Tips to Choose IB Diploma Subjects

GIIS communications team
Jul 24, 2021

If you are applying for the IB Diploma Programme currently or in the future in a school in Japan, you should definitely check these tips so that you choose your subjects wisely.

The IB Diploma programme has 3 core components (TOK, EE, CAS) which are compulsory for all students in addition to 6 subject groups where students have to take 3-4 higher level subjects and 3 standard level subjects.

Students can choose subjects that match their interests, abilities and future aspirations. 

IB diploma is not just a degree, it is a complete programme for the overall development of students.

Follow these Tips and Choose Subjects in Advance for your IB Diploma

Most of the schools including School Japan ask students to choose their subject in advance as their choices determine the timetable, staffing, recruitment and resourcing for the following academic year.  Therefore, you need to be prepared in advance at least a year before starting the IB diploma. It can be very confusing for any student so start doing your research beforehand. Even If this is not the case in your school, choosing subjects in advance with proper research will still help you later.

There are many schools that conduct events and programmes for parents and students where they explain about the IB Diploma Programme and provide detailed information about the course content, subject structure and assessments. Such sessions are valuable to clear all your doubts. Schools also organise taster lessons which can help students to know more about different IB subjects from the subject expert teachers and are guided by an IB coordinator or counsellor accordingly.

So, you should definitely attend such sessions in your school. It is best to gather information of such events from a counsellor and sync the dates with google calendar so that you do not miss a valuable session.

Despite the best attempts there are chances that you might still get confused to select subjects, there could be many reasons such as you may not have studied some subjects previously or you might get confused over choices on same subject from different groups such as Literature vs Language and Literature in Group 1 or 2 or different mathematics courses (both offered at HL and SL). You can rely on these other tips for better support to make a decision thoroughly.

Choose subjects with university entrance in mind

Subject choices affect your university applications so always clear all your doubts and choose subjects at the right level.


Students who are interested in studying Economics in Top universities will need Mathematics at Higher Level, those interested in Engineering will need Physics and Mathematics HL, those interested in medical will need Biology and Chemistry at HL and those interested in prospective law students are advised to take English A HL.

Even if you are not sure of what you want to study in future, choose subjects that do not limit your options. 

Choose balance combination of subjects

In order to ensure you get entrance into any university, you will have to choose a combination of subjects for your IB Diploma. Choose subjects in a way that is challenging enough but doesn’t stress you.

For eg:- Choose 1 or 2 subjects that are rigorous and compensate with choosing subjects that are manageable; hence it will create a balanced combination of subjects. 

Scoring high with easy subjects is not taken into consideration, School Japan advises students to give priority to choose subjects that help to push their limits academically and excel in it with flying colors. 

Research Subjects of IB Diploma

Most of the students get overwhelmed with the subject's name and do not take an initiative to research more. If you think you have no idea about the subject so it's not a good fit then you are wrong. School Japan recommends students to do a detailed research on each subject which they are unfamiliar with. Get information from IB teachers, counsellors, earlier IB students or search on IB websites. Research will help you in finding detailed information of each subject and your selection process can relatively become easy. You never know that you might find a new interest; Also there won’t be any regret in future about the selection of subjects.

Know Subjects Assessments

IB has 2 assessments (Internal and External). All IB subjects are assessed by class teachers known as Internal assessments and some by external examiners known as External assessments. However, assessment varies from subject to subject. 

Most subjects have exams but some subjects such as Visual Arts and Theatre do not have any written exams. Some subjects (History) require essay writing, while subjects like Business Management require short answers. Know your strengths and weaknesses and then apply accordingly.

Know the difference between Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL)

HL subjects are a combination of (standard level subject material and an additional extension). It is always a good idea to know more about IB Diploma HL additional extensions and assessments, as some are difficult. 

For ef:- Visual arts does not have an exam but they have projects which will need your dedicated time so you need to make sure that you allocate time equally. Giving one subject more time and another less won’t be fair.

Do not choose subjects because of others

Some students say that they choose subjects because their friends choose which is a poor decision. Let the choice of subject be influenced by your own interest and not by others.

It is also not good to make decisions because you have heard from some people; Research, try to find truth and facts, ask more and more people and finally take your own decision 

Grace Period

Do not get scared if you think that your choice of subjects is not according to the way you taught. Most schools have a grace period where students can change the subjects but there is a deadline to it so make sure to figure in that period itself.

You can always make use of the grace period to understand each subject and figure out if you want to stick to it or switch.

Bonus Tips

● Make an excel sheet, List subjects and their details like HL/SL, Assessment.

● You can create a SWOT (Strength, weakness opportunities and threats) analysis of each subject which will help you to choose subjects wisely.

● You can also write your research details under each subject, which can be beneficial to give you an overview.

A little effort initially will save your 2 years. It can be uneasy initially, but you will thank yourself later. Choose the right subjects so that you can be on the right track. IB Diploma requires a great deal of commitment level to score well in each subject. So if you are ready for that level of commitment then go for it. Give yourself more time to get to grips with how it works. Remember one thing; do not compare yourself with others; each one of us has different strengths and weaknesses. Research, Awareness and Preparation will help you in clearing your IBDP.

Best wishes!.

If you find it difficult or have some doubts regarding the IB Diploma subjects or assessment. You can get in touch with counsellors today or leave your comment below.


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