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International Baccalaureate (IB) in Germany

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate is a kind of international "general university entrance qualification" which, by passing special examinations, gives access to university studies. The IB Diploma was founded in Geneva in 1968 to link different international school systems. Students, teachers as well as the participating schools in the global network can benefit from the good reputation. It promotes intercultural understanding and interdisciplinary knowledge through quality teaching and international partnerships. The International Baccalaureate is a world leader in international education and empowers students of all ages, from 3- 19, to independently achieve their future career aspirations. As a result, the IB allows students to develop their own personalities, build self-confidence, chart their own learning path, and develop an international mindset. The IB has been successfully developing determined and inquisitive individuals for the ever-changing job market for over 50 years. In principle, the IB is recognized worldwide and provides access to various universities after successful completion.

What is International Baccalaureate equivalent to?

The IB can be compared to a "general university entrance qualification" in Germany or the British GSCE (secondary school level I certificate or ´Mittlere Reife´ in Germany). It therefore counts as a kind of international Abitur and is particularly worthwhile if international professions are being pursued. An IB can also be an advantage for foreign students, for whom it is difficult to be accepted at a university even with a good school leaving certificate. Studies also show that the IB offers students more opportunities for success than other school diplomas. In addition to individual performance in the various subject areas, students here tend to be more self-confident in presentations or even written assignments.

The IB Continuum

The curriculum of the four IB programs corresponds to the respective maturity level of the students and aims to promote an international mindset as well as to connect the learning content with the global environment. In addition to the respective final exams, assessments are also given by the teaching staff.

Primary Years Programme (PYP)

The Primary Years program is designed for students aged 3 to 12. The focus here is on overcoming traditional boundaries between the different subject areas. To this end, six subject areas offer important questions for intercultural understanding, such as "how does the world work" or "where are we in time and space". For the successful completion of the Primary Year Program, an exhibition is taken as an examination performance.

Middle Years Programme (MYP)

In total six global contexts are explored and developed in the MYP. These include identities and relationships, personal and cultural identity, alignments in time and space, scientific and technological innovation, equity and development, and globalization and sustainability. The program is designed for 11- to 16-year-old students and is completed through a personal or community project.

Diploma Programme (DP)

The diploma program for 16- to 19-year-olds consists of a total of six subject groups and three core areas, for example "epistemology". Finally, a comprehensive subject essay concludes the diploma program.

Career-Related Programme (CP)

In the CP, the subjects from the diploma program are combined with job-related courses as well as other core areas such as "personal and professional ability". Here, 16- to 19-year-olds can gain diverse content for the future job market. A reflective program serves here as the conclusion of the program.

International Baccalaureate Curriculum

The curriculum is adapted for each age group depending on the IB program chosen. The following subjects are offered during the IB Diploma. Each subject is divided into different courses so that students can choose their own focus. Students can choose two courses from each of the first four groups if they wish.

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

In group 1, the student's native language or best language is chosen. A total of three courses are offered. If a student chooses two Group 1 subjects instead one each of Group 1 and Group 2, he or she has the opportunity to receive a bilingual IB diploma. The choices are:

  • Language A: Literature (available in 55 languages)
  • Language A: language and literature (available in 17 languages)
  • Literature and performance (available in english or by special request in spanish and french)

Group 2: Language Acquisition

In the second group, a second language can be chosen. Here the various courses distinguish between the different language levels (SL for standard level and HL for higher level). The following courses are available for selection as a second language:

Modern Languages:

  • Language ab initio (only available at standard level for beginners)
  • Language B (for higher level)

Classical Languages: (language, literature and culture studies)

  • Latin
  • Classical Greek

Online Courses:

  • Spanish ab initio
  • Spanish B SL
  • Mandarin ab initio
  • French ab initio

Every IB diploma candidate has to learn a second language.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

In group 3 students can choose from ten different subjects, which are offered in different levels. There are the following courses to choose from:

