IB Courses and Classes - The Complete List

May 29, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed

Thinking about taking IB classes in high school? Keep reading to learn more about the types of courses you can take.

Whether you’re interested in literature, math, or the sciences, the IB program offers a diverse group of courses that will allow you to discover your passions, sharpen your critical thinking skills, and prepare you for the rigor of college-level work. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the IB courses list, which includes both Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL) classes across the six groups, so you can choose the ones that are best for you. Let’s get started!


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/29/24

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

The IB classes in this group build an appreciation of language and literature, literary criticism, and an understanding of texts from diverse cultures and eras. This group comprises topics that teach literature and language and combine these with theatre arts.

Studies in Language and Literature

Course Name Description Available Online? Level(s)
Language A: Literature Introduces students to the analysis of literary texts. It is available in 55 languages where it is studied in any language with sufficiently developed written literature. Students learn to appreciate the artistry in its oral and written form. No HL and SL
Language A: Language and Literature Introduces the critical study and interpretation of written and spoken texts from a wide range of literary forms and non-literary literary text types. Yes, English A Language and Literature (HL and SL) HL and SL
Literature and Performance Explores 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. No SL

Group 2: Language Acquisition

The language acquisition group accommodates the student's experience and novel interest in language study. Modern languages are offered in several languages, emphasizing language acquisition and use in various contexts and for different purposes. 

This group of IB classes also promotes an understanding of other cultures through language study.

Language Acquisition

Course Name Description Available Online? Level(s)
Classical Languages: Latin or Classical Greek Designed to train the mind and develop memory, analysis, and critical thinking. You also enjoy the beauty and power of these languages and the cultures that produced them. No HL and SL
Modern Languages: Language ab initio Helps the student to develop the ability to communicate in the target language through the study of language, themes, and texts. This course is for beginners (students with little or no previous experience of learning the language they have chosen). Yes (Spanish, Mandarin, and French) SL
Modern Languages: Language B Develops the ability to communicate in the target language.
There is evidence of communication through receptive, productive, and interactive skills across various contexts and purposes.
Yes (Spanish SL) HL and SL

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Group 3 involves theories, argument analysis, and the history of social institutions. Subjects like philosophy, psychology, and business management help students develop a critical appreciation of human experience, behavior, and their environments. 

Individuals and Societies

Course Name Description Available Online? Level(s)
Business Management This course is designed to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of business management theories and their ability to apply a range of tools and techniques. Yes SL and HL
Economics In the Economics course, students understand the exciting, dynamic complexities and interdependence of economic activities in a rapidly changing world. Yes HL and SL
Geography Teaches both physical and human geography and ensures that students acquire elements of both scientific and socio-economic methodologies. No HL and SL
Global Politics Explores fundamental political concepts such as power, sustainability, equality, and peace in different contexts and levels. Students develop an understanding of the local, national, international, and global dimensions of political activity. No HL and SL
History Stirs up an inquisitive mind in students. It is an interpretive discipline that allows students to engage with multiple perspectives and opinions. No HL and SL
Digital Society Explores the challenges and changes faced today in technology, media, policy, and ethics through conceptual and contextual lenses. Yes HL and SL
Philosophy Actively engages students in stimulating philosophical activities to fuel their intellectual curiosity. Dynamic discussions encourage the examination of personal perspectives and that of others. Yes(SL only) HL and SL
Psychology Examines the interaction of biological, cognitive, and sociocultural influences on human behavior. This course will help you understand how to develop, generate, and apply psychological knowledge. Yes HL and SL
Social and Cultural Anthropology Offers an opportunity for students to explore and understand humankind in all its diversity through the comparative study of culture and human societies. No HL and SL
World Religions Analyses the beliefs and practices encountered in nine main religions of the world. No SL
Language and Culture* Investigates how linguistic and cultural practices
shape our identities and how individuals bring about change in these linguistic and cultural practices. The course draws from linguistics and
social and cultural anthropology and focuses on the complex interactions
between individuals, societies, languages, and cultures.
No HL and SL

