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If you’re reading this article, you must have decided that IB Diploma Program (IBDP) is the best path for you. Now, you’re wondering what subjects you should take.

Fixed Subject Requirements

The IB requires students to take one subject each from six subject groups: Studies in language and literature, Language acquisition, Individuals and societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and The Arts. Different courses are offered within each subject group. Besides the six subject groups, the IB curriculum consists of three core elements: Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the Extended Essay (EE), and Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS). Students will take at least three subjects at Higher Level (HL) and others at Standard Level (SL).

5 tips for choosing IB subjects

1. Plan ahead

You should find out well in advance about the courses offered by the IB. For example, Language A: Literature is available in 55 languages. Browse through the different courses offered in the six subject groups and narrow down subjects you think you will potentially enjoy or are excited about. Think about what you will major in later.

2. Read subject briefs

Once you have your shortlist of preferred subjects after looking through the courses in the subject groups, you should read the subject briefs, skimming through the subject’s aims, requirements, and assessments.

3. Know your learning style

Every student has his/her own learning style. Figure out what’s yours. Do you prefer memorizing or making inferences? Understanding your learning style will help you pick the right subjects. For example, a student who enjoys memorizing can take History (HL). Similarly, a student who enjoys deducing the principles of what he studies or reads can take Biology (HL).

4. Pick your core subjects

Start with the first subject group, languages, and work outward from there. Have your university requirement in mind or the path you would pursue after your IBDP. For example, if a student intends to pursue a Literature course in university, she will take Literature as an HL subject. The university she applies to would expect her to be fluent in English and be able to engage with a range of texts. The second Language group is generally not considered as important as the first, so you may decide to go for an SL or ab initio selection.

Taking into consideration that every student has his strengths and flaws, you should pick your strongest subjects at HL because you will study these subjects in greater depth and breadth; as these require a higher skill level, picking subjects that you are already good at doing at HL will make it more likely that you’ll be able to get a 7. Do remember that your IB school may not offer the course you plan to take so if you know what school you’ll be in, you may want to start shortlisting from the list of subjects offered there.

5. Talk to your teachers

While the decision of choosing your IB subjects should be entirely yours, it’s always nice to get a second opinion from a teacher whose advice you trust – talk to a teacher who knows your academic strengths and weaknesses. Preferably, the teacher you consult should be familiar with the IB program.

In Summary...

Don’t go with the flow or leave it up to fate. Instead, follow the steps above. Narrow down the subject list and speak to someone who is familiar with the IB and who is familiar with your academic performance. The subject you pick should be related to the university course you would later pursue. These subjects should be at once both doable and challenging for a rich IB experience, and you should do them at the level that suits your unique strengths.

Need help choosing your IB subjects?

Fill up the following form to schedule a call/meeting with Prep Zone Academy’s IB Course Manager. Our IB experts are more than happy to provide more advice and clarify any doubts you have!

For further inquiries, contact us at +65 6812 9999.


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Michelle S.

Author Michelle S.

Michelle is an experienced English Language Trainer. Prior to joining Prep Zone, Michelle taught in Inti International College, Malaysia. She has been teaching English to foreign learners for over ten years. Her background includes teaching Technical English, Writing Skills, Public Speaking, IELTS, TOEFL, IGCSE, IB and GCSE O/A-Level.

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