The requirements for the IB Diploma are designed to engage students in an integrated program of studies as they complete courses and examinations in one subject from each of six different subject groups.2 Students study some subjects in depth by selecting at least three but no more than four courses at the Higher Level (HL) and explore others more broadly at the Standard Level (SL). This approach represents a deliberate compromise between the early specialization preferred in some national systems and the breadth found in others (IBO, 1998b, p. 2, 2001a, 2001b, 2001c, p. 1). HL courses are 2-year courses. SL courses may be completed in 1 year if scheduling allows for the required number of hours, although many IB schools offer 2-year SL courses.3

In contrast to the AP program, which aims to provide discrete college-level courses for students in high school, the IB courses are part of an integrated program designed to prepare students for college. The IB mathematics program offers a selection of mathematics courses designed to meet the varying needs, interests, and abilities of college-bound high school students. The IB Mathematical Methods SL course is designed to provide a sound mathematical background for students who expect to study subjects at the university level that have a significant mathematical content. The IB Mathematics HL and Further Mathematics SL courses offer more rigorous preparation. Another fundamental difference between the AP and IB mathematics programs is that the IB mathematics courses are not calculus courses; rather, they focus on many advanced mathematics topics that may include calculus.4 Similarly, students are offered both HL and SL courses in each of the experimental sciences; this accommodates students with a strong interest in science while also providing sound preparation in science for those who wish to focus on other subjects.

Three additional requirements are designed to give IB Diploma candidates the opportunity to pursue their own interests while at the same time developing a broad understanding of the bases of knowledge in both the humanities and the sciences. Theory of Knowledge is a 2-year course of study unique to IB and mandatory for every diploma candidate. “It challenges students and their teachers to reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and areas of knowledge, and to consider the role which knowledge plays in a global society. It encourages students to become aware of


Language (a student’s first language and a study of world literature), a second modern language, the social sciences, the experimental sciences, mathematics, and the arts and electives.


For IB courses, 240 hours of teaching is recommended for HL courses and 150 hours for SL courses.


For a detailed discussion of the content of these courses, including their calculus component, and an analysis of how they fit into typical U.S. high school mathematics programs, see the report of the mathematics panel, available at

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