA) varies by subject. There may be oral presentations (used in languages), practical work (in experimental sciences), or written works to be done at home. Internal assessment accounts for 20 to 50 percent of the mark awarded for each subject and is marked by a teacher in the school. A sample of at least five per subject at each level will also be graded by a moderator appointed by the IBO, in a process called external moderation of internal assessment.

The marks collected from the internal and external moderators are again standardized annually on a worldwide scale. The results from each year determine the grade-boundaries of that year. Therefore, the effect of variation in difficulty of exams is taken into account.

Awards Edit

There are two types of award available in the IB Diploma Programme. A student can be awarded the full Diploma or Certificates of Merit in individual subjects. The usual pass rate for the IB Diploma Programme is approximately 80% internationally.[6]

Diploma conditions Edit

In order to be awarded the full IB Diploma the following requirements must have been met:

  • at least three subjects are completed at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL).
    • should four subjects be completed at HL then only two need be completed at SL.
  • all six subjects have been awarded a numerical grade higher than 1, with a minimum total score of 24.
  • the CAS (Creativity - Action - Service; community service) requirement of 150 hours has been completed
  • the Extended Essay and TOK course have been completed and essays submitted.
    • additionally a grade D or better has been awarded in either the Extended Essay or TOK.
  • if the overall score is 24-27, there is no grade 2 at HL and not more than one grade 2 at SL; if the overall score is greater than or equal to 28, not more than one grade 2 at HL and no more than two grades 2 at SL; altogether, there are no more than three grades 3 or below
  • at least 12 points (12 for overall score 24-27; 16 if four HL subjects are taken) have been gained on HL subjects, and 9 (6 if only two SL subjects are taken) on SL subjects
  • the final award committee has not judged the candidate to be guilty of malpractice

Certificates Edit

A candidate may also choose not to take the whole Diploma, but to aim for a Certificate in a particular subject. Candidates doing certificates do not have to take part in the extra requirements of the Diploma (the Extended Essay, TOK and CAS). However, if taking World History (social studies certificate), the student is required to complete the Theory of Knowledge. Those candidates who complete extra courses in addition to a Diploma will also receive a Certificate.


In Canada and the United States, some IBDP courses are recognised as equivalent to university/college-level courses, and universities and colleges may award entering students with first-year credit depending on their points totals. In this regard it is similar to the Advanced Placement Program.

In the United Kingdom, most universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, accept the IB Diploma as an alternative to A-levels and Scottish Highers. UCAS has created a tariff for IB points which will be in use from 2008 university entry onwards.

In some countries, such as Turkey or Peru, the IB Diploma is not considered equivalent to the national end-of-school examination scheme, usually because the IB Diploma is not as specialised, or because certain subjects are not offered. However, in Peru, various universities allow direct entrance to students who successfully completed the IB.

Other countries, such as Germany, set certain conditions for the IB Diploma to be convalidated (a foreign language at minimum A2 Standard Level, Mathematics standard level minimum, and at least one Science or Mathematics at Higher Level). Some universities, on the other hand, prefer the IB to the certificate which the students usually get in their own country. A list of universities admitting IB Diploma holders can be found on the IBO web site.[7]

In Australia, all universities accept results in the IB Diploma. Students with high scores in HL subjects may claim credit in their first year of university. Also, the University of Adelaide typically awards almost all IBDP graduates with at least four bonus SATAC points (two for completion of a foreign language, two for the completion of SL Maths or four for HL Maths, in line with students taking LOTE and Maths Studies or/and Specialist Maths in the local SACE program).

In Russia the IB diploma is accepted in most Universities (like MGU and MGMO), but conditions are set very high. For example, to study economics in MGU the IB student has to achieve an overall score of at least 36 points, including 6s in higher level subjects.

United KingdomEdit

Due to the continued grade inflation and political controversy over reforming A-Levels, the IB has been gaining more attention and popularity as a better alternative because of its ability to open doors to the best universities.[8] In the past four years, the number of schools teaching the IB in the UK has more than doubled.

The IB is more challenging for the brightest students,[9] and a modest IB score of 30 gives a candidate 419 UCAS tariff points against just 360 for three As at A-Level. A top score is equivalent to more than six As at A-Level. Due to its challenging nature and increased demands on lecturer teaching time, the IB is often taught in high-performing, academically-selective independent schools, which have long pioneered this qualification with their greater freedom and willingness to experiment. The result is that leading IB schools such as King's College School and Sevenoaks School now dominate the top of the league tables. More IB students are getting their first choice universities while admission tutors are more lenient if a student dropped a grade on the IB than in A-Levels.

IB students offer a broader and well-rounded education and every IB student is able to demonstrate numeracy, literacy, a language and a science. This is because IB students complete six subjects, whereas A-Level students typically do three subjects. Higher Level subjects in the IB have a greater depth and breadth than full A-Levels, such as Mathematics, which has substantial A-Level Further Mathematics and 1st year university materials. Similarly, Standard Level subjects are considered to be more challenging than AS-Level subjects. In addition, IB students offer features such as the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service), which are not available at A-Level.

International Baccalaureate points convert to UCAS points as follows:[10]

IB Points UCAS Points
45 768
44 744
43 722
42 698
41 675
40 652
39 628
38 605
37 582
36 559
35 535
34 512
33 489
32 466
31 442
30 419
29 396
28 373
27 350
26 326
25 303
24 280

United StatesEdit

In the US, the IB Diploma Programme is used to set students at an international standard level. Many colleges recognize participation in (and the passing of) IB examinations as college credits.

