Hey there Anon! That’s quite a large question, so here’s a rough guide!
The IB is broken down into these parts:
- Group 1 (Language/Literature A1)
- Group 2 (Second Language)
- Group 3 (Humanities)
- Group 4 (Science)
- Group 5 (Maths)
- Group 6 (Arts) OR another option from above.
- Core (TOK, CAS, EE)
This is supposed to be your native language - so, English for me, but its usually different depending on where you live. This can be Language and Literature, Literature or Literature and Performance.
This is a second language choice, which must be different from the first. There are three tiers - Ab Initio (if you’ve never studied this language before), SL (if you’ve got previous experience with the language) and HL (if you’ve got previous experience and want to study foreign literature, or for university study). There are loads of languages available on this: French, Spanish, German, English, Arabic, Italian, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese etc etc. Check what is on offer near you.
Available at SL and HL, a special Higher Level paper separates most of the humanities subjects. Available in this group, generally are: Business and Management; Economics; Geography; History; Information Technology in a Global Society; Philosophy; Psychology; Social and Cultural Anthropology; World Religions. The IB is also starting Global Politics in a *few* schools from 2015. Again: CHECK WHAT THE SCHOOL DOES. Most do History, for example, and a lot do economics, but its totally up to them which courses they offer, and most of these aren’t available to most IB students.
Science, which is off-putting for a lot of people. On offer: Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Design Technology, Physics, Sports Exercise and Health Science (only at SL). There’s a substantial difference between the SL and HL subjects here too - in terms of content, depth and detail. Sciences are all assessed using three exams, lab reports (as Internal Assessments), a lab mark and a Group 4 project. In this, you join up with other science students and work together on your own project - we researched Arctic expeditions and scientific differences between them - calorimetry, insulation, etc etc.
- There’s also Environmental Systems and Societies, which counts as both a Group 4 and Group 3 subject, meaning that theres an extra option to play with. -
Again, maths is available at three levels: Maths Studies (which counts as SL but is easier and deals more with stats), SL and HL. HL looks reallllly hard. But if you want to do maths in the future at Uni, you’d probably need to do this. Don’t worry - you should be able to switch for a good few months after starting. All but 2 of us in our school moved from SL to Studies after being in school for a good while - the option was open to us to do this until June Y1, but schools are different. May be worth checking to see if this is possible if you’re on the fence. There’s also a Further Maths HL which is just like HL HL. ew. Maths is assessed by exams and coursework - the ins and outs of these depend on which of the four you take though.
This is technically the arts, but is commonly used as an option group.
On the Arts side, IB offers : Dance, Music, Film, Theatre, Visual Arts. As always, different centres offer different choices, so make sure you know what is where and its easier.
You can also use this as a chance to do another language, humanities or science, usually. So Medics - Bio and Chem is totally possible! Linguists - Feed your love of both French and Hindi! Thinkers - use Philosophy to heighten History! annnd, you get the gist. But yeah, this is a good one - I went for Physics as my Group 6, but Ana went for Art. Its up to you.
Now that the subjects are covered, we come to core.
The IB places emphasis on this - and I have found it to be sooo useful!! - with good reason.
Theory of Knowledge (TOK): this is epistemology, which basically looks at what we know and questions how we know we know it. You’ll look at ways of knowing (perception, emotion, language, reason) and problems with these, before placing them into areas of knowledge (arts, ethics, history, human sciences, natural sciences, maths, etc). It’s a really interesting course, and it also lets you develop as both a thinker and a critic. Its assessed with a short presentation on a Real Life issue, finding knowledge issues from it, and then by an essay on one of the IB’s questions for that year. Don’t worry - it becomes a LOT clearer when you’re actually doing it.
CAS - this is, as you said, at least 150 hours of your time. You spend it doing a Creative pursuit - music, art, crafts, design, writing etc, Action - so sports, or something which involves physical excursion - like hiking!, or Service, which is just volunteer work and can be found in a variety of ways. You need to keep a track of what you do, and when (doing this as you go along is so helpful), as well as collecting evidence. A photo of you, a reflection about the experiences, a letter from someone you worked with etc - these all count. We have other posts about this im sure, if you check out the CAS tag!
Extended Essay (EE) - this is a (max) 4,000 word essay on a subject of your choice. Typically its on a HL subject, and one you want to study at Uni, although this isnt always the case. Usually you start it a while into your first year, and you get more guidance as iy goes!
It may be worth thinking about where your strengths and interests lie when deciding your HL and SL subjects, as well as what you want to do at university - even a rough idea towards science or humanities is helpful. I was undecided, so I did English and Chemistry at HL which opened doors!
The IB section on the curriculum provides breakdowns of each option.
Hope this is somewhat useful !