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. The programme, administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization, is a recognized pre-university educational programme. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, though must be approved by the IB Coordinator. 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 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
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.
All subjects are assessed using both internal and external assessment, including final exams given for Northern Hemisphere schools in May. Each exam usually consists of two or three papers, generally written on the same or successive days. 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 school's preference. Re-sits for each paper (sat in the next exam session) 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.
In order to be awarded the full IB Diploma the following requirements must have been met: