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The Six Academic Subject Groups

Students study 6 subjects from 6 subject groups for a strong balanced academic foundation, with 3 at Standard Level (SL) and 3 at Higher Level (HL) to recognize strengths and interests. For more information on the specific subjects offered below, please see http://www.ibo.org/diploma/curriculum.

Group 1: Studies in Language & Literature

Students are expected to choose one of these courses from Group 1.

Course Level
a) English A: Literature HL
b) English A: Language & Literature HL & SL
c) English A: Literature and Performance SL
d) Chinese A: Literature SL

a) English A: Literature

Literature is a course concerned with the exploration of our conceptions, interpretations and experiences of the world. It enables the exploration of one of the more enduring areas of human creativity and in so doing it encourages independent, critical and clear thinking. It encourages personal growth and respect for the imagination, and a perceptive approach to the understanding and interpretation of a variety of literary works. A selection of literary texts will be read and studied in preparation for the IB examinations, consisting of Paper 1 (the Unseen), Paper 2 (Comparative Essay) and the Individual Oral (engaging global issues across texts).

b) English A: Language and Literature

“The Language and Literature course aims to prepare students to be capable critics and savvy consumers of the role of language in our lives. It roughly divides attention between traditional literary works and a variety of other language texts, with the aim of exploring how language can be used and manipulated.” (Oxford Companion) The course has two key unique foci – one is the construction of meaning of texts and how meaning, whether personal, social or political, is produced in language. The other key aspect is the interplay between context, producer, text and consumer, and the manner in which these interact to create meaning. A selection of literary and non-literary texts will be read and studied in preparation for the IB examinations, consisting of Paper 1 (the Unseen), Paper 2 (Comparative Essay) and the Individual Oral (engaging global issues across texts).

c) English A: Literature and Performance

The Literature and Performance course is interdisciplinary bringing together English literature and the performance component of theatre. The student examines literary texts by conducting close reading, critical writing and discussion, and then performs, focusing on the practical, aesthetic and symbolic elements of performance. A distinctive project for this course is to perform a piece that is taken from poetry or prose. The student will transform the selection into a dramatic performance. This is an exciting, creative process whereby a text is viewed from different angles in a way that goes beyond what is characteristic of either literary or theatre studies as single disciplines. There are no formal requirements for this course, and specifically, prior courses in drama or literature are not necessary. However, a desire to be creative and explore through expression and performance is absolutely necessary.

d) Chinese A: Literature (SL)

Prerequisite: Teacher recommendation

The Language A literature course should be taken in the student's best language. The focus is to develop skills in both critical reading and textual analysis of literary works. At Chinese A Standard Level, students study 10 works of literature. Texts studied include poetry, drama, short stories and novels originally written in Chinese as well as literature in translation. In the literature section of the exam, students are required to demonstrate mastery of the analysis techniques for poetry and drama works, comment on the writing and expression techniques used in Chinese and Foreign Literature, and have a thorough understanding of the text types and terminologies. For the cultural part, students need to display up to date cultural knowledge, decode the expression techniques and cross-cultural meanings behind the text and images, and make use of their creativity to express how they understand the nature of society.

Assessment is straightforward. The course is organized into four parts, each focused on a group of literary works. Students are assessed through a combination of formal examinations, written coursework and oral activities. The formal examination comprises two essay papers, one requiring the analysis of a passage of unseen literary text, and the other a response to a question based on the works studied. Students also produce a written assignment based on the works studied in translation, and perform two oral activities presenting their analysis of works read.

Group 2: Language Acquisition

The Group 2 (or Second Language) subjects of the IB Diploma Programme offer two modern language courses - language Ab initio and language B. These courses are offered at the following subjects and levels:

Ab initio
November Paper
May Paper
(last exam May 2021)
November Paper
Language B
SL and HL
November Paper
November Paper
November Paper

To earn an IB Diploma, a candidate must study an additional language, though a second Language A may be taken instead of studying that language as a Group 2 subject.

All group 2 subjects promote a vision of learning in which the development of language skills and conceptual understandings of language are complementary to each other. Students will become more accomplished communicators in the languages they study when their abilities to read, write and speak about course content are reinforced and extended by an understanding of the why and how people use language to communicate.

Language Ab Initio courses are 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. Such a course focuses on giving the student basic knowledge of both the language in everyday use and the culture of the places where it is spoken. Students will develop an awareness of the relationship between language and culture. Their appreciation of different cultural perspectives will be enhanced by studying this course, thereby promoting internationalism. The standard reached by the student after two years is considerably lower than that reached in language B. For students to achieve communicative competence in a variety of situations, the following prescribed themes are explored in the Language Ab Initio course: identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organisation, sharing the planet. The language skills that are taught and assessed are: listening, reading, writing, speaking and cultural awareness.

