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Classical languages (SL and HL)

The civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece have played a vital part in shaping many modern societies and cultures. Fundamentally, the study of Latin and Classical Greek trains the mind, developing skills of critical thought, memory and close analysis, as well as an appreciation of the beauty and power of these languages and the cultures that produced them.

The Diploma Programme course in classical languages provides opportunities for students to explore the languages, literatures and cultures of ancient Rome and Greece. The course is designed to enable students to study classical languages in higher education, and also welcome those students who seek to develop an awareness and appreciation of the different perspectives of peoples from classical cultures through the study of texts in the original language.
Latin and Classical Greek are separate subjects in DP classical languages. They share the same syllabus outline and assessment model, and can be studied at standard level (SL) or higher level (HL).  For a given language, SL and HL syllabus requirements share elements, including authors and options, as prescribed in the guide. The difference between SL and HL is reflected both in the breadth of study and in the level of knowledge and skills expected at assessment.

Classical languages syllabus outline

Part 1: Study of language

Latin: The study of Cicero or Ovid in order to develop language skills. One extract from each author will be set for assessment and students will be required to translate one of the extracts. (Paper 1)
Classical Greek: The study of Xenophon in order to develop language skills. Students will be required to translate an extract written by that author. (Paper 1)

Part 2: Study of literature

A detailed study of literature from two options in the original language chosen from five prescribed options. (Paper 2)

Part 3: Individual study—research dossier

A collection of annotated primary source materials demonstrating an in-depth exploration of an aspect of classical language, literature or civilization chosen by the student. (Internal assessment)

Key features of the curriculum and assessment models

Available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)

  • The minimum recommended teaching time is 150 hours for SL and 240 hours for HL
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally
  • External assessment consists of a translation of a specified part or parts of one unprepared passage from a prescribed author in part 1 of the syllabus (study of language), and a series of questions based on part 2 of the syllabus (study of literature) requiring students to demonstrate comprehension of set texts, understanding of literary and stylistic features, and knowledge of the literary context of the extracts
  • Internal assessment consists of a research dossier corresponding to part 3 of the syllabus (individual study)
  • For the purpose of differentiation in assessment between HL and SL students, HL students are required to translate a longer extract in paper 1, to answer questions on more literary extracts and demonstrate knowledge and understanding of texts within their broader historical, political and cultural contexts in paper 2, and to use a greater number of primary sources in the research dossier

Read about group 3: individuals and societies

Find out more

Order IB publications relating togroup 2.


Read about languages in the Middle Years Programme.


"The focus on global issues, world understanding, and the integration of these areas into the curriculum, provides IB students at Lee's Summit High School with a unique opportunity to view the world beyond the landlocked Midwestern United States."

Carleda Williams, Diploma Programme coordinator, Lee’s Summit High School, Missouri, USA