Extended Essay Ib Course List

What are all the IB courses available to take? Here's our complete list of all SL and HL classes. 

Every IB School is different, so your IB school may not offer all of the IB courses below. However, these are all of the classes that IB creates a curriculum and test for. There are 56 classes (counting HL and SL separately). I have categorized them by the subject categories that IB defines as the six subject groups.

Table of Contents

To receive your IB Diploma, you must take from all 6 categories (except you can study an additional science, individuals and societies, or languages course, instead of a course in the arts). You must also complete what is known as the core, which includes one additional class:

I'll dive into more detail on each below:


Group 1: Language and Literature

Course NameIBO DescriptionPersonal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
Language A: literatureThe course introduces students to the analysis of literary texts. The course is automatically available in 55 languages and available by special request and may be studied in any language with a sufficiently developed written literature.  N/ANoHL and SL
Language A: language and literatureThe language A: language and literature course introduces the critical study and interpretation of written and spoken texts from a wide range of literary and non literary genres. The formal analysis of texts is supplemented by awareness that meaning is not fixed but can change in respect to contexts of production and consumption. This course is available for study in 17 languages.  N/A NoHL and SL
Literature and performance The literature and performance course aims to explore the relationship between literature and theatre. The main focus of the course is the interaction between the literary skills of close reading, critical writing and discussion and the practical, aesthetic and symbolic elements of performance. It is available in English, and by special request Spanish and French.  N/A NoSL only



Group 2: Language Acquisition

Course NameIBO Descriptions Personal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
Classical languagesLatin or Classical Greek coursework provides opportunities for students to study the language, literature and culture of ancient Rome or Greece.N/ANoHL and SL
Language BLanguage B courses are foreign language courses intended for students who have had some previous experience of learning the language. They may be studied at either higher level or standard level.

I took Language B SL (specifically Spanish B SL). After previously taking Spanish 5 years (beginning in 8th grade). I found the written exam very easy. There is also an oral presentation, which was more challenging. You present on a topic and are required to answer any questions that your teacher asks you regarding your presentation. I received a 7 in the class.

Yes, Spanish B SL onlyHL and SL
Language ab initioThese courses are foreign language for beginners (that is, students who have little or no previous experience of learning the language they have chosen). These courses are only available at standard level.N/AYes, 

Spanish ab initio, Mandarin ab initio, and French ab initio

SL only


Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Course NameIBO DescriptionsPersonal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
Business managementBusiness Management course is a rigorous and dynamic course that explores how business decision-making processes impact on internal and external environments. In turn, it will explore how decision-making processes themselves are affected by internal and external environments.N/AYes, HL and SLHL and SL
EconomicsThe course emphasizes the economic theories of microeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting individuals, firms and markets, and the economic theories of macroeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting countries, governments and societies. These economic theories are not to be studied in a vacuum—rather, they are to be applied to real-world issues. Prominent among these issues are fluctuations in economic activity, international trade, economic development and environmental sustainability.N/AYes, HL, SL, and one-year SLHL and SL
GeographyGeography takes advantage of its position to examine relevant concepts and ideas from a wide variety of disciplines. This helps students develop an appreciation of, and a respect for, alternative approaches, viewpoints and ideas.N/ANoHL and SL
Global PoliticsThis is a relatively new class that was first available for testing in May 2017. The global politics course explores fundamental political concepts such as power, liberty and equality, in a range of contexts and at a variety of levels. It allows students to develop an understanding of the local, national, international and global dimensions of political activity, as well as allowing them the opportunity to explore political issues affecting their own lives. N/ANoHL and SL
HistoryThe Diploma Programme history course aims to promote an understanding of history as a discipline, including the nature and diversity of its sources, methods and interpretations. It also helps students to gain a better understanding of the present through critical reflection upon the past. It is hoped that many students who follow the course will become fascinated with the discipline, developing a lasting interest in it whether or not they continue to study it formally. There are two “routes”: you can either study the history of Europe and the Islamic world or 20th century world history. Most likely, your school will only offer you one option.

I took History HL and covered the History of Europe (I think they adapted it since I took it to add in the Islamic World). I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I think I got a 6 on the exam.

NoHL and SL
Information technology in a global societyThe ITGS framework is modeled on a ‘triangle’. It uses an integrated approach, encouraging students to make informed judgments and decisions about the role of information and communication technologies in contemporary society.N/AYes, SL and HLHL and SL
PhilosophyPhilosophy is a systematic critical inquiry into profound, fascinating and challenging questions such as: What is it to be human? Do we have free will? What do we mean when we say something is right or wrong?N/AYes, SL onlyHL and SL
PsychologyThe IB Diploma Programme psychology course is the systematic study of behavior and mental processes.

I took Psychology SL in high school and loved the course. We learned about very interesting experiments.

