International Baccalaureate Diploma

International Baccalaureate Diploma

Qualification family also includes:

  • IBO Level 3 Certificate in Higher Level (HL) subjects
  • IBO Level 3 Certificate in Standard Level (SL) subjects
  • IBO Level 3 Certificate in Extended Essay
  • IBO Level 3 Certificate in Theory of Knowledge
  • UK
  • International

The IB Diploma programme aims to provide an academically challenging and balanced programme of education with final examinations that prepare students for success in higher education and life beyond.

It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students.

Education context

The IB Diploma programme is awarded by the IBO, a Swiss-based charitable foundation, established in Geneva in 1968.

Initially designed as a programme for students in international schools, IB Diploma examinations were first taken by about 300 candidates in 11 schools in 1970.

In 2014, internationally there were 137,000 students completing IB Diploma programme exams in around 2,200 schools, including approximately 5,000 students attending UK schools.

IB Diploma students follow a broad range of Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) subjects over the two years of the programme, but can at the same time specialise in those subject areas of greatest interest to them.

Students are expected to develop the critical thinking skills, independent learning styles and knowledge of academic research that are expected for successful university level study.

They are also expected to consider the nature of knowledge, engage in community service and promote international understanding, valuing cultural diversity.

Awarding organisation
  • IBO
Qualification code

Three subjects (or occasionally four) are studied at Higher Level (HL) and three subjects (occasionally two) at Standard Level (SL).

Candidates also undertake IB Core requirements of an Extended Essay, a Theory of Knowledge Course and Creativity Action and Service (CAS).

All HL and SL subjects are two-year linear courses, with examinations in May of the second year (Year 13).

The IBO also offers another examination session in November for students based in the southern hemisphere.

Diploma candidates may choose to take at most two Standard Level subjects after the first year of study. However, this is unusual in the UK (although more common in schools in the US).

Candidates are allowed at most three different examination sessions in which to gain their Diploma.

It is possible for candidates to enter individual HL and SL subjects and IB core courses and receive certificates for these without obtaining the full Diploma.

Individual subjects are known as IB Diploma courses.

Subject areas

The subjects available for study are divided into six groups:

  • Group 1: a literature course or a language & literature course in the student’s best language
  • Group 2: second language course (a modern or classical language)
  • Group 3: individuals and societies, including history, geography and economics
  • Group 4: experimental sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics
  • Group 5: mathematics and computer sciences, including two Standard Level courses (mathematical studies and mathematics standard) and two Higher Level courses (mathematics Higher Level and further mathematics Higher Level)
  • Group 6: the arts, including visual arts, music and theatre.

Students must study one subject from each of groups 1 to 5. Their sixth subject may come from Group 6, or be a second choice from one of the other groups, or be an authorised school-devised syllabus.

IB Diploma students will normally study three of the above subjects at Higher Level and three at Standard Level.

All IB Diploma students also complete the Diploma Core: this consists of a course in epistemology called Theory of Knowledge and a 4,000 word academic Extended Essay; both of these elements are graded. Students also complete 150 hours of Creativity, Action and Service (CAS).

  • Level 3

Diploma programme students follow six courses at Higher Level or Standard Level.

The grades awarded for each course range from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest) at both Higher and Standard Level.

Students can also be awarded up to three additional points for their combined results in the Diploma Core, consisting of Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay.

Therefore, the highest total that a Diploma programme student can be awarded is 45 points.

The Diploma is awarded to students who gain at least 24 points, subject to certain minimum levels of performance across the whole Diploma (e.g. score a minimum of 12 and 9 points from their Higher and Standard Level subjects respectively and have no more than three scores of 3 or below) and satisfactory participation in creativity, action and service (CAS).

The IB Diploma will be awarded to a candidate provided all the following requirements have been met:

  • CAS requirements have been met.
  • The candidate’s total points are 24 or more.
  • There is no “N” awarded for theory of knowledge, the extended essay or for a contributing subject.
  • There is no grade E awarded for theory of knowledge and/or the extended essay.
  • There is no grade 1 awarded in a subject/level.
  • There are no more than two grade 2s awarded (HL or SL).
  • There are no more than three grade 3s or below awarded (HL or SL).
  • The candidate has gained 12 points or more on HL subjects (for candidates who register for four HL subjects, the three highest grades count).
  • The candidate has gained 9 points or more on SL subjects (candidates who register for two SL subjects must gain at least 5 points at SL).
  • The candidate has not received a penalty for academic misconduct from the Final Award Committee.

