Cracking the IB Code: Your Guide to the Detailed Syllabus [2024–25]

Written By Anshima | Edited By Varsha & Adi | Updated on 24th Jan, 2024

Ever felt lost in the jumble of school curriculums, wondering what makes the International Baccalaureate (IB) syllabus stand out? Don’t worry, we’re here to simplify things for you. This blog is your go-to handbook for the educational journey. We’ll break down the IB’s detailed syllabus, explain the grading system in simple terms, draw comparisons with other boards, and explore why the IB is gaining so much popularity in India. Consider this guide as your roadmap to understanding it all. Ready to dive in and chat about your child’s academic adventure? Let’s make sense of it together! 

Quick Summary

Your Guide to the Detailed IB Syllabus [2024–25]

  1. What is the IB Board?
  2. IB: Detailed Syllabus
  • TOK (Theory of Knowledge)
  • EE (Extended Essay)
  • CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service)

  3. Grading System

  4. Comparison with CBSE and ICSE

  5. Comparison with IGCSE

  6. Parents and Alumni reviews

  7. Conclusion

1.  What is the IB Board?

1. What is the IB Board?

Let us introduce you to the educational marvel that is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Board. It was created by the nonprofit International Baccalaureate organization in 1968, headquartered in Geneva. It’s not just a curriculum, it’s a global standard for top-notch education. Schools that adopt the IB curriculum are called IB World Schools and the program offered in grades 11 and 12 is called IBDP or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Unlike the traditional school’s routine of simply delivering content, IB World Schools focus on imparting crucial life skills. It’s an approach that doesn’t just shape successful learners but well-rounded individuals, preparing them for the real world. 

It comprises of four distinctive education programs according to the age-

  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for children aged 3 to 12,
  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP) for those aged 11 to 16,
  • The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19,
  • The International Baccalaureate Career-Related Programme (IBCP) is designed for the same age range. 

IB education offers a bit of a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. Students aiming to continue their studies beyond India often choose IB because it helps them stay in sync with the education standards worldwide, just like students in other parts of the world.

2. IB: Detailed Syllabus 

IB brings a bunch of benefits, and one big plus is the flexibility it offers in choosing subjects. It’s all about focusing on what students are genuinely interested in and how it aligns with their future goals.

IB offers 6 groups of subjects and 3 core subjects:

  1. Group 1: Language and Literature (English)
  2. Group 2: Language Acquisition (International Languages like French, Spanish, German, or Mandarin)
  3. Group 3: Individual and Society (Economics, History, Geography)
  4. Group 4: Experimental Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
  5. Group 5: Mathematics
  6. Group 6: The Arts (Music, Theater, Visual Arts)

Here’s the deal: Students get to choose 1 subject from each group. 

For higher-level studies, they can pick 3-4 subjects, and for Standard Level (SL), it’s 2-3 subjects. In Higher Level (HL), students dive deep into a subject, putting in a minimum of 240 hours. For Standard Level subjects, it’s a minimum of 150 hours of classes.

The three core mandatory subjects are TOK, EE, and CAS.


TOK, short for Theory of Knowledge, is a class where students explore the six subjects they’ve chosen. It’s not about memorizing facts; it’s more like becoming detectives of knowledge. In TOK class students ask: How do they get information? Can it be trusted? Who might be giving us a one-sided view? They delve into their favorite subjects like math, science, and history to understand how people in those areas think and what they believe is true.

What makes TOK cool is that it helps students become smarter thinkers. They learn to carefully analyze arguments, consider different points of view, and sharply use their brains. TOK is like a guide, not just for doing well in school but also for understanding the world better. It’s a secret weapon for thinking and gaining a deeper understanding. 


In the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, “EE” stands for Extended Essay. It’s like a big research project that students do in their final year. They pick a topic they like, research it, and write an essay of about 4,000 words. It’s a chance for students to dig deep into something they’re interested in, show what they’ve learned, and practice doing their research. It’s kind of like a stepping stone to getting ready for university-level work.


In the IB program, CAS, which stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service, is a crucial part of the diploma journey. It’s like a triple-combo that focuses on three key areas. 

  1. There’s creativity, where students express themselves through arts, music, or various creative outlets. 
  2. Then comes activity, promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, fitness, or outdoor activities. 
  3. Lastly, there’s service, encouraging students to give back to their communities through volunteering or service projects. 

CAS isn’t just about hitting the books, it’s about becoming a well-rounded individual with creativity, physical well-being, and a strong sense of community service. Students not only participate in these activities but also document their experiences.

  • Internal Assessments

These tasks are like short research essays for subjects like Economics, Business, Physics, and Biology. Depending on the subject, they can be short (about 750 words for Economics) or long (1500-2000 words for Business and Physics).

  • Written tasks

In language subjects such as English, French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, etc., students are assigned writing tasks that they must submit. The length of these written tasks varies depending on whether the subject is at Standard Level (SL) or Higher Level (HL).

  • Further Oral Activities (FOAs)

Students make presentations that are part of the language subjects. They involve solo or group performances where you discuss a segment of the language course, and you get graded based on your presentation.

  • Internal Oral Commentaries (IOCs)

In IB, students make video presentations about books they studied in language class and are graded by IB examiners.

3. Grading System

3. Grading System

In the IB grading system, your performance is assessed through both Internal and External evaluations.

Internal assessments happen throughout the two years of the diploma program and consider things like assignments, class performance, essays, and community service. These factors contribute to your internal assessment score.

On the other hand, external assessments occur at the end of the final year. Here, question papers are created by an external body, and your answers are evaluated by external examiners.