Many US colleges will only give college credit to students for taking higher level courses. The score required often depends on the competitiveness of the college. Most require a score of 5, 6, or 7, while others will accept a 4 and some only give credit for a 6 or 7. Other schools, like Richmond the American International University in London, offer up to a year's credit for students who achieve a certain total score on the IB Diploma and will accept high SL scores for students who achieve the diploma. Comparisons are also made with the AP program. However, it is difficult to compare the two systems because IB is scored out of 7 and AP out of 5, and the stated purpose of AP is to earn university-level credit, while the IB is designed as a baccalaureate. The main difference is that AP is a scattered set of courses, and IB is an organized set of courses. Students in most high schools take a set of IB classes, whereas AP students are able to pick and choose the AP courses they are enlisted in. Although the differences are often debated, there is not evidence that either program is more preferred by colleges at any level and admissions still depends on the student engaged in these courses.

The state of Colorado enacted a law in 2003 that requires most public universities in the state to give a minimum of 24 college credits to any local diploma recipient. [11] The state of Texas adopted a similar law for the 2006-2007 year, requiring all public schools in the state to grant credit for successful completion. [12]

The IB programme has been cited as a crucial component of the US Competitiveness Initiative. The initiative calls for more teachers to be trained in the IB program. It proposes offering incentives to teachers who teach IB courses and teachers who increase the number of students passing the IB exams[13].


In Canada, some IBDP courses are recognised as equivalent to university/college-level courses, and universities and colleges may award entering students with first-year credit depending on their scores, however typically only for Higher Level examinations. In this regard it is similar to the Advanced Placement Program. There are currently 122 schools in Canada offering the Diploma Programme, and their numbers are rapidly increasing.


In Australia, the IB Diploma Programme is taught in a growing but still minority group of schools with approximately 2,800 secondary schools[14] teaching under their state's educational systems compared with only 50 schools teaching the IB Diploma Programme[15]. Although every university in Australia recognizes the IB Diploma, entry criteria often differ between universities, with some universities accepting students on their IB score alone, while others require the score to be converted using a conversion scale. In most states, this conversion scale is based on the Equivalent National Tertiary Entry Rank or 'ENTER'[16].


According to the "Décret du Ministère de l'Education Nationale" (23 August 1985), the IB Programme is one of the foreign diplomas which allow students access into French universities.

Hong KongEdit

IB Diploma students may apply to Hong Kong universities as non-JUPAS (Joint University Programmes Admissions System). JUPAS is the system enabling applications to nine tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.

There is an increasing number of schools offering the IB Programme. As of August 2008, 14 schools offer the IB Diploma (from 6 in 2004), 3 of which also offer the MYP. 2 of these schools and 5 others offer the PYP.[17]


In India, the IB Diploma is often seen as a "passport" to gain entry into universities abroad. The schools which are allowed to take on this programme are the international schools, which are privately funded and as a result are very expensive.Many parents are willing to spend a lot on their child's education, hence the mushrooming of schools which offer the Diploma Programme. This is leading to an increase in the number of Indian Diploma students. [18] There currently are 18 schools in India offering the IB programme. [19] In 2007, the prestigious Doon School also joined the list of schools offering the Diploma.


There are two school in Iran, one is located in the southern city of Shiraz and another one is the Tehran International School, authorised to offer the IB diploma program[20]. Iran's programme for each subject area has three levels. These levels are numerically represented as level 1, 2 or 3. (1) is equivalent to an SL (Standard level) course which is considered an honor course. (2) is equivalent to HL (Higher level) courses which provide college credit with a score of 7, and (3) is called Olympiad course.

IB courses are included in overall calculation of GPA for the student and since they are honor courses they have a significant impact on GPA.


In the 2008-2009 prospectus, the National University of Singapore (NUS) recognises IB as a high school qualification for applying to its undergraduate courses [21]. Nevertheless, several well-recognised scholarships did not accept IB results favourably, despite the high-ranking results of IB schools in Singapore.[22]


One school operates the IBDP course, called The International School in Karachi. A number of Colleges and Universities recognize the IBDP and accept students.


In Finland, the IB Diploma was initially directed to children of diplomats but nowadays everyone can apply. There are 14 schools in Finland which offer IB Diploma education. One of these school offer also the PYP and the MYP education.

References Edit

  1. IBO notes on university recognition
  2. Diploma Programme at a glance: What are the three core requirements?
  4. A guide to the IB Diploma Programme for universities and colleges: How to interpret IB grades and transcripts
  5. 2008 IBO Examination Schedule
  6. PowerPoint Presentation
  7. University recognition directory
  10. UCAS Tariff,
  11. State of Colorado House Bill 03-1108
  12. Section 51.968(b) of the Texas Education Code states: Each institution of higher education that offers freshman-level courses shall adopt and implement a policy to grant undergraduate course credit to entering freshman students who have successfully completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, who have achieved required scores on one or more examinations in the Advanced Placement Program or the College-Level Examination Program, or who have successfully completed one or more courses offered through concurrent enrolment in high school and at an institution of higher education.
  13. American Competitiveness Initiative
  14. Australian Bureau of Statistics - School Statistics Accessed 30 March 2008
  15. IBO Australia Accessed 30 March 2008
  16. VTAC Notional Enter Conversion Table Accessed 30 March 30, 2008
  17. IB schools in Hong Kong
  18. Do you want an IB education for your child?
  19. IB - International Baccalaureate Education In India
  20. List of IB school in Iran
  21. NUS Prospectus 2008-2009
  22. Straits Times 8 January 2008

External links Edit


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