One of the most common questions students ask about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is what exactly they’ll be studying if they enroll in the program. You yourself might be wondering how the International Baccalaureate curriculum differs from a standard localized curriculum, and what difference it will make if you choose to work towards an IB diploma.  

The best way to answer such a question on how the International Baccalaureate program works is a survey of IB courses, all of which can be categorized under six major subject groups: (1) Studies in Language and Literature, (2) Language Acquisition, (3) Individuals and Societies, (4) Experimental Sciences, (5) Mathematics, and (6) The Arts.

In order to earn an IB diploma, an IB student must take a subject in each of the six categories, plus a core course on the theory of knowledge. These subjects, as well as an extended essay on an independently researched topic of the student’s choice and creativity, activity, and service (CAS) project, round off the IB experience. 

If you’re an IB student based in Singapore and are up to the challenge, take up courses in these six subject groups and complete the requirements for an IB diploma. To help you plan your program of study, here’s an overview of the six groups and the specific subjects that may be offered in schools with the International Baccalaureate program.  

The six groups of the International Baccalaureate Program:

Language and Literature

Previously called the “First Language” subject group, this group pertains to language and literature subjects taken up in the student’s native language or the language they’re most fluent in. Three subjects are taught in this group: 

  • The Language A: Literature subject;
  • The more challenging Language A: Language and Literature subject, and;
  • Literature and Performance. 

Students who are quite proficient in a language other than their first language may also consider earning a bilingual IB diploma if their school offers it. This additional mastery of language will make them attractive prospects to global institutions of higher learning. 

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Language Acquisition

The second subject group, Language Acquisition, is meant to familiarize IB students with languages that they have less extensive knowledge of. This category includes subjects on the classical languages of Greek and Latin, a Language B subject that involves a language they have 2-3 years of experience in, and a Language Ab Initio subject for a foreign tongue that they will be learning for the very first time.

Excelling in this subject group will demonstrate a student’s adaptability as well as encourage deeper engagement with cultures outside of their own. 

Individuals and Societies

The third subject group, Individuals and Societies, encompasses different subjects that are related to the social sciences and the humanities. Students can choose from a wide variety of courses, with some of the most popular ones being Psychology, History, Global Politics, Economics, Philosophy, Social and Cultural Anthropology, and World Religion.

Students can gain a wider perspective on the issues that shape their individuality as well as those that affect the global community at large in these subjects. It is often during their study of these subjects that IB pupils develop a strong sense of purpose and direction for their future careers. 

Experimental Sciences

The fourth subject group, the Experimental Sciences, consists of a variety of hard science subjects. The five that are most commonly offered are Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, and Design Technology. The IB school may also offer subjects like Environmental Systems and Societies and Sports, Exercise, and Health Sciences. If a student wishes to pursue a career in any of these hard sciences, they should aspire to perform well in this subject area. 


The fifth subject group, Mathematics, has substantial course offerings for math. Aside from Mathematics classes of increasing difficulty—Mathematical Studies, Mathematics, and Further Mathematics—this subject area offers students a choice between mathematical specializations.

This reflects in the Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches subject, which focuses on algebraic methods, and Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation, which invites closer study of modeling, statistics, and the applied usage of mathematics in technology. Students can choose according to their level of mathematical ability and according to the field of mathematics that resonates with them the most. 

The Arts

The last subject group, The Arts, focuses on the theory and practice of artistic disciplines like Music, Film, Dance, Theater, and Visual Arts. Students who are talented in any of these disciplines, or who express a deeper interest in the artistic process behind them, will have a great time with their coursework in this subject area. In these subjects, they will be able to nurture their artistic talents and become better advocates for global artists, many of whom are among the world’s biggest changemakers. 

Final Words  

When you take a closer look at the IB subject groups and the subjects that comprise them, it’s easy to see that the program will demand a high level of academic rigor out of its students. But as a result, the IB program has minted thousands of knowledgeable and well-rounded graduates—many of whom have secured admission into the world’s most competitive colleges and universities. 

Does the variety and thoroughness of the IB curriculum excite you? If so, you’d be an excellent candidate for an IB diploma. Choose the subjects that you’re the most inclined toward, and bring your best to the program!

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