Language B courses are intended for students who have had previous experience in learning the language. These courses further develop students’ ability to communicate in the language through the study of language, themes and texts. In doing so, they also develop conceptual understandings of how language works. Language B courses may be studied at either higher level or standard level.

SL: Students will learn to communicate in the target language in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. They will describe situations, narrate events, make comparisons, explain problems, and state and support their personal opinions on a variety of topics relating to the prescribed themes of identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organisation, sharing the planet. The course aims to help students understand the importance of communication in the modern world and equip them with the communication skills necessary to incorporate the language into their lifestyle or work after school and university.

HL: In addition to the requirements of the SL course, HL students are expected to extend the range and complexity of the language they use and understand in order to communicate. They should also be keen to develop an understanding of the fundamental elements of literary texts such as theme, plot and character. The course is for students who are considering further study of the language at the university level or in their future careers.

Group 3: Individuals & Societies

a) Geography

Geography is offered at both SL and HL and is a dynamic subject that is firmly grounded in the real world. It focuses on the interactions between individuals, societies and the physical environment in both time and space and seeks to identify trends and patterns in these interactions and examines the processes behind them. Within group 3 subjects, geography is distinctive in that it occupies the middle ground between social sciences and natural sciences. Both SL and HL students follow the core unit plus a number of options. They may include Climatic Hazards, Urbanisation, Geographical region, and Political outcomes.

b) History

History is more than the study of the past. It is the process of recording, reconstructing and interpreting the past through the investigation of a variety of sources. It is a discipline that gives people an understanding of themselves and others in relation to the world, both past and present.

SL and HL history will give students a strong understanding of some of the most important events and figures of the 20th Century. Standard level history will begin with the origins of World War I, the interwar period, the rise of authoritarian states under the leadership of Hitler, Mao and Stalin and the Chinese and Spanish Civil Wars. It will trace the origins of World War II and its aftermath, leading on to the beginning and entrenching of the Cold War in the following decades.

HL history will cover all the content of the standard level course with greater depth and complexity, and will also look at Russia from the 1850s through to the Russian Revolution. View the links below for more details:

c) Economics

This course aims to enable learners to evaluate the economic world in which they live, apply economic concepts to real-world problems and participate effectively as economic decision-makers in the local, national and global context. Unit 1 and unit 2 consider microeconomic and macroeconomic models that are used to analyse allocation problems faced by consumers, producers and governments. Unit 3 investigates international economics, including the influence of financial institutions and international organisations. Economic development in unit 4 analyses developing economies and critically evaluates the relationship that the developed economies have with them. Students have the opportunity to investigate how theory applies to current economic events through three internally assessed commentaries. IB Economics provides a good foundation for economics, business management, marketing and other related courses at the university.

Internal assessment for both SL and HL students in the Group 3 subjects is in the form of a research assignment, project or commentary worth 20-25% of their final grade.

All students will take external assessment is made up of two exam papers based on the core and options, differing for SL and HL in the depth and breadth of material covered. View the link below for more details:

Group 4: Experimental Sciences

All science courses on the IB share a common structure. Each is in three parts:

  • a core of material that is studied at both Higher and Standard levels,
  • additional material that is taken at Higher level only,
  • two options which can be one of three types – SL only, HL only, SL with additional material for HL students.
All students take part in a cross-disciplinary Science Group Project. The assessment pattern is the same for all sciences. Exams at the end of the course contribute 76% of the final mark. The remaining 24% is based on practical work set and assessed by the school.

Previous Knowledge

The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth. To take a science at the HL, previous exposure to the specific group 4 subject would be necessary at the O-level or at IP Year 4. For Chemistry and Physics, it is expected that students are at least taking Mathematics SL. At the standard level, previous knowledge of the specific science subject is helpful but not essential.

a) Biology

In Biology you will study the science of living things and how they function. The Core includes Cells, Genetics, Ecology and Human Physiology. The additional material takes these further, and adds some more, such as Plant Science, and Defence Against Disease. Linking themes are Structure and Function; Universality versus Diversity; Equilibrium within Systems; and Evolution. Some options are: Neurobiology and Behaviour; Evolution; Ecology and Conservation; and Further Human Physiology.

b) Chemistry

In Chemistry you will study materials, and the conversion of substances one to another. Core and Additional Higher level: material covered here includes such important themes as Atomic Theory; Bonding and Structure; the Periodic Table; Acid-Base and Oxidation-Reduction Behaviour; Energetics; Equilibrium; and Organic Chemistry. Some Options are: Human Biochemistry; Environmental Chemistry; Drugs and Medicines; Modern Analytical Chemistry.

c) Physics

In Physics you will study the properties and interactions of matter and energy. Core and Additional Higher level: these introduce the central concepts of Mechanics; Atomic and Nuclear Physics; Waves; Thermal Physics; Electricity and Magnetism. Options: Standard only: Mechanics; Atomic and Nuclear Physics; Energy. Higher and Standard: Biomedical Physics; History of Physics; Astrophysics; Relativity; Optics.