Each subject is graded on a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being the lowest and 7 being the highest achievable grade. For core subjects like TOK (Theory of Knowledge), EE (Extended Essay), and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service), they collectively contribute to a total of 3 marks. This means that the highest score an IB student can achieve is calculated by  

Total subjects= 6

Maximum Mark/ subject= 7

CAS marks = 3

6 x 7 +3 = 42 + 3 = 45.

That brings the total to the maximum possible score of 45.

The minimum grade to achieve an IB Diploma is 24 out of 45. 

IB grading is different and better than the traditional boards because it looks at more than just how much you know in each subject. It considers your creativity, physical activities, and community service too. In IB, it’s not only about doing well in tests, it’s about being good at lots of things. Your final grade comes from adding up all these different parts, making it a fairer way to see how awesome you are in different ways.

4. Comparison of IB Syllabus with CBSE and ICSE


In the CBSE syllabus, they split the assessments into two, just like IB does with Internal and External assessments. But here’s the catch, CBSE has fewer subject options compared to IB. For the External Assessment, you must take five compulsory subjects, including

  1. Language 1 (Hindi or English Literature and Language)
  2. Language 2 ( Other than language chosen in Language 1)
  3. Social Science
  4. Mathematics
  5. Science

When it comes to Internal Assessment in the CBSE syllabus, there are three must-do subjects.

  1. Physical Education
  2. Work Experience
  3. Art.

 It’s a bit more structured, but you still get some choice in what you explore. CBSE is ideal for students who want to appear for IIT JEE, NEET, IIST, IISER, etc.


In ICSE there are six subjects grouped into three categories. 

In Group I, which is compulsory, subjects like 

  1. English
  2. Second language
  3. History, Civics, and Geography

These subjects have external examinations contributing 80% of marks, with the remaining 20% allocated for internal assessment. 

Group II allows students to choose 2-3 subjects from options like

1. Mathematics

2. Science (Physics, Chemistry, and Biology)

3. Economics 

4. Commercial Studies 

5. A Modern Foreign Language 

6. A Classical Language 

7. Environmental Science

Group III mandates selecting one subject, where the marking scheme involves 50% external paper and 50% internal assessment. 

Subjects in Group 3 range from

  1. Art and Performing Arts
  2. Home Science Cookery 
  3. Fashion Designing
  4. Physical Education 
  5. Yoga 
  6. Technical Drawing Applications 
  7. Environmental Applications 
  8. Modern Foreign Language 
  9. Mass Media & Communication 
  10. Hospitality Management 
  11. Beauty & Wellness: Skin & Hair Styling

Certain combinations are not allowed, such as Sanskrit in both Group I and Group II, Economics in Group II, and Economic Applications in Group III. Additionally, candidates selecting a Modern Foreign Language cannot choose the same language in the other two groups.

Well, IB is known worldwide outlook, flexibility, and holistic learning experience. It prepares you for a global stage. On the other hand, ICSE is like a solid education package with a focus on subjects, and it’s a familiar face in India. So, it depends on what suits your style.

5. Comparison of IB Syllabus with IGCSE 

Now, let’s dive into the minds of students who have experienced the curriculum of IGCSE and IB. 

Student’s Take on IGCSE

The IGCSE also known as International Board other than IB stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). IGCSE, run by Cambridge, has a fixed curriculum with exams conducted by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). It has specific levels like Lower Secondary and Higher Secondary, progressing to AS for 11th grade and A for 12th grade.

Unlike IB, IGCSE follows prescribed books and the Cambridge International Examination. IB, on the other hand, is more student and skill-centered, without fixed textbooks or exams. It offers flexibility, allowing students to choose subjects from different groups. IB focuses on a balance between curricular and extra learning through diverse activities. The choice between them depends on whether you prefer a structured education with IGCSE or a flexible, skill-focused approach with IB, which is particularly beneficial for applying to foreign universities.

6. Parents and Alumni Review

The reviews from both the parents and alumni provide a mixed perspective on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. While some alumni express gratitude and positive sentiments about their IB experience, highlighting the program’s emphasis on critical thinking, practical skills, and unique subjects like Theory of Knowledge (TOK), others recount the initial challenges, stress, and struggles associated with the program. 

The positive aspects include the recognition of IB’s value in preparing students for university life, fostering a sense of independence, and offering a broader choice of subjects. On the negative side, some parents express concerns about the stress levels, workload, and the program’s perceived lack of flexibility.

 The IB program is viewed as a transformative experience by some, with benefits extending beyond academic knowledge to gain skills like time management, communication, and resilience. However, the challenges and stress associated with the program are acknowledged, and opinions vary on whether the overall experience is worth the effort.


In conclusion, the IB syllabus offers a different approach to education that sets it apart from other boards such as CBSE, ICSE, and IGCSE. Unlike traditional rote learning, the IB prioritizes critical thinking, independent research, and a comprehensive educational philosophy. Many parents and alumni value the skills cultivated through the IB experience. It is important to know that, beyond preparing students for the demands of university life, the program nurtures curiosity, independence, and a global outlook. As you navigate educational choices for your kids, this blog will provide a deeper understanding of the detailed syllabus for IB to guide you in making well-informed decisions for your children’s academic journey, ensuring a transformative and well-rounded educational experience.

Varsha & Adi

Hi, we are Varsha and Adi, and we’re on a mission to help parents make the right choice for their kids’ education. Picking a school is like a 10-year commitment, and we realized parents needed clear, no-nonsense info. That’s why we created Candid Schools, where you can get the real deal on schools without the fancy jargon. Our goal is simple: to give parents the info they need to make the best choice for their little ones.

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