In this section

Find an IB World School

The IB in

Diploma Programme curriculum—core elements

Overview

The core of the curriculum model consists of three elements.

  • Extended essay

The extended essay extended essay of some 4,000 words offers the opportunity for IB students to investigate a topic of special interest related to one of the student's six Diploma Programme (DP) subjects/disciplines. An extended essay can also be undertaken in world studies. The world studies extended essay provides students with the opportunity to carry out an in-depth interdisciplinary study of an issue of contemporary global significance, utilizing two IB diploma disciplines. Both types of extended essay (single-disciplinary and interdisciplinary essays )are intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity expected at university. They provide students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (a teacher in the school). This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing, in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject or issue chosen. This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject. It is recommended that students follow the completion of the written essay with a short, concluding interview - viva voce - with the supervisor. In countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university, the extended essay has proved to be a valuable stimulus for discussion.

  • Theory of knowledge (TOK)

TOK plays a special role in the Diploma Programme by providing an opportunity for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know.

The fundamental question of TOK is “how do we know that?” Students are encouraged to think about how knowledge is arrived at in different disciplines, what the disciplines have in common and the differences between the disciplinary. TOK therefore both supports and is supported by the study of other DP subjects, as students are required to explore knowledge questions against the backdrop of their experiences in their other DP subjects. Discussion and critical reflection form the backbone of the TOK course, centring around discussions of questions such as:

  • what counts as evidence for X?
  • what makes a good explanation in subject Y?
  • how do we judge which is the best model of Z?
  • how can we be sure of W?
  • what does theory T mean in the real world?
  • how do we know whether it is right to do S?

Through discussions of these types of questions students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions, as well as developing an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives. The TOK course is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1600 word essay. The TOK presentation assesses the ability of the student to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation, while the TOK essay takes a more conceptual starting point; for example asking students to discuss the claim that the methodologies used to produce knowledge depend on the use to which that knowledge will be used.

TOK is a demanding and challenging course, but one which plays a crucial role in effectively preparing students for the complex and rapidly changing world they will encounter both during their DP experience and beyond.

  • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)

CAS - Creativity - Action - Service at the heart of the Diploma Programme. CAS enables students to live the IB learner profile in real and practical ways, to grow as unique individuals and to recognise their role in relation to others.CAS is organised around the three strands of Creativity, Action and Service defined as:

  • Creativity - arts and other experiences that involve creative thinking
  • Action - physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle, complementing academic work elsewhere in the IB Diploma Programme
  • Service - an unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student.

Students develop skills and attitudes through a variety of individual and group activities that provide students with opportunities to express their passions, personalities and perspectives. CAS complements a challenging academic programme in a holistic way, providing opportunities for self-determination, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment.

Students are also required to undertake a CAS Project that challenges students to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance, and develop skills such as those of collaboration, problem solving, and decision making.

The school and students must give CAS as much importance as any other element of the Diploma Programme and ensure sufficient time is allocated for engagement in the CAS programme. Successful completion of CAS is a requirement for the award of the IB Diploma. While not formally assessed, students reflect on their CAS experiences and provide evidence of achieving the eight learning outcomes.

Find out more

Order IB publications relating to the core requirements.

“The programme has given me and my classmates a sense of community, and the IB's focus on helping a student be a well-rounded individual has given me self-confidence.”

Jenna Gaylene Tichon, student at Westwood Collegiate, Winnipeg, Manitoba