For most subjects, there are three or four assessment components, with one of them being internally assessed coursework.

The examination papers take a variety of forms, some multiple choice, but mainly short answer, structured response or essay type questions. There are also data analysis papers, text commentary papers and case study papers.

Some subjects have a coursework component that is externally assessed.

The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge essay are produced under coursework conditions and are also externally assessed.

Externally assessed work is marked by examiners around the world, whose marking is moderated by sample re-marking. Most assessment is by e-marking.

Moderation by sample re-marking is applied to internal assessment.

Grade award meetings are held by the senior examiners for each subject to determine final grade boundaries on a component basis.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Points from Standard, Higher and Core subjects are added together to make the Diploma points score.

The maximum possible Diploma points score is therefore 45. Fewer than 1% of students achieve this score (0.18% of candidates in the May 2013 exam session).

Candidates who gain at least 24 points, subject to certain conditions relating to the distribution of grades, are awarded the Diploma.

The contribution of assessment methods to overall marks varies across subjects. For example, geography at Higher Level involves an external written examination covering core theme (25%), an external written examination covering optional themes (50%) and a field work report of 2,500 words which is internally assessed (25%). 24% of the assessment for chemistry is carried out by teachers during practical work and externally moderated.

Resit arrangements

Students can retake IB subjects in their entirety in either November or May.

Candidates have a maximum of three examination sessions in which to obtain the Diploma.

Guided / notional learning hours
IB Diploma (Ofqual register): 2405 hours
Higher Level Courses (Ofqual register): 360 hours
Standard Level courses (Ofqual register): 225 hours
Core (extended essay 50, Theory of knowledge 100, CAS 150): 300 hours
Guided / notional learning hours notes

240 teaching hours IBO documents

UCAS Tariff points

IBO Certificate in Higher Level

Grade Points
H7 56
H6 48
H5 32
H4 24
H3 12
H2 0
H1 0

IBO Certificate in Standard Level

Grade Points
S7 28
S6 24
S5 16
S4 12
S3 6
S2 0
S1 0

IBO Certificate in Extended Essay

Grade Points
A 12
B 10
C 8
D 6
E 4

IBO Certificate in Theory of Knowledge

Grade Points
A 12
B 10
C 8
D 6
E 4
Key issues for UK HE admissions

Many higher education providers making offers to IB Diploma students specify both an overall IB Diploma point score (or range) and specific points to be achieved in higher level subjects.

Research by the Fischer Family Trust demonstrates that, for students with the same (GCSE) prior attainment (regardless of school type), the grade distribution of IB Higher Level compares to A levels is an exact match (i.e. A*= IB7, A=6, B=5, C=4) in all subjects, expect IB Higher Level mathematics (where A*=5, A=4, B=3). For more details see:

IBO statistics show that average point scores and pass marks have remained consistent over time.

About 78% of Diploma programme students are awarded the Diploma each examination session (i.e. have achieved 24+ IB points and met Diploma requirements).

Fewer than 4% of candidates score grades over 40 points each session, whilst fewer than 1% of students gain 45 points (109 candidates worldwide in May 2013).

50% of IB students attend state schools; this is also the case in the UK (May 2013).

Timing of assessments and results

There are two examination sessions per year, in May and November.

IB results are published on 5 July each year (for the May exam session).

Qualification date
This is a current qualification. (The basic structure of the Diploma programme (six subject groups with three additional core requirements) has remained unchanged since the programme’s introduction.)
Certification information

For summary statistics of the Diploma Programme examination session, and comparisons with previous years, see IB’s latest statistical bulletin on the IBO website…

These statistics show that internationally the average IB point score and pass mark have remained consistent over time. Details are available in the World Statistical Bulletin (see above).

Further information

The UK network of schools and colleges offering the IB Diploma (IBSCA) publishes an annual guide on the IB Diploma for higher education providers which is available:

All the statistics in this profile have been provided by the IBO. The IBO publishes an annual World Statistical Bulletin following each exam session…

For more details see: