I have absolutely no doubt that the IB is better than the national curriculum. The breadth of subjects allows students to be much better prepared for life beyond school.

Paul Coates - CAS coordinator and House Master, Sidcot International School, UK

Diploma Programme: Frequently asked questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions from students and parents in the UK about the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme:

What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme?

The Diploma Programme (DP) is a curriculum designed by the International Baccalaureate (IB) for students in the final two years of secondary school or sixth form college. The DP is a rewarding and academically challenging programme of education that prepares students for success at university and life beyond study. It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students.

How does the programme work?

DP students study six subjects (three at standard level and three at higher level) over two years and complete three additional requirements: the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the extended essay and at least 150 hours of creativity, activity and service tasks (also known as CAS) outside of the classroom.
Subjects include:
  • Language acquisition
  • Sciences
  • The arts
  • Mathematics
  • Individuals and societies
  • Studies in language and literature

In addition to these requirements, students must earn a minimum of 24 points out of a possible 45 points on the final assessment which is externally marked and moderated by the IB, in order to receive an IB diploma.

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) in an interdisciplinary course designed to help students study how individuals from various disciplines view the world in order to develop their own ways of thinking. By stimulating analysis of knowledge across disciplines, TOK seeks to help students make sense of school and the world. TOK is an interdisciplinary course designed to help students question and understand how they know what they know. Students study how individuals from various disciplines view the world in order to develop their own ways of thinking. By stimulating analysis of knowledge across disciplines, TOK seeks to help students make sense of school and the world.

Creativity, activity, service

Creativity, activity and service (CAS) is an experiential learning component of the DP. Students complete a wide variety of extracurricular, community service and athletic options to fulfil this requirement.

Extended essay

The extended essay introduces students to the demands and rewards of independent work. Emphasis is placed on doing personal research and communicating ideas effectively in order to write a 4,000 word essay. The extended essay introduces students to the demands and rewards of independent work. Emphasis is placed on doing personal research and communicating ideas effectively in order to write a 4,000-word essay in an area of personal interest

How do colleges and universities view the DP?

World leading universities recognise the DP as one of the highest standards in university preparatory education. Research studies suggest that higher rates of DP students go on to university and higher education study than non-IB students. Further, DP students report being better prepared for postsecondary studies than their peers.

How does the DP prepare students for university?

The DP prepares students for a successful transition to higher education through its challenging and rewarding curriculum, which offers students a global perspective by cultivating internationalmindedness and developing key skills needed to succeed in further studies such as research, inquiry, independent study and critical analysis. The recently published HESA report comparing IB and A Level students’ outcomes in higher education demonstrates that IB students make excellent progress at university. In particular, the report shows:
  • Between 2012 and 2013, 46 percent of DP students achieved places to study at a top 20 UK university compared to only 33 percent of A Level students
  • DP students have a significantly greater likelihood of earning a first class honours degree compared to their A Level peers (23 percent versus 19 percent respectively)
  • Of the students who successfully complete a full-time undergraduate degree at a UK university, DP students are significantly more likely to be engaged with further study.

What kind of student is a good candidate for the DP?

The DP is a rigorous challenging course of study. Success throughout the programme depends on
for motivated students. A student’s dedication to do his or her best, study, willingness to be organised
in order to complete the work while leading a full, balanced life, and a strong commitment to learning
in and beyond the classroom. That is more of an indicator of ability to earn the diploma than prior
academic success.

What is the difference between the diploma and certificates?

Not all students choose to take the full course load leading to a diploma. Instead, some students choose to take DP subjects only in areas where they have a particular interest or strength. Certificates are awarded on a course-by-course basis to students who choose not to do the full programme. Students who satisfactorily complete a DP course earn a certificate and may be eligible for university credit.

Learn more about the Diploma Programme