Senior College Curriculum

International Baccalaureate Diploma

The IB Diploma Programme was introduced to St Andrew’s Cathedral School in 2009 as a way to further expand the academic choice available to Year 11 and 12 Senior College students. It is a two-year program that is quite different in scope and presentation to the HSC, so it is important to consider its history, requirements and how it works at SACS.

The International Baccalaureate is an internationally accredited education program which aims to ‘develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect’. (IB Mission Statement 2014).

Overview of the IB Diploma Programme

The IB Diploma offers students a broad range of learning skills and subject areas, providing a truly international curriculum that is taught in more than 4,700 IB World Schools worldwide. It is designed to be a pre-university course, with research and self-directed learning a key focus. University tracking suggests that IB Diploma students are very well prepared for university and tend to flourish.

In the IB Diploma, the following are essential courses: a first language, a second language, a humanities subject, a science subject and Mathematics. A creative arts subject is optional. The Diploma course also requires students to complete the core components of Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and to undertake the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) course, where they contribute to the greater community, and also complete an Extended Essay of 4000 words.

How does the IB Diploma curriculum work?

The IB Diploma programme runs across two full years with no division between work undertaken in Years 11 and 12. All content covered in both Years 11 and 12 is examinable.

To be eligible for the award of the Diploma, all candidates must complete six subjects, an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity and Service. Students choose one subject from Groups 1 to 5. The sixth subject comes from either Group 2, 3, 4 or 6.

  • Group 1: (Studies in Language and Literature): Literature (SL and HL), and Literature and Language (SL and HL)
  • Group 2: (Language Acquisition): Japanese ab initio SL (Beginners), Spanish ab initio SL, Chinese B SL, French B SL, Spanish B SL
  • Group 3: (Individuals and Societies): Business Management (SL and HL), Environmental Systems and Societies (SL, Groups 3 and 4), Global Politics (SL and HL), History (SL and HL), Philosophy (SL and HL), Psychology (SL and HL)
  • Group 4: (Sciences): Biology (SL and HL), Chemistry (SL and HL), Computer Science (SL and HL), Design Technology (SL and HL), Environmental Systems and Societies (SL, Groups 3 and 4), Physics (SL and HL), Sports Exercise Health Science (SL and HL)
  • Group 5: (Mathematics): Analysis and Approaches (SL and HL), Applications and Interpretations (SL and HL)
  • Group 6: (The Arts): Music (SL and HL), Theatre (SL and HL), Visual Arts (SL and HL).

Students also have the option to study one of their subjects via Pamoja Education (an online course), or study a language not on offer at SACS with an outside tutor.

All Year 11 and 12 students at St Andrew’s take part in Christian Development classes, which are run in small groups.

What is the difference between a Higher Level (HL) subject and a Standard Level (SL) subject?

Firstly, HL and SL subjects have different requirements for teaching hours (240 hours over two years for HL and 150 hours over two years for SL). HL subjects cover more content, but also conceptually require deeper thinking and understanding. The depth of the IB Diploma comes through the study of the HL subjects, and the breadth comes through the SL subjects. Greater higher order thinking and critical analysis would normally be required in these subjects.

How are subject grades and the overall IB Diploma score calculated?

For each subject, students receive a grade from 1 – 7, with grade 7 the highest awarded and grade 1 the lowest. Grades are based on a range of IB assessments. Students can use their IB Diploma score out of 45 or the ATAR equivalent rank to gain access to university courses.

Each subject is awarded a maximum of 7 points: 3 HL + 3 SL = 42 points maximum (6 subjects x 7)
Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay subjects = 3 points maximum

To view a detailed description of the content of each of the IB Diploma courses offered, click here: link.

Who is suited to the IB Diploma study programme?

Students considering undertaking the IB Diploma should have some of the following characteristics, or be working towards developing the following characteristics:

  • average or above average ability
  • good work ethic/time management skills
  • ability to work across different subject areas
  • an interest in working collaboratively
  • higher order thinking skills
  • an interest in internationalism
  • a desire to keep career options open
  • a desire to impact positively on their world
  • a wish to challenge themselves against world benchmarks
  • see themselves as ‘lifelong learners’.

In summary, students who are comfortable with the structure of the IB, who are prepared to work hard and methodically, and who are self-disciplined should consider undertaking the IB Diploma.

All who do undertake the Diploma at St Andrew’s Cathedral School are carefully guided and mentored throughout the process by dedicated teachers, skilled in IB Diploma methodology and learning requirements.

Curriculum requirements of the IB Diploma:

  • At least three and not more than four subjects must be at the Higher Level and the remaining subjects can be at Standard Level.
  • Students may choose to study another subject from Group 2, 3 or 4, instead of studying a Group 6 subject. When choosing Environmental Systems & Societies (ESS) which covers both Groups 3 and 4, students may choose another subject from Group 2, 3, 4 or 6.
  • A final Diploma score is awarded out of a maximum of 45 points. IB Scores can be converted to an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) for entrance to Australian university courses. 
  • It is possible for students to fail and not receive a Diploma. The most common reasons for failure are an inability to obtain the base level of 24 points out of the 45 points possible, or failure to gain 12 points across three Higher Level courses.
  • The candidate must gain 9 points or more on SL subjects (candidates who register for two SL subjects must gain at least 5 points at SL).

What types of assessment are used in the IB Diploma Programme?

Students are required to complete both Internal and External Assessments. Internal assessments refer to the mandatory summative assessments set out in the subject guides. These are marked by our teachers and moderated by IB examiners. External assessments are marked by IB examiners outside the school. Our students sit their final exams in November (over 2500 examiners worldwide are used) and can be worth up to 80 per cent, depending on the subject. Both Internal and External Assessments use an established grading criteria. A variety of skills are tested across disciplines, with a balance between independent tasks and teacher supervised tasks.

There are multiple methods of assessment for each course, including: oral examinations in languages, projects, student portfolios, class presentations, practical lab work, mathematical investigations, artistic performances.

For further information on the assessment process in the IB Diploma Programme, please follow the link,

Reasons students may elect to do the IB Diploma

  • A globally focused curriculum allows students to consider a broader range of perspectives and cultures;

  • For students wishing to study overseas after Year 12, the IB Diploma is known and recognised internationally.

  • The Diploma is designed to be a pre-university course, with research and self-directed learning a key focus. Students strive to develop learner profile attributes, including being reflective, collaborative, as well as independent, good communicators and knowledgeable

  • Graduates tend to transition very easily to university study

  • The IB Diploma is academically rigorous and can be heavily exam based, with some IB Diploma subjects being up to 80 per cent exam based. (Theatre and Visual Arts do not have examinations.)

  • Core components of the IB Diploma – a separate 4000-word extended research essay, the Theory of Knowledge subject and Creativity, Activity and Service – are all distinctive elements designed to develop an inquiring mind.

  • You cannot specialise as much in one area due to the required breadth of learning across subject areas. However, it is possible to study two IB subjects in Languages and the Arts. Students could also study two IB Science subjects and ESS (Environmental Systems and Societies), which covers Group 3 and 4, essentially studying three Humanities or Science subjects.

  • Both Years 11 and 12 are examinable.

  •  Raw IB scores are converted directly to UARs (university admission ranks) which become ATAR scores for admission to Australian universities according to a conversion table, which is known in advance. (There is no scaling of raw scores.)

  • Offers high-level (extension) courses in most subject areas.

  • Exams take place in a shorter space of time, with most subjects having two or three in the exam period. It is not unusual for a student to have three exam papers on the one day of the timetable.

Student Leadership