Is the International Baccalaureate Programme Right for Me?


In the last four years, the number of high schools offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in the Americas has increased by 26%. With 102 participating high schools in Texas alone, it makes sense that an increasing number of college-bound students and families are wondering if this internationally standardized, advanced track of study is the right academic path for them.

Generally, the purpose of taking advanced classes is to experience challenging material and gain demonstrable knowledge (and, ideally, college credit). While dual-credit, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are all "above level" and can translate to college credit, only IB classes are part of a comprehensive program that culminates in multiple requirements in order to earn an International Baccalaureate diploma.

Key differences between AP and IB

  • AP classes are standalone, while IB classes are part of the holistic and interdisciplinary IB Programme

  • AP exams cost $94 each, while IB exams cost $119 each plus a $174 annual registration fee

  • Students can take as many or as few AP classes as they’d like (38 subjects are offered); IB has strict curriculum requirements (see below) in order to earn the IB diploma

  • IB offers classes at both higher level (HL) and standard level (SL) so that students don’t have to take advanced classes in all subjects without falling behind in the programme

  • Some IB classes can be taken online; others are adaptable to students and teachers depending on areas of interest or need

  • The IB Programme fosters a sense of community; most classes are with an IB cohort, and frequent IB events and projects will strengthen those ties and allow for leadership opportunities

  • Students can take AP classes regardless of grade level (depending upon school curriculum), while the IB Programme is focused on the final two years of high school

IB Diploma Programme requirements

There are two hemispheres of the IB diploma programme: the core elements and the subject groups.

IB Core Elements:

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK) - a core class in which “students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know”; culminates in a 1600-word paper and oral presentation

  • The Extended Essay - a 4000-word, independent, self-directed research paper

  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) - a commitment to these three concepts through an involved and student-initiated volunteer project

In addition to the TOK course, students are required to take one course from each of the six IB subject groups. Students may take a second course from each of the groups except for The Arts. Each subject group consists of multiple options and outlined educational goals.

IB Subject Groups and their stated educational and developmental goals:

  1. Studies in Language and Literature

  2. Language Acquisition

  3. Individuals and Societies

  4. Sciences

  5. Mathematics

  6. The Arts

1. STUDIES IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, which features 17 different languages to explore, states a goal of cultivating a personal appreciation of language and literature; skills in literary criticism using a range of texts from different periods, styles and genres; an understanding of the formal, stylistic and aesthetic qualities of texts; strong powers of expression, both written and oral; an appreciation of cultural differences in perspective; and an understanding of how language challenges and sustains ways of thinking.

2. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION, which features modern and classical language options, seeks to foster “acquisition and use of language in a range of contexts and for different purposes” and “an understanding of another culture through the study of its language.”

3. INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETIES comprises courses in business management, economics, geography, global politics, history, information technology in a global society, philosophy, psychology, social and cultural anthropology, and world religions. The goal of this subject group is to stoke critical appreciation of human experience and behavior, the history of social and cultural institutions, and the varieties of physical, economic, and social environments that people inhabit.

4. SCIENCES features courses in biology, computer science, chemistry, design technology, physics, and sports, exercise and health science, along with an interdisciplinary subject, environmental systems and societies, which can also satisfy the Individuals and Societies requirement. In this subject group, students explore the concepts, theories, models and techniques of each area and develop their understanding of the scientific method. Sciences also includes a compulsory project, which encourages students to appreciate the environmental, social and ethical implications of science.

5. MATHEMATICS topics range from algebra and statistics to calculus and discrete mathematics. The subject area seeks to help students develop mathematical knowledge along with logical, critical, and creative thinking, as well as employ and refine their powers of abstraction and generalization.

6. THE ARTS features courses in dance, music, film, theatre, and visual arts. The subjects are designed to promote understanding and exploration of artistic diversity and dynamism, help students express themselves with confidence and competence, and encourage critical, reflective, and informed practice.

Is the IB Diploma Programme right for me?

The IB curriculum fosters independent thinking and leadership development. From compiling and presenting your own research to engaging in self-directed interdisciplinary projects, IB promotes and guarantees growth and leadership potential. The IB communities within high schools are typically tight-knit and will promote intellectual discussion beyond the classroom among your friends. However, you’ll still be free to pursue additional electives outside of the IB curriculum, including AP courses.

The IB Diploma Programme teaches students to think differently about knowledge and to approach learning critically and creatively. The programme’s structure provides an internationally recognized foundation of knowledge along with a global perspective. By completing the IB Diploma Programme, you will be demonstrating to colleges that you are someone who has intellectual curiosity and are oriented toward your future.

Public high schools offering IB in the Austin area:

  • Anderson (Austin ISD)

  • Westwood (Round Rock ISD)

  • Stony Point (Round Rock ISD)

  • Leander (Leander ISD)

  • Vandegrift (Leander ISD)

Public high schools offering IB in the Plano/Dallas area:

  • Allen (Allen ISD)

  • Coppell (Coppell ISD)

  • Hillcrest (Dallas ISD)

  • Woodrow Wilson (Dallas ISD)

  • Frisco (Frisco ISD)

  • Plano East Senior High (Plano ISD)

Note: There are more high schools in the greater DFW area and throughout Texas that offer IB.

Want personalized guidance on whether an IB diploma or other college preparatory plans are right for you? Meet with one of our college admissions counselors for a consultation! Our counselors offer 1:1 advising in single meetings as well as through our longer-term, collaborative STEPS program.

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