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Frequently Asked Questions: IB Diploma Programme

How is the Diploma Programme different from other pre-university
academic programmes?

The Diploma Programme is a comprehensive and balanced two-year
curriculum and assessment system that requires students to study courses
across all disciplines. Within this structured framework, the Diploma
Programme provides a great deal of flexibility, accommodating student
interest and abilities. Through careful subject selection, students may
tailor their course of studies to meet their needs. Regardless of the subject
selection, all students explore the connections between the six major
subject areas, study each subject through an international perspective,
reflect critically on what it means to be a knower, pursue one subject in
great detail through independent research, and have the opportunity to
apply their knowledge and skills through local and community outreach.

Assessment of student achievement happens in a variety of ways throughout
the course of the two-year programme. It includes assessment of student
work both by outside examiners as well as the students’ own teachers. The
assessment itself undergoes careful review and moderation to ensure that a
common standard is applied equally to the work of all students

For these reasons, the IB Diploma is recognized by colleges and universities
around the world as a superior education, preparing students to succeed at
post-secondary institutions.

Is a lot of extra homework involved in the Diploma Programme?

IB courses are typically more challenging than regular high school courses,
and so students may be asked to do more homework. The challenge,
however, is not always in the amount of homework assigned; rather, it is in
the quality of the assignments and the extent to which students engage
those assignments. The added benefit here is that students take greater
responsibility for their own learning while they acquire the valuable skills of
time management and organization.

Diploma students do not have to forego other important parts of high school
life. They may still remain involved in sports, student government, clubs,
theater, music, community events, and other extra-curricular activities.
Such activities are incorporated into the Diploma Programme through the
“CAS” (Creativity, Action, and Service) requirement.

The IB Diploma Programme sounds like a lot of extra work. What
are the advantages of enrolling in an IB programme?

Students with IB Diplomas who now attend universities report that their
involvement with IB has given them the tools needed to succeed at
university and to make the most of their post-secondary education. In
particular, students comment on their sense of preparedness, selfconfidence,
research skills, the ability to manage their time, and the
willingness to be actively engaged in their own learning. Even more
importantly, they have developed a sense of the world around them, their
responsibility to it, and the skills with which to embrace the complexities of
life. The IB often employs a variety of phrases to describe these traits and
abilities: “learning how to learn”; “life-long learners”; “critical and
compassionate thinkers”; and “informed participants in local and world

How does the IB’s Diploma Programme compare with The College
Board’s Advanced Placement Programme?

Both programmes provide students with rich and challenging curricula and
both enjoy national and international college and university recognition.
The College Board and the IB issued a joint publication in 2005, IB & AP,
which compares and contrasts both programmes.

To decide which programme is right for them, students are encouraged to
compare their own interests, abilities, and goals with the requirements of
both programmes. The local school’s AP and IB programme coordinators
should be able to assist students in reaching their decision.

What preparation do students need in order to succeed in the
Diploma Programme?

Students prepare for the Diploma Programme in a number of ways. Many IB
schools have created “pre-IB” programmes, designed to assist students in
developing a solid background in such subjects as languages and
mathematics. Another excellent preparation for the Diploma Programme is
the IB’s Middle Years Programme, which, besides providing a solid
academic foundation, helps students develop their sense of the connections
between subject areas.

Can I take individual IB courses or do I have to study the whole

Yes, you can take individual IB courses; however, the strength of the IB
Diploma Programme is in the Diploma itself, and schools are expected to
promote the Diploma. Students who enroll in individual courses will receive
an IB certificate noting the courses they took and the marks they earned.

When do IB students begin taking IB courses?

The IB Diploma Programme encompasses only the final two years of
secondary school. In North America this generally refers to grades 11 and
12, although in some schools it refers to grades 12 and 13. These are the
only years in which students are permitted to take Diploma Programme
courses. However, to help prepare students for the two-year IB Diploma
Programme, some schools may enroll students in their locally developed
“pre-IB” programmes for the high school years leading up to the final two
years. Although only the last two years make up the actual IB Diploma
Programme, schools often refer to the entire three- or four-year sequence
(pre-IB plus IB years) as the Diploma Programme.

How many IB exams are there, and when do students take them?

The IB offers curriculum and exams in more than 50 different courses for
schools to choose from. Generally, students can only sit for exams in
courses offered by their IB-authorized school; a typical IB Diploma
Programme in North America offers between 12-15 different IB courses.

A student pursuing the full IB Diploma will take six IB exams, including one
literature course taught in the student’s native language, one foreign
language, one social science, one experimental science, one math, and one
arts course. The arts course can be replaced by a second social science, a
second experimental science, or a third language. Of the six exams, three
are taken at the standard level (after a minimum of 150 teaching hours) and
three are taken at the higher level (after a minimum of 240 teaching hours).

IB students are expected to take their examinations at the conclusion of the
two-year Diploma Programme. However, the IB permits students to take
one or two standard level examinations at the end of the first year of the
Diploma Programme. The remaining exams are taken at the conclusion of
the second year of the Diploma Programme. Higher level exams can only be
taken at the end of the second year. In many schools, all examinations are
taken in the final year.

Can I take an IB exam without taking the IB course in that subject?

No. Part of the student's final IB grade comes from work done in the
classroom, so it is impossible to take an IB exam without having participated
in the IB course in that subject.