Group 4: Sciences

The science subjects teach key concepts, models, theories, and techniques in each subject area. Here’s a breakdown of the Group 4 classes:


Course Name Description Available Online? Level(s)
Biology Investigates the living world at all levels, studying the cell, its molecular construction, and complex metabolic reactions.
Students also investigate the interactions that make whole ecosystems function.
No HL and SL
Computer Science Candidates will learn programming skills as a critical element of developing higher-level skills applicable to virtually all fields of study.
It is a rigorous and practical problem-solving course.
No HL and SL
Chemistry Studies the chemical principles that connect the physical environment and biological systems. The course combines academic study with practical and investigational skills. No HL and SL
Design Technology Develops an enhanced understanding of design and the technological world. It focuses on analysis, design development, synthesis, and evaluation of technology. No HL and SL
Physics Explains the universe from the very smallest particles to the vast distances between galaxies. It studied several models in a bid to understand observations and theories. No HL and SL
Environmental Systems and Societies* Provides a coherent perspective of the interrelationships between environmental systems and societies. This helps students to adopt an informed personal response to inevitable environmental issues. No SL
Sports, Exercise, and Health Sciences Explores the concepts, theories, models, and techniques behind each subject area. Helps students develop their understanding of the scientific method. No HL and SL

Group 5: Mathematics

IB Mathematics caters to students of various backgrounds and needs. Group 5 aims to develop mathematical knowledge, concepts, and principles. You will develop improved logical, critical, and creative thinking. Here are the courses students can choose from:

  • Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches SL
  • Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches HL
  • Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation SL
  • Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation HL

Students will need to learn how to proficiently use a graphic display calculator in order to take Group 5 courses. 

Group 6: The Arts

The arts group balances creativity and disciplined research in Dance, Music, Film, Theatre, and Visual Art. You can

The Arts

Course Name Description Available Online? Level(s)
Dance Teaches the composition, performance and analysis of dance practiced amongst peoples of various backgrounds for a range of purposes.
Students create, participate in, and reflect upon dance forms and styles from various traditions and cultures, both familiar and unfamiliar.
No HL and SL
Film Trains students as proficient interpreters and filmmakers. It studies and analyzes film texts through practical exercises in film production. It develops students’ critical abilities and their appreciation of artistic, cultural, historical, and global perspectives in film. Yes (SL only) HL and SL
Music Combines practical work, and theoretical and technical training to develop creative musicians.
Students can access unique and personalized content and approaches to engaging with music.
No HL and SL
Theatre Encourages discovery through experimentation, risk-taking, and presentation of ideas to others. It develops theatre and life skills, the building of confidence, creativity, and working collaboratively. Students have the opportunity to create, direct, and perform in the theatre. No HL and SL
Visual Arts Studies the traditional forms of arts in local and wider communities, societies, and cultures, as well as new, emerging, and contemporary forms of visual language. They may have socio-political impact as well as ritual, spiritual, decorative, and functional value. No HL and SL

DP Core

In addition to the six subject groups, the IB curriculum incorporates the DP core, which expands students' educational horizons and fosters the application of their knowledge and skills. The DP core focuses on three key elements: 

  • The Theory of Knowledge prompts students to contemplate the essence of knowledge and consider how we justify what we claim to know
  • The Extended Essay is an independent, 4,000-word research paper
  • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) Projects require students to participate in real, purposeful activities with significant outcomes, personal challenges, thoughtful planning, and reflection

Final Thoughts

Taking IB classes can be a great way for students to show admissions committees that they have what it takes to handle the rigors of college. With the right amount of preparation, dedication, and perseverance, you can overcome these challenging courses and succeed in your IB academic journey!

Now that we’ve gone over the IB classes list, you might be curious how participating in these advanced classes will impact your readiness for college. We’ve got you covered! Try your hand at our Am I Ready For College? Quiz here!

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