Group 5: Mathematics (2020+)

From 2020, SJI will offer the new IB Maths Analysis and Approaches (MAA) courses at Higher and Standard level for first examination at SJI in November 2021. In the MAA courses there is an emphasis on calculus, algebraic, graphical and numerical approaches, which are areas familiar to IP and O-Level students. There will be some consideration of mathematical proof in both the MAA HL and SL courses that will be new to most students. Dependant on the mathematical pre-requisites of different university courses, the MAA courses will also be recognised for entry to university courses in Singapore and in other countries throughout the world such as the UK, US and Australia.

The content of the MAA SL course will be a subset of the MAA HL course. However, the MAA HL and SL courses will cater to the different needs, interests and abilities of students. The MAA HL and SL courses will consequently be taught with a different emphasis, depth and pace at SJI. Therefore, great care should be taken to select the course that is most appropriate for an individual student. In making this selection, individual students should be advised to take account of factors such as their own ability in mathematics, as well as their plans for university or intended career paths.

The assessment of the respective MAA courses comprises external assessment in the form of written examination papers (80%) which will involve some questions common to the HL and SL courses; and a coursework component (20%) called the Internal Assessment (IA). The final assessment of the Internal Assessment is slightly different for each course. However, the Internal Assessment process for students in both courses will include an extended period of mathematical exploration involving mathematical investigation or mathematical modelling in an area of a student’s own interest. During lessons students will be provided with a toolkit of skills required to tackle the IA in mathematics effectively. An overview of the assessment components of each MAA course is given below:

Assessment Component MAA HL % Weighting MAA SL % Weighting
Paper 1
Non calculator;
short questions and long questions.
2 hrs
(110 marks)
30 1.5 hrs
(80 marks)
Paper 2
Graphical calculator permitted;
short questions and long questions.
2 hrs
(110 marks)
30 1.5 hrs
(80 marks)
Paper 3
Graphical calculator required with the use of other technological tools to possibly be permitted;
Two open-ended problem-solving questions from across the MAA HL syllabus.
1 hr
(55 marks)
20 n/a n/a
Mathematical IA
Investigative, problem solving and modelling skills development leading to one written exploration.
30 hrs 20 30 hrs 20

a) MAA Mathematics HL

This course caters for students who are competent in a range of analytical and technical skills in the subject including having strong algebraic skills and the ability to understand simple mathematical proof. They will be students who have a strong interest in mathematics who enjoy spending time with problems and get pleasure and satisfaction from solving challenging problems. The majority of these students will be expecting to include mathematics as a major component of their university studies, either as a subject in its own right or within courses such as physics, engineering and possibly economics.

b) MAA Mathematics SL

This course caters for students who already possess knowledge of basic mathematical concepts, and who are equipped with the skills needed to apply simple mathematical techniques correctly. The majority of these students will expect to develop a sound mathematical background and ability to apply or interpret mathematics effectively in practical contexts as they prepare for future studies in subjects such as medicine, chemistry, the physical sciences, psychology and business administration.

Group 6: The Arts (or Elective)

a) Visual Arts

The Diploma Programme visual arts course enables students to engage in both practical exploration and artistic production, and in independent contextual, visual and critical investigation. The course is designed to enable students to study visual arts in higher education and also welcomes those students who seek life enrichment through visual arts.

Quality work in visual arts can be produced by students at both HL and SL. The aims and assessment objectives are the same for visual arts students at both HL and SL. Through a variety of teaching approaches, all students are encouraged to develop their creative and critical abilities and to enhance their knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of visual arts.

Previous Knowledge

The Visual Arts course is designed to offer students the opportunity to build on prior experience while encouraging them to develop and use new skills, techniques and ideas. While it is possible to take the course without previous experience, this is helpful, particularly at HL option A (HLA).

b) Music

The Diploma Programme music course provides an appropriate foundation for further study in music at the university level or in music career pathways, and also provides all students with the opportunity to engage in the world of music as lifelong participants. All students take two core components: Music Perception comprising (i) analysis of music in Western Art Music, Jazz/Pop and World music (ii) a study of two prescribed works, (iii) a Musical links investigation and Performance.

HL students take an additional component, Creation, with the following options: Composing, Music Technology Composing, Arranging, Improvising, Stylistic Techniques.

Previous Knowledge

While prior music experience is not mandatory at SL, it is recommended.

Prior music experience is very strongly recommended at HL.