Does the IB Diploma Programme satisfy my state or provincial

Students who succeed in receiving the IB Diploma will at the same time
meet the local high school’s graduation requirements and, therefore, also
receive the local high school diploma. Even if students fail to satisfy all of
the IB Diploma requirements, they will generally have met the school’s
requirements to receive the local high school diploma.

In some cases, students who participate in the IB Diploma Programme will
also fulfill the requirements of their state’s standards examinations or their
province’s curriculum and examination. Please contact IB North America at the
coordinates listed at the end of this FAQ for a list of which states or
provinces have accepted the IB Diploma as having met their expectations.

May I take IB examinations even if I am not attending an IB school?

No. The IB permits only students enrolled in and attending IB-authorized
schools to participate in an IB programme and take IB examinations.

How can my child enroll in the IB programme?

Each school establishes its own student enrollment policies. Therefore, we
encourage you to contact your school’s IB Diploma Programme coordinator
to learn how to enroll your child. You can find the names and addresses of
authorized schools on the IB website at www.ibo.org by clicking on “IB
schools directory”.

Can students with special needs participate in an IB programme?

The IB has established policies for accommodating students with special
needs. A publication detailing these policies is available on the IB website
(search for keywords ‘special assessment needs’). Schools are asked to notify

the IB of participating students whom they have identified as having special needs.

Does the Middle Years Programme lead directly to the Diploma

The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) is an excellent preparation for the
Diploma Programme. Many of the concepts, programme elements, and the
underlying philosophy found in the MYP are consistent with those found in
the Diploma Programme. Nevertheless, the MYP is not a prerequisite.
Indeed, schools and school districts might not offer both the MYP and
Diploma Programme.

Further, because schools and school districts establish their own enrollment
criteria for participating in the Diploma Programme, a student’s prior
involvement with the MYP is not a guarantee of entry into the Diploma

Can students transfer from one Diploma Programme school to

Yes, but while the Diploma Programme itself is the same from school to
school, the subject choices available to students will vary. Economics may
be offered at one school, while another offers History of Europe; Language
B German may be the only option at one school, while another may have
five different Language B options ��� none of them German For this reason,
families are encouraged to contact the Diploma Programme coordinator at
the school in the area in which they plan to relocate.

What do colleges and universities think about the Diploma

Colleges and universities throughout North America view the IB Diploma
Programme as providing outstanding preparation for university work.
Additionally, many of the most selective institutions have established
policies that recognize the work students have done. Some universities also
offer scholarships to IB graduates.

We encourage you to visit the University and Government section of this website.

There you will be able to research the IB recognition policies of post-secondary

institutions throughout the world.

How does taking difficult courses improve my chances for
scholarships and admission to universities?

At a time when increasing numbers of college and university applicants are
presenting equally impressive GPAs or percentages, admissions officers must
look for other evidence that the student will succeed in the challenges of
the new academic environment. Admissions officers look for such factors as
the quality of the courses represented on the transcript, the balance of
courses across all disciplines, the record of the student’s research abilities,
and the details of school and community involvement ��� all requirements of
the Diploma Programme.

Research conducted at several North American universities has
demonstrated that IB Diploma holders do enjoy success at their postsecondary
studies, often earning higher grades than their colleagues.
Increasingly, universities are actively recruiting IB students by offering
enhanced recognition or scholarships for successful IB work.

Does an IB Diploma allow students to go abroad for university?

Yes, in many cases. One of the founding ideals of the Diploma Programme
was to establish an internationally recognized system of curriculum and
assessment that would be accepted by universities and ministries of
education around the world. The Diploma Programme is currently accepted
by universities in more than 100 countries. We encourage you to visit the
University and Government page of the IB website. There you will be able to
research the IB recognition policies of post-secondary institutions
throughout the world.

How do I send a transcript of my IB results to a college or university?

Students who have completed IB examinations are encouraged (and often
required) to request that a special IB transcript of their results be sent to
the North American college or university they plan to attend. Their Diploma
Programme coordinator should file a request on their behalf while they are
still high school students. Transcripts requested by current IB students in
this way are free.

After they leave the secondary school or high school, students may also
write directly to the North American office of the IB in New York and
request a transcript of results. The letter should include the student’s
name, IB student code number, the IB high school they attended, the
year(s) in which examinations were taken, and where the transcript should
be sent. A fee is charged for transcripts requested in this way.
For more information about transcript requests, please call the IB North America office
in New York City at +1-212-696-4464, or send an email to

How much money will the IB Diploma Programme cost me?

There are student registration and examination fees that, when added up,
come to about US $600 per full IB Diploma. How these fees are paid
depends upon the policy of the local school or school district. Some schools
pay all fees, while others share the cost with the students who are enrolled
in the Diploma Programme. In almost every case, funds are available within
schools to subsidize IB fees for low-income students, thus ensuring that
financial need never prevents a student from pursuing an IB education.

How can I get more information about the IB in North America?

For additional information, or if you have any suggestions or comments
about the questions and answers that appear here, please contact the IBNA
office in New York (+1-212-696-4464) or Vancouver (+1-604-733-8980, or
Toll Free at +1-866-VAN-IBNA), or by email at ibna@ibo.org.