Explaining the IB Diploma: 5 Frequently Asked Questions


Looking for a unique education experience? If you’re trying to find a sure-fire way to prepare for college and get out of your comfort zone, the IB diploma program might be a good fit for you. 

Unlike AP exams, which don’t require you to enroll in a course, each potential test taker must enroll in an IB course to take the IB exam. Take a look at IB’s goals and course offerings before you decide whether to enroll:     

What is it?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a diploma program for students between the ages of 16-19. Established in 1968, IB has over 4,700 schools participating globally. Similar to AP courses and exams, some high schools offer IB courses and opportunities to take the IB exams. The program’s focus is on the process of how to learn, ultimately instilling a love of lifelong learning in students.  

There are three key components to IB:

  1. The Theory of Knowledge, which entails an oral presentation and 1,600 word essay

  2. The Extended Essay - “an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.”

  3. Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) - A focus on creative thinking, contributing to your healthy lifestyle, and volunteer experience.

Students may enroll in IB courses without enrolling in the full program

Why consider the IB diploma program (IBDP? 

Through IB, you have the opportunity to challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether you decide to take IBDP online, abroad, in the US, or at your school, you’ll have the opportunity to stretch your limits. 

Compared to standard high school education, the IB program helps students understand not only individual subjects but the context of the subjects. By learning “how individual subjects fit into knowledge as a whole,” students are taking learning to the next level. One student shares, “I can learn to step out of boundaries without breaking the rules,” giving them a broader view of life and the world in a safe and welcoming environment. 

The most enticing reason to explore IB as an option is that the program truly prepares students for college and their future. Often times, Students remark that after IB, they feel equipped for the challenges and rigor of college. IB helps build your confidence and prepares you for your future.  

According to Monikah Schuschu at CollegeVine, IB is ideal “if you’re interested in attending college outside the United States full-time (as opposed to on a short-term basis as a study abroad student).”


What are the subject areas? 

There are standard level courses and higher level courses in the IB program. Students take at least one course from each of the subject groups, listed below: 

What does receiving the diploma entail?

The IB will provide an official transcript and diploma upon successfully completing the program. One perk of the IB diploma is that the transcript can be sent to up to six universities free of charge. 

What does the IB diploma show admissions counselors? 

With its well-known and rigorous curriculum, the IB program has a strong reputation among colleges. Here are two things the IB diploma tells admissions counselors about you: 

  • You accept educational challenges. 
    With the academic rigor of the international program, Cliff Sjogren, former Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan, says, “A transcript that reveals a student’s enrollment in International Baccalaureate courses serves notice to the admissions officer that the applicant is someone who accepts rather than avoids educational challenges.”

  • You’ll be a successful college student.
    Marlyn McGrath Lewis, Asst. Dean of Admissions at Harvard University shares, “Success in an IB program correlates well with success at Harvard. We are always pleased to see the credentials of the IB Diploma Program on the transcript.”

Dr. Eugene Carson at Virginia Tech notes, “. . . IB students who attended that university (Virginia Tech) as freshmen significantly outperformed all other freshmen, including students who had taken Advanced Placement courses.”

Take a Look at Your Options

Here’s a list of all of the IB program schools in the US. If you’re interested in attending an international school, search through the IB website here.