IB Program

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Cole Harbour High School is now an International Baccalaureate World School


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) is a rigorous pre-university course of studies delivered in grades 11 and 12. The program originated in Europe in 1968 and was intended to establish a common curriculum and university entry credential for students moving from one country to another. Since its birth the IB Diploma has become a symbol of academic integrity and intellectual promise. Today the headquarters of the International Baccalaureate Organization are in Geneva, Switzerland, but Canadian IB schools report to and receive support from a regional office in New York City.

Current Status

Worldwide there are over 1,360 schools which offer the IB Diploma Program, an international standard of achievement recognized by a growing number of universities in Canada, the United States, and abroad. Most of these universities grant advanced credit or transfer credits to graduates achieving sufficiently high results. Recently Canadian universities such as St. Mary’s, Queen’s and the University of British Columbia have created special IB entrance scholarships to attract diploma graduates.

The Program

The Diploma Program is suited to any academically ambitious high school student who seeks to attend university. The program requires a great deal of reading outside the classroom. It is expected that students in the program have excellent reading skills. This comprehensive two-year program is designed for students aged 16 to 19 and is delivered in grades 11 and 12. The program culminates in a series of international examinations written in six academic subjects chosen by each student—one subject from each of the following groups which correspond to the principal domains of knowledge:

Students may take a seventh subject, from any group, at the discretion of the school. The student’s choices must include three courses taken at the Higher Level (HL), comprising 240 teacher-student contact hours, and three courses taken at the Standard Level (SL), comprising 150 teacher-student contact hours. Most subjects are taken over two years, but a few SL courses such as history and economics may be completed in the grade 11 year.

Students are also required to fulfill three additional requirements, a feature unique to the IB:

  • The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course - an interdisciplinary course designed to develop habits of critical reflection, clarity of thought, and moral judgement
  • The Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) program - a minimum of 150 hours of participation in creative programs, athletics or other physical activities, and community service
  • The Extended Essay (EE) - a 4000-word piece of original research on a topic chosen by the student.

Schools which offer the IB Diploma Program are required to encourage a global view and international understanding, an important goal in all subjects and co-curriculum programs.

Diploma Graduation Requirements

The assessment of each student’s work in each of the student’s six subjects includes a written final external examination written in May. Examinations are limited to five hours per HL subject and three hours per SL subject. Theory of Knowledge is assessed on a paper written by each student, and the Extended Essay is submitted for external assessment as well. In addition, every subject has a course work component which is internally assessed by the teachers. There is an emphasis on oral and written communication, group work, an ability to synthesize information, and analytical skills.

Each examined subject is graded on a scale of 1-7. The maximum for the six subjects (6 × 7) is 42 points. The Diploma is awarded to students who achieve a minimum total point score of 24 and complete a TOK paper, the Extended Essay, and the CAS program. The TOK and the Extended Essay grades contribute up to three bonus points to a student’s total points toward the Diploma.

Worldwide, over 80% of students who attempt the IB Diploma earn it.

Professional Development

All teachers in the IB program receive special training and ongoing support for curriculum and assessment development from the IB organization including on-line access to 3000 education resources, subject area experts, and discussion sessions with teachers at IB schools throughout the world. IB schools are inspected and subjected to a thorough program review every five years following their initial accreditation.

The Benefits of an IB Diploma

  • The ultimate benefit is that IB graduates are literate, articulate, confident young adults with an understanding of global issues and other cultures.
  • University admissions and scholarship committees are increasingly taking into account an applicant’s entire school record, not just marks. The IB Diploma Program’s emphasis on citizenry and extracurricular activities speaks aptly to those criteria.
  • IB graduates consistently perform well once at university with many advancing to post-graduate programs. Typically diploma holders bring to university a capacity for in-depth study, strong writing skills, and know how to research a topic and express their opinion. They will also have a strong sense of their own culture and identity, as well as the ability to communicate in two or more languages with people who have a different perspective of the world.
  • The IB Diploma graduates receive excellent recognition from universities admissions offices in Canada, the USA and abroad. This recognition in Canada includes early acceptance, advanced standing and eligibility for special IB scholarships as well as traditional university scholarships. Many Canadian universities have established dedicated IB admissions staff to recruit and advise IB Diploma graduates.