A Breakdown of the IB for IB Parents

So… your child is starting the IB. What do you need to know? We’ve broken down the key components of the IB so that you can follow along exactly with what your child will be doing over the coming years! You’ll be an IB expert in no time.


The IB Diploma is a 2-year-long diploma in which students are expected to study 6 subjects. These 6 subjects are studied continuously throughout the 2 years.

In addition to the 6 subjects, students must also complete the core, which consists of the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and CAS. 

  • The Extended Essay (EE) is a 4,000 word essay that students must write in a subject of their choice. Students typically start the EE around halfway through their first year and finish it around halfway through their second year.
  • Theory of Knowledge is a mandatory subject focusing on the nature of knowledge. Some compare it to a ‘philosophy’ class, but really it is a broader subject that focuses on different areas of knowledge, ways of knowing, and cultural perspectives.
  • CAS is an acronym for Creativity, Activity, and Service. Throughout their time in the IB, your child must show that they are engaging in out-of-school activities that fit one of these three categories. To find out more about CAS, check out our free CAS guide!



Your child will choose which 6 subjects they would like to study in the IB. The IB breaks its subjects up into 6 main subject groups, namely: 

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies
  • Group 4: Sciences
  • Group 5: Mathematics
  • Group 6 (Optional): Arts

Each school decides which specific subjects it offers from each of these subject groups. One school may offer German and Spanish in their Group 2, while another offers French and Spanish. To find out more about the exact subjects that your child can take, get in touch with your school. 

The IB requires students to choose one subject from each of these subject groups (except for the optional group 6). So, an acceptable IB subject combination might be the following:

  • Group 1: English A Language & Literature
  • Group 2: Spanish B
  • Group 3: History
  • Group 4: Physics
  • Group 5: Maths Analysis and Approaches
  • Group 6: Economics

As you can see, instead of taking an arts course for group 6, this student decided to take Economics as their 6th subject. 

Each subject is available to study at Higher Level (HL), or Standard Level (SL). A Higher Level course is more demanding, has a larger syllabus, and covers more difficult concepts than its Standard Level equivalent. Each student must take a minimum of 3 HL courses to satisfy the IB requirements – so taking the previous student, their subject choices may be the following:

  • Group 1: HL English A Language & Literature
  • Group 2: SL Spanish B
  • Group 3: SL History
  • Group 4: HL Physics
  • Group 5: HL Maths Analysis and Approaches
  • Group 6: SL Economics

Keep in Touch! 


Each of your child’s 6 subjects is scored on a scale from 1-7. So, a student can get a maximum score of 42 from their 6 subjects. 

In addition to the 42 subject points, students can get a maximum of 3 bonus points for the successful completion of their Extended Essay and TOK. So, the maximum score possible for an IB student is a 45.

In order to pass the IB, a student must score at least 4 points in each subject, and get a minimum of 24 points in total. The world average score is typically around 29-30 points, but your school’s average score might be wildly different from this due to the quality of teaching, so make sure to check what your school’s average is!

We hope that gives you a good first glimpse at what the IB really is! Feel free to check out the rest of our free resources and blog posts to find out more about particular subjects.

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