What is the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Program?

TEXT: IB International Baccalaureate

When I tell people I teach IB Chemistry, I often get the following response, “Is that like AP?” Unfortunately it’s not that simple, so the next few blog posts will explain some key differences.

In comparison to Advanced Placement (AP®) chemistry which is always taken as a stand alone course or an al la carte option for students, the IB course is part of an international curricular program. IB Chemistry is one of the science courses students can take as their science course to obtain to achieve an IB diploma, however they can also obtain an IB certificate in a particular course as well. The IB Program is a two year program, beginning in the students’ junior year, focused on creating balanced learners who explore content in a wide range of areas to develop effective approaches to learning and be capable of working in global contexts.

Requirements for an IB  Diploma

The following list (and figure 1) outline what is required for an IB Diploma and how it is different than other pre-college programs.


  • Comprehensive and balanced two year program

  • Program requires courses to be taken in six subject areas (figure 2) which are tailored to meet the students interests and ability

  • At least three and not more than four of the six subject areas can be taken for Higher Level (HL) Credit. Higher Level courses cover more content and go more in depth and must be taken over two years. The alternative are Standard Level (SL) courses which can be taken in one of two years and covering a few less topics. Juniors may take a maximum of 2 IB Exams

  • Students are assessed both internally and through external examiners so that moderators can ensure the equality of the IB standard is applied equally to all students 

  • Students must complete program core

  1. Theory of Knowledge course - Students examine the connection between each of the 6 subjects through an international lens that requires students to reflect and think critically. Students learn about how they know what they know and ways of knowing information.

  2. Extended Essay (EE) - Each subject requires students to complete independent research however this is a more in depth research paper. Students obtain a mentor, most often in the area of study to support them through the process.

  3. Creativity Activity and Service (CAS) - Community service requirement which provides students the chance to apply knowledge and skills through community service as well as providing an opportunity for students to serve their communities and reflect on the meaningful connections they have made.​


Six Course Areas

There are six group/course areas that students need to complete (see figure 2).

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature (English)

Group 2: Language Acquisition (Foreign Language)

Group 3: Individuals and Societies (History and the Social Sciences

Group 4: Science

Group 5: Math

Group 6: Art or Elective


For the information presented as well as more information on the International Baccalaureate Program can be found at https://www.ibo.org/. Images used from https://www.ibo.org/