The ideal strategy for picking IBDP subjects suggested by IB tutor at Hkexcel

Picking the right IB subjects is critical to success as an IB student. Our IB tutor at HKExcel have over 5 years of experience in IB tuition and have came across over 3000 students. Thus, in this blog post, we will share our insights to picking the right IB subjects.


Typically, students will do the IB Diploma during the final 2 years of high school. Before starting the IB diploma, students typically do the IBMYP program or the iGCSE program in some schools. At the end of the IBMYP or iGCSE, students will get to pick 6 subjects to do for their IB Diploma.


Introduction about the IB Diploma

Before we explain our suggested strategies for picking the right IB subjects, it is important to understand the IB Diploma in greater depth.


The IB was founded as a NGO in 1968 to provide globally recognised academic programs of study. The organisation is based in Geneva Switzerland and in Cardiff, United Kingdom. The stated mission of the IB Program is to develop responsible global citizens who can help to create a more peaceful world with intercultural respect and understanding. To achieve this mission, the IB develops challenging academic programs and difficult assessments. These programs are designed to help develop students into lifelong learners who are proactive and compassionate.


The IB offers a range of programs:

- Primary years program: For primary school children

- Middle years program: For middle school children

- Diploma program: For high school studentsCareer-related certificate: For high school students


Through the programs above, the IB aims to prepare students for university studies. It is important to note that only schools authorised by the IB, can offer the IB programs


Characteristics in students that the IB aims to develop

Inquirers: the IB aims to develop students who are intellectually curious and have a life-long love for learningKnowledgeable: Another aim of the IB is to develop students with strong understanding across a range of subject areas on issues with global significance


Thinkers: Analytical skills, creative thinking ability and problem solving skills are important skills for IB students to have


Communicators: Communication skills and the ability to communicate ideas in an effective manner


Principled: Good sense of honesty, fairness and integrity


Open-minded: the ability to appreciate different points of view and cultures


Caring: A strong sense of empathy, respect and compassion towards others


Risk-takers: Demonstrate determination in times of uncertainty and willing to explore new ideas


Balanced: Understand the importance to balance various aspects in the human experience, including intellectual, social and physical


Reflective: Self awareness and the ability to assess one self’s strength and weaknesses

The IB aims to develop the 10 characteristics above in all IB learners.


The IB Syllabus structure

There are 6 groups of subjects that iB students must choose. This allows IB students to be well-rounded learners


In each group of subject, students must pick 1 subject. Thus, students will ultimately have to do 6 subjects in total. Each subject is worth 7 marks. Thus, the full mark for the 6 subjects is 42 points. However, there are an additional 3 points, which account for the student’s performance in the theory of knowledge course and his or her extended essay.


It is important to note that students must do 3 higher level subjects and 3 standard level subjects out of the 6 subjects.


Here are the 6 subjects groups:

-Group 1: Studies in language and literature or literature, which is commonly referred to a s the student’s first language. IB students in Hong Kong typically pick Chinese or English.

- Group 2: Language acquisition, which is also referred to as the student’s second language. IB Students in Hong Kong typically pick English or french in this group

- Group 3: Individual and societies, also known as the humanities. Typical choices amongst IB students in Hong Kong include geography, economics, business, history and Environmental systems and societies

- Group 4: Sciences. The most commonly offered science in IB schools in Hong Kong are physics, chemistry, biology and environmental sciences

- Group 5: Mathematics. Math is a compulsory subject. Students can choose between HL, SL or math studies

- Group 6: Arts/music or an elective. The elective can be any subjects in group 3 or 4, such as business, economics, physics or chemistry.


The HL version of each course is significantly more rigorous then the SL version in most cases. The HL courses often involves content that are studied in university. This is designed to add more academic rigour to the studies of IB students.


The theory of knowledge (TOK course)


The TOK course is critical to the philosophy of the entire IB program. It is designed to stimulate students to reflect on the ways we obtain knowledge in various areas. The central question in the TOK course is “how do we know?”. Students will gain valuable critical thinking skills out of the course