  • Business management
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Global politics
  • History
  • Information technology in a global society
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Social and cultural anthropology
  • Worlds religions (SL)

Group 4: Experimental Sciences

The subjects in this group form the scientific focus of the high school program. There is a choice of a total of seven courses of which five are offered in both levels and two only for higher level:
Both levels:

  • Biology
  • Computer science
  • Chemistry
  • Design technology
  • Physics

Higher level:

  • Sports, excercise and health science
  • Environmental systems and societys

Group 5: Mathematics

To earn the IB Diploma, students have to successfully complete one of the two courses offered. Both "analysis and approaches" and "applications and interpretations" are offered as SL or HL.

Group 6: The Arts

Students can choose a course from the following selection here and add an artistic touch to their degree:

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Visual Arts
  • Film

However, other courses from groups 1 to 4 can be chosen as a substitute.
In addition to the six groups, which offers a choice of different courses, the following three elements have to be completed by each student as part of their IB Diploma.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

In the concentration, students are expected to complete two CAS activities, as well as provide evidence of weekly attendance. In addition, a CAS project must be presented that has lasted at least one month. Basically, seven learning outcomes are to be generated here and at the end they are also to be proven as a result within the framework of the project.

Extended Essay (EE)

The Extended Essay is mandatory for all students. It is an independently prepared research paper with a total of 4,000 words in length.

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

TOK is also mandatory for all students and includes an oral presentation and an essay. The essay should be about 1,600 words in length. The goal is to get students to think about the nature of knowledge.

Comparison of IB and AP
The International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) are both internationally recognized curricula that provide access to various higher education institutions. Nevertheless, the two educational qualifications differ in the following respects:

Differences International Baccalaureate Advanced Placements
Availability Worldwide schools in over 153 countries 22,000 schools in the USA (occasionally also worldwide)
Courses 56 classes with various courses (subdivision according to performance levels), broadly diversified with a holistic approach. 38 subject-specific and individually designed courses
Assessments Versatile assessments - teacher evaluations, class work, lab work, project work, oral performance, end of school year final exams (open-ended questions, essays, data response questions). Exam at the end of the school year (mostly multiple-choice)


The curriculum and also the assessment method of the International Baccalaureate aims to allow students to develop individually with their strengths and weaknesses and also to learn diverse teaching and working methods. With the IB continuous development is better supported than with the AP approach, according to experts. Nevertheless, both degrees are internationally recognized and good preparation for college.

What subjects should I choose for IB?

In principle, the IB offers access to any (elite) university worldwide. However, depending on the country, the combination of subjects required by the universities may vary. For German universities, the five basic subjects mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, a language at native language level, as well as a foreign language should be selected and completed within the framework of the IB. In addition, another academic subject such as music or art or a specialization of the basic subjects must have been completed. The chosen subjects are always accompanied by an overarching course "Theory of Knowledge", which brings the contents of the school subjects into a social context.

University admission and International Baccalaureate

The international Baccalaureate promotes critical thinking and other important research skills needed for university study. Upon successful completion, students are accepted at the most successful universities worldwide. In 2022, a database of recognition guidelines will be published on the extent to which the various IB programs are recognized at the desired universities. In principle, both national and international governments worldwide recognize IB programs as an internationally accredited curriculum. You can find out which courses should be chosen for university admission at the universities of the different countries within the IB program and which other regulations you should consider in the respective countries in the following country list: https://www.ibo.org/university-admission/find-countries-and-universities-that-recognize-the-ib/

Frequently asked questions

How can I apply to universities after successfully graduating?

Students can select up to six universities worldwide to which they would like to apply. After the grades have been posted, the universities receive access to the transcript with the grades via a secure website access.

How do I find the right IB-world-school?

The schools are widely spread all over the world and are differentiated between state and private schools. In addition, not every school offers every individual IB program. Appropriate information is communicated by the schools in each case.

Which IB programs does IS Hamburg offer?

The Diploma Program, Middle Years Program and the Career-related Program are offered at the International School of Hamburg.