Home > Programmes > Academic Programmes > IB Diploma Programme > The Six Academic Subject Groups

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) 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) 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
November Paper
Language B
SL and HL
November Paper
November Paper
Tamil #
November Paper
^ Group 2 -
  1. MOE Bilingual Policy requires students taking NTIL or any MTL-in-lieu to do this in addition to the IBDP requirements.
  2. WEF 2019, SJI will replace the O-Level MTL & HMTL (Higher Mother Tongue Language) examinations with school-based examinations for SJI's IP students.
# Tamil B will continue till 2026; pending updates from IBO for 2027 onward.

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

Students are expected to choose one of the following courses at either Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL):
  • Economics - HL / SL
  • History - HL / SL
  • Geography - HL / SL

These courses encourage the development of a critical appreciation of:
  • human experience and behaviour
  • the varieties of physical, economic and social environments that people inhabit
  • the history of social and cultural institutions.

Each course is designed to foster in students the capacity to identify, analyse critically and evaluate theories, concepts and arguments relating to the nature and activities of individuals and societies.

The courses in Group 3 have no formal requirements; prior experience with history or geography at the secondary level are also not necessary. However, a strong passion for the subject and a critical and curious mindset would be appreciated.

a) Economics

An exciting and dynamic subject, the DP economics course allows students to develop an understanding of the complexities & interdependence of economic activities in a rapidly changing world. The problem of scarcity is central to economic theory. Due to this, choices have to be made. At both SL and HL levels, students examine economic theories, models and key concepts and apply them through examining 6 real-world issues. The 9 concepts underpinning the economics course are scarcity, choice, efficiency, equity, economic well-being, sustainability, change, interdependence and intervention. Students of this course will develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to act responsibly as global citizens.

b) History

History is more than a study of the past. Using a comparative and multi-perspective approach, the DP History course is a world history course, which not only involves the study of a variety of history (political, economic, social & cultural) but also provides a balance of structure and flexibility. In addition to gaining factual knowledge, students are encouraged to think historically and to develop historical skills, critical thinking & an understanding of the multiple interpretations of history. The 6 concepts that feature strongly for the DP History course include change, continuity, causation, consequence, significance and perspectives.

c) Geography

A dynamic subject that lies between social or human sciences and natural science, the DP Geography course examines the interactions between individuals, societies and physical processes in both time and space. Trends and patterns of these interactions are of special interest. Students will investigate how people adapt and respond to change and evaluate the management strategies associated with these changes. They are also encouraged to explain the similarities and differences between different places, on a variety of scales and from different perspectives. Distinct in its spatial dimension, this course integrates environmental, human and physical geography and examines concepts and ideas from a wide variety of disciplines. As such, students acquire aspects of both socio-economic and scientific methodologies, develop life skills and an appreciation and respect for alternative ideas, approaches and viewpoints.

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

From 2020, SJI will offer the new IB Maths Analysis and Approaches (MAA) courses at Higher and Standard level for the 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.