Yes, SL and HLHL and SL
Social and cultural anthropologyThe IB Diploma Programme social and cultural anthropology course offers an opportunity for students to explore and understand humankind in all its diversity through the comparative study of culture and human societies.N/ANoHL and SL
World religionsIt is a systematic, analytical yet empathetic study of the variety of beliefs and practices encountered in nine main religions of the world. The course seeks to promote an awareness of religious issues in the contemporary world by requiring the study of a diverse range of religions.N/ANoSL only


Group 4: Science

Course NameIBO DescriptionsPersonal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
BiologyBiologists investigate the living world at all levels using many different approaches and techniques. At one end of the scale is the cell, its molecular construction and complex metabolic reactions. At the other end of the scale biologists investigate the interactions that make whole ecosystems function. I took SL and remember it being a pretty standard Biology class. It is probably very similar to AP Biology other than it requires more experimentation.NoHL and SL
ChemistryChemistry is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills.N/ANoHL and SL
Computer ScienceThe IB computer science course is a rigorous and practical problem-solving discipline. Computational thinking lies at the heart of the course and is integrated with other topics. This will be supported by practical activities including programming.N/ANoHL and SL
Design TechnologyDP design technology aims to develop internationally-minded people whose enhanced understanding of design and the technological world can facilitate our shared guardianship of the planet and create a better world.N/ANoHL and SL
Environmental systems and societiesThrough studying environmental systems and societies (ES&S) students will be provided with a coherent perspective of the interrelationships between environmental systems and societies; one that enables them to adopt an informed personal response to the wide range of pressing environmental issues that they will inevitably come to face.N/ANoSL only
PhysicsPhysics is the most fundamental of the experimental sciences, as it seeks to explain the universe itself from the very smallest particles to the vast distances between galaxies.

I took Physics HL in high school. It was most definitely the most challenging course and exam I took. We covered very high level physics that many Physics students do not reach until their sophomore or even junior year of college. The experiments were very interesting, and the reports for each were very long. It required a lot of time.

NoHL and SL
Sports, exercise and health scienceThe SEHS course incorporates the disciplines of anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, psychology and nutrition, which are studied in the context of sport, exercise and health.N/ANoSL only


Group 5: Mathematics

There are four math class options:

The International Baccalaureate Organization does not do a good job distinguishing between the four courses, but from what I can gather, Mathematical studies SL is the lowest level of mathematics, then Mathematics SL, then Mathematics HL, then Further Mathematics HL. I took Mathematics HL. I found the class totally manageable, but the exam was much more difficult than I expected. This could have been because my class did not prepare me properly or maybe I did not study enough. Only Mathematics SL and Mathematics HL are available online.


Group 6: Arts

Course NameIBO DescriptionsPersonal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
DanceThe course focuses on the composition, performance and analysis of dance, or “expressive movement,” which is practiced amongst peoples of various backgrounds, and for a variety of purposes, throughout the planet.N/ANoHL and SL
FilmAt the core of the IB film course lies a concern with clarity of understanding, critical thinking, reflective analysis, effective involvement and imaginative synthesis that is achieved through practical engagement in the art and craft of film.N/AYes, SL onlyHL and SL
MusicThrough the music course students develop their knowledge and potential as musicians, both personally and collaboratively.N/ANoHL and SL
TheatreThe IB Diploma Programme theatre course is a multifaceted theatre-making course of study. It gives students the opportunity to make theatre as creators, designers, directors and performers. It emphasizes the importance of working both individually and collaboratively as part of an ensemble. It offers the opportunity to engage actively in the creative process, transforming ideas into action as inquisitive and productive artists.N/ANoHL and SL
Visual ArtsThe IB Diploma Programme visual arts course encourages students to challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. It is a thought-provoking course in which students develop analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking, while working towards technical proficiency and confidence as art-makers. In addition to exploring and comparing visual arts from different perspectives and in different contexts, students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for students who want to go on to study visual arts in higher education as well as for those who are seeking lifelong enrichment through visual arts.N/ANoHL and SL


Other IB Required Class

Course NameIBO DescriptionsPersonal NotesAvailable Online?HL, SL, or both
Theory of Knowledge (TOK)In this course, students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.

I know that sounds very vague. This was one of my favorite courses in high school. It was a mix of philosophy and personal evaluation. It allowed me to reflect on what issues were important to me.



What's Next?

Are you hoping to squeeze in some extra IB classes? Learn about the IB courses offered online. 

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The extended essay is a required component of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP). 

It is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.

What is the significance of the extended essay?

The extended essay provides:

  • practical preparation for undergraduate research
  • an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of special interest to them, which is also related to one of the student's six DP subjects. 

Through the research process for the extended essay, students develop skills in:

  • formulating an appropriate research question
  • engaging in a personal exploration of the topic
  • communicating ideas
  • developing an argument. 

Participation in this process develops the capacity to analyse, synthesize and evaluate knowledge.

An extended essay can also be undertaken in world studies, where students carry out an in-depth interdisciplinary study of an issue of contemporary global significance, across two IB diploma disciplines.

How is study of the extended essay structured?

Students are supported throughout the process of researching and writing the extended essay, with advice and guidance from a supervisor who is usually a teacher at the school.

The IB recommends that students follow the completion of the written essay with a short, concluding interview with their supervisor. This is known as viva voce.

The extended essay and interview can be a valuable stimulus for discussion in countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university.

How is the extended essay assessed?

All extended essays are externally assessed by examiners appointed by the IB. They are marked on a scale from 0 to 36.

The score a student receives relates to a band. The bands are:

  • A – work of an excellent standard.
  • B – work of a good standard.
  • C –work of a satisfactory standard.
  • D – work of a mediocre standard.
  • E – work of an elementary standard.

Find out how points awarded for the extended essay contribute to a student’s overall diploma score.

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