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What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP)?

After finishing the MYP, students are well-prepared for further studies, including national and international courses of study designed for 16-19 year olds. The MYP aligns most closely with the IB DP, ensuring a smooth transition; and prepares students for the DP by reflecting the depth, breadth and balance that is characteristic of all IB programmes.

Through the DP, students:

  • have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge
  • flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically
  • study at least two languages
  • excel in traditional academic subjects
  • explore the nature of knowledge through the programme’ s unique theory of knowledge course

The curriculum at Indian international schools is made up of the DP core and six subject groups and three required components. The DP core aims to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills.

The three core elements are:

  • Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.
  • The extended essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
  • Creativity, activity, service, in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.

The six subject groups from which students choose:

  • Studies in language and literature (Group 1)
  • Language acquisition (Group 2)
  • Individuals and societies (Group 3)
  • Sciences (Group 4)
  • Mathematics (Group 5)
  • The Arts (Group 6)

Students may opt to study additional science, individuals, and societies, or languages course, instead of a course in the arts.

Students will take some subjects at Higher Level (HL) and some at Standard Level (SL).  HL and SL courses differ in scope but are measured according to the same grade descriptors, with students expected to demonstrate a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skills at Higher Level.

Each student takes at least three (but not more than four) subjects at higher level, and the remaining at Sandard Level.


Assessment and Exams

The IB assesses student work as direct evidence of achievement against the stated goals of the DP courses. DP assessment procedures measure the extent to which students have mastered advanced academic skills in fulfilling these goals, for example:

  • Analyzing and presenting information
  • Evaluating and constructing arguments
  • Solving problems creatively

Basic skills are also assessed, including:

  • Retain knowledge
  • Understand key concepts
  • Apply standard methods

Student results are determined by performance against set standards, not by each student's position in the overall rank order.

The IB uses both external and internal assessment in the DP.

External assessment

Examinations form the basis of the assessment for most courses. This is because of their high levels of objectivity and reliability. They include:

  • Essays
  • Structured problems
  • Short-response questions
  • Data-response questions
  • Text-response questions
  • Case-study questions
  • Multiple-choice questions (These are rarely used)

Internal assessment:

Teachers also play a key role in assessing students’ development, particularly in:

  • Oral work in languages
  • Fieldwork in geography
  • Laboratory work in the sciences
  • Investigations in Mathematics
  • Artistic performances

In the DP, students receive grades ranging from 7 to 1, with 7 being highest. Students receive a grade for each DP course attempted.

A student’s final Diploma result score is made up of the combined scores for each subject. The diploma is awarded to students who gain at least 24 points, subject to certain minimum levels of performance including successful completion of the three essential elements of the DP core.

The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Extended Essay (EE) components are awarded individual grades and can collectively contribute up to 3 additional points towards the overall Diploma score. Thus, the maximum points DP student can score is 45 (6 x 7, plus 3)

Creativity, Action, Service – these constitute the remaining elements in the DP core. While this does not contribute to the total points, students’ participation is mandatory in order to be awarded the Diploma.


University and Employment

IB DP focuses on personal, professional and academic development and is globally recognized by universities for the holistic and rigorous education it provides. The IB DP is recognized and respected by the world’s leading universities, and evidence suggests that higher rates of DP students go on to university and higher education study than non-IB students. 

The most popular of these institutions are ranked among the top universities in the world. The IB recognition resource and document library has testimonials from universities working with DP students.

Research suggests that the DP can play an important role in ensuring admission to a university. However, the performance of the student also matters.

The DP focuses on a rigorous academic study, within a broad and balanced curriculum, which can prepare students well for employment. Students in the DP also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to community service, gaining valuable experience outside the academic world.

All universities in India accept the IB Diploma as equivalent to Class 12 qualification from an Indian board. The IB Diploma has been recognized by the AIU as an entry qualification to all universities in India since 1983 and renewed in 2010. According to AIU: “The International Baccalaureate Diploma…has been equated with +2 stage (Grade 12) qualification of an Indian Board since 1983. Students intending to join Indian Universities after completion of their IB qualifications are eligible to pursue Bachelor’s degree programme at Indian Universities. Those intending to join Professional Degree programmes…are required to have studied the subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Biology/Mathematics and English at the qualifying level.” (AIU, Dec, 2010).


Key Facts

  • Established in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) was the first programme offered by the IB
  • It is preceded by the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and is followed by the Career-related Programme (IB CP) – established respectively in 1994 and 2012
  • The DP is taught to students aged 16-19
  • DP students are better able than their peers to cope with demanding workloads, manage their time and meet the expectations placed on them, according to one study
  • Analysis of DP students in Canada, the UK and the USA found that the DP’s extended essay improves students’ approach to learning in higher education
  • 72% of students taking the DP in China attend one of the world’s top 500 universities, according to a 2013 study
  • DP students apply to more than 3,300 higher education institutions each year, in close to 90 countries
  • Over the last 10 years several qualification bodies and research institutions have compared elements of DP course curriculums and assessments with others courses of study
  • Overall findings from the research have been very favorable for the DP
  • The Education Policy Improvement Center undertook a four-year project [1.2 MB]  to create a set of academic-content standards in eight DP subject areas and determined the degree to which these standards aligned with accepted college-readiness standards
  • In 2012, the UK’s Ofqual compared A levels to 19 other curriculums/examinations, including the IB Diploma Programme. The DP material was highly regarded in a number of areas
  • In the US, a comparison of four DP standard level (SL) courses (biology, mathematics, language A and world history) and similar Advanced Placement (AP) courses assigned the DP SL courses equal or higher grades than the AP courses
  • The University of Delhi’s comparative analysis of course materials and assessments from the DP, the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) found that, in comparison, DP courses were often more comprehensive and exhaustive than other courses; that they encouraged multiple perspectives; and that they developed analytical, critical and evaluative abilities



The IB DP was established to provide students with a balanced education, facilitate geographic and cultural mobility and to promote international understanding.

It was created by teachers at the International School of Geneva, with assistance from several other international schools.

Since then, innovative and committed teachers and examiners from around the world have played a significant role in the development of the programme.

To know more about the IB DP, click here.