The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has 4 academic programmes targeted at students between the ages of 3 and 19:

  • The Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) for children of ages 3 – 12.
  • The Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) for students between 11 – 16.
  • The Diploma Programme (IB DP) for students aged 16 – 19.
  • The Career Certificate (IBCC) for students aged 16 – 19.


The oldest and most enduringly popular is the Diploma Programme (DP). Many of the best international schools in the world teach according to the principles of the I.B,’ as it is commonly known by students, parents, and teachers. In the interest of keeping things simple, we too will refer to the Diploma Programme on this website as simply ‘the I.B’.

The Diploma Programme is a 2-year university preparatory course, generally taken in grades 11 and 12 or the last two years of high school. It has a reputation for being highly demanding and academically rigorous, and has earned itself monikers along the lines of ‘Inhumane Brutality’ from frustrated students.

Nonetheless, numerous students and academics around the world agree that the Diploma Programme is one of the best pathways for adolescents to transition from the relatively happy-go-lucky world of high school to the more fast-paced and challenging university environment.

With a learning and teaching philosophy that aims at inculcating an inquisitive and analytical approach across disciplines, students are expected to take one subject each out of of the 6 disciplines or ‘areas of knowledge.’ But the Diploma Programme’s focus goes beyond mere academics. Balance, both within subject areas and across the Diploma Programme, is key. The Diploma Programme achieves this through the core components of the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and the CAS programme.


Groups 1 - 3

  • Group 1: Language A: First language or language of primary instruction. Eg. English
  • Group 2: Language B: Second or additional language, such as Spanish, French etc. taken either at a beginner or intermediate level
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies: Human sciences such as History, Economics, Business & Management etc.

Groups 4 - 6

  • Group 4: Experimental Sciences: eg. Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Environmental Systems and Studies etc.
  • Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science: can be taken at differentiated levels of complexity
  • Group 6: Arts: A variety of subjects ranging from performing to fine arts, including Visual Arts, Theater Arts, Film Studies etc.

Other Core Components

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK): A holistic interdisciplinary course where students have to apply philosophical principles
  • Extended Essay: A ~4000 word research paper written on a particular subject
  • Creativity, Action and Service (CAS): A programme of non-academic and extracurricular activities to encourage all-round development.
The Diploma Programme demands confidence, time-management and efficiency from students as they work through the academic curriculum alongside the other components of the programme. Everyone has a different set of skills, strengths and weaknesses and the Diploma Programme may or may not be appropriate for all students. Nonetheless, graduating from the Diploma Programme is a very rewarding experience and it presents numerous advantages (often including post-secondary credits) in seeking admission to the more selective universities around the world.


Prospective IB DP students can find more specific information here.
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Parents of prospective IB DP students can find more information here.
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Seeking expert advice?

Being DP Alumni and University Graduates ourselves, we have been professionally counseling numerous parents and students about the IBO’s programmes and related topics for the last 4 years. To find out whether it is right for you or your child, feel free to schedule an appointment or contact us for more information.