Choosing your IB Subjects

In addition to the Core, International Baccalaureate Diploma students take six subjects. Three are taken at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL). The breadth of the IB allows for students to keep their university or career options open, whilst still being able to demonstrate passion for a particular area.

It also has the benefit of allowing students to choose HL subjects based on career aspirations, leaving the SL subjects to build on any other particular interests. As one of our IB students explained, “Doing the IB means that I could carry on doing Maths, I didn’t have to choose between that and something else that was more suited to my plans.”

The International Baccalaureate model below shows the Core elements as well as the six subject areas.  The Core is made up of the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity and Service. You can find out more about these on our International Baccalaureate page.

2012 ib diploma modelThe six subjects areas from which students can pick their elective subjects are:

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

Group 2: Language Acquisition

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Group 4: Sciences

Group 5: Mathematics

Group 6: The Arts

To find out more about the subjects available in each group, please download the booklet at the bottom of this page.

One subject must be selected from each area in order to complete the Diploma, although there are two exceptions to this:

  • Taking a subject from Group 6: The Arts is optional
  • Taking Environmental Systems and Societies fulfils the requirements of both Group 3: Individuals and Societies and Group 4: Sciences

This means that students who elect not to study an Arts subject, or elect to study Environmental Systems and Societies, may then choose to study two subjects in one of the other subject areas, rather than just one.

The four subject combinations below are examples that all fulfil the requirements of the Diploma, and how they could be used:

Example 1 Example 2 Example 3 Example 4
English Language and Literature (HL) English Language and Literature (HL) German Language and Literature (HL) English Language and Literature (HL)
Spanish B (SL) French ab initio (SL) French B (SL) Latin (SL)
Psychology (SL) Environmental Systems and Societies (SL) Geography (SL) Psychology (HL)
Chemistry (HL) Mathematics (SL) Biology (HL) History (HL)
Mathematics (SL) Theatre (HL) Chemistry (HL) Mathematical Studies (SL)
Visual Arts (HL) Music (HL) Mathematics (SL) Biology (SL)
This would be an example of someone keeping their options open. This is an example of an Arts-focused Diploma with two subjects taken from Group 6: The Arts. A suitable combination for going on to study medicine. A suitable combination for going on to study law.

An alternative approach: IB Diploma Courses

IB Diploma Courses are ideal for girls who do not wish to study the full Diploma, or are unsure of taking six subjects from the specified areas.  Girls choosing this option can take a combination of up to six courses from any subject area and at the end of the two year course, IB points and certificates are awarded in each separate course studied.  Girls can also benefit from the three elements of the IB Core and can be awarded IB and UCAS points for successful completion of these.

This form of IB qualification is valid for university entry, although girls are encouraged to contact universities to check which subjects they are expected to study to be considered for entry into their preferred course.

Several Cobham Hall students have taken this route in the past and successfully gained places at universities and other higher education destinations in the UK and abroad.

If you want to find out more or arrange a visit, please contact Mrs Julie Shelley or Mrs Hilary Standen, our Admissions Team, via, or by phone on +44 (0) 1474 823371.

Download the current IB Subject Booklet