5 points that you didn’t know about IB

IB Is Difficult. This Article Mentions 5 Points That You Didn't Know About IB

13 OCT 2021
how difficult is ib

Are you standing at a fork road trying to decide what you should do for high school? Perhaps you are a parent planning for your child, struggling to decide between IB Diploma (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP).

Either way, these are the 5 points you must know about IB before deciding upon your or on your child’s future.


  1. It’s Intense

  2. IB vs AP

  3. IB year 1 vs IB year 2

  4. Workload

  5. Subject Combination

Oh! Before you go reading, check out what Lilia has to say about her IB experience. 


It’s Intense

The essential requirement to graduate with an IB diploma is that a student has to take at least six subjects. Out of the chosen six subjects, the student needs to specialise in any three or four of them. That means that you need to opt for a Higher Level (HL) in those subject. The rest of the subjects you undertake in IB are Standard Level (SL). 


The main difference between a subject’s Standard Level and Higher Level is that in HL, students are expected to study additional topics in detail. HL subjects are very similar to first-year college courses.


If you aim to get an IB diploma, then you will need to do more than just choosing HLs and SLs. You will also need to write an Extended Essay (EE), participate in Theory of Knowledge (ToK) and indulge in Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS). 


IB is one of the most demanding courses that one can attend for their high school. We have dedicated a whole other article in answering if the intensity and extra workload is worth it! For now, let’s focus on the intensity itself. One of the distinguishing traits of IB is that it is comprehensive. Every subject that you choose in IB is interlinked with one another in a very subtle way. Theory Of Knowledge (ToK) is known to be the connecting string which highlights the interdisciplinary nature of all the IB subjects. As a result, the students who graduate from IB have more holistic training. In other words, they are more well rounded in their academia which allows them to have more options for university.


The intensity of IB is one of the factors which makes it appear ‘difficult’. Students, to a large extent, have to perform as all-rounders. With the help of CAS, IB ensures that student’s education is not only limited to their classrooms. This can be both a good and a bad thing. If you are someone who loves to be challenged and can multitask gracefully, then you should not shy away from the intensity of the course. However, if you are easily overwhelmed with responsibilities outside your school life, then IB can be a little difficult for you to manage.

IB vs AP

  • IB curriculum has a structured and systematic examination process. It helps IB to have a global standard while evaluating their students. AP, on the other hand, is flexible. Students are allowed to selectively choose the subjects they are interested in. This hinders in setting global standards for AP candidates


  • Another important difference between IB and AP is that IB is more depth-oriented. All the subjects in IB are structured in a way that a student studies a limited number of topics elaborately. Meanwhile, AP’s course structure is more breath oriented and covers a lot of topics somewhat outwardly. 


  • One of the other things to factor in is that AP emphasises on retaining facts and knowledge. The IB curriculum, on the other hand, promotes analytical and critical thinking.


  • AP does not require its students to do extracurricular activities such as CAS. Nor do they have metaphysical subjects like Theory Of knowledge. Therefore AP might be the better option in making the students a subject specialist, but you cannot expect AP courses to enhance ones holistic capabilities.

IB year 1 vs IB year 2

IB year 1 is the time when everything is new, and the students are getting accustomed to what IB is all about. Year 2 is a lot of focusing on finishing your Extended Essay, Internal Assessments, etc. Year 2 of IB is relatively more challenging as you have multiple submissions along with the final exams and the CAS reflections. A majority of students pick up their socks in the first year itself and finish what they can to have a less hectic second year. 


Because of the overwhelming nature of IB’s year 2, it is good practice to manage your time efficiently. There is almost no scope of procrastinating your course work in Year 2. Any student guilty of doing so will face a lot of difficulty in graduating with an IB Diploma. 


IB requires its students to carry a significant amount of workload. Each subject has an internal assessment which is similar to an individual project. 


  1. On average, it takes about 20-30 dedicated hours to finalize a draft of an assessment. 

  2. The same is true for writing your Theory Of knowledge (ToK) Essay. Finalising a ToK draft will also take at least 20 hours 

  3. Individual project in subject group 1 is known as 'Internal Oral'. They require a student to prepare a 10-minute long presentation which might need more time to make. 

  4. CAS requires a minimum of 150 hours over two years. 

  5. Planning your Extended Essay and writing it in a way that it pleases your supervisor will easily take at least take 40 hours of your life.

  6. And finally, preparing your ToK presentation is another 20 - 30 hours.

It would not be entirely false to say that IB eats up your weekends. The overwhelming curriculum structure makes it rather hard for students to sustain a social life. But hey, you can always make friends with your group project members! All in all, your course work, excluding your final exams comes down to around 300 hours!

Subject Combination

This is by far one of the most crucial aspects in determining how difficult your IB journey is going to be. Don’t get me wrong. One should not choose IB subject depending on the subject difficulty level. Instead, one should opt for the subjects in which they are truly interested. We have a separate blog walking you through the decision-making process for choosing your IB subject combination. To give you a gist of it, every student is obliged to take one subject from each subject group except for subject Group 6, that is, The Arts. You can instead choose an additional science (Group 4), Individual And Societies (Group 3) or Language Acquisition (Group 2) in place of a Group 6 subject.

According to the latest statistical bulletin published by IBO, the following are the mean grade for each subject group:


  1. Group 1 (Studies in Language and Literature): 4.86

  2. Group 2 (Language Acquisition): 5.35

  3. Group 3 (Individuals and Societies): 4.44

  4. Group 4 (Sciences): 4.16

  5. Group 5 (Mathematics): 4.00

  6. Group 6 (The Arts): 4.58

Regardless of what subject combination you choose, IB can be extremely difficult if you do not get the right resources at the right time! We want Nail IB to be your virtual companion to hustle through IB. We have a lot of helpful blogs which will help you navigate your way through IB. Apart from our blogs, we offer "Take A Test" module, which allows IB students to evaluate their level in the IB Program. Make sure to try a test and see your strengths and weaknesses. And finally, to make sure that you have all the resources that you might need to nail IB, we have curated exclusive student bundles for your convenience.


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