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  • Sara Choi

Ranking IBDP Subjects

Now as we are nearing the end of the year, and I would like to share my experiences through my perilous journey of the world of the IBDP program. Keep in mind this is how I perceived my first year in the diploma program, and that everyone has had a different journey.

I'll start with the subjects I take because they are the ones I know best and it’s more interesting this way.

Chemistry SL

I would give this subject an 8.5 out of a 10, with 1 being easy-peasy, and 10 being purgatory. Chemistry is hard, from stoichiometry to energetics, there’s just too many little things that prohibit you from getting THAT one mark in a question. It’s absurd how you’re supposed to know exactly what you need to write. It is fun, it really is, but there’s just too many exceptions that makes my head want to explode. But it is an interesting subject, truly. You learn all these terms such as ‘endothermic reactions’ and ‘Giant covalent structures’ that just make you sound super smart.

The biggest difference between HL and SL is that HL students need to study more topics than the SL students. Essentially, the HL students would have to take exams that include all the topics in the textbook, whereas the SL students would take exams that are based on a smaller range of topics.

Your final IB grade will be determine by the end of the year exam in 12th grade, where you will have to complete papers 1, 2, and 3. Including an IA, which is essentially a report, which would be based on research you conduct by yourself. However, because of the pandemic, paper 3 has been excluded for my final exam.

Physics HL

When a car travels on a circular track, the inward force is called the centripetal force. Yeah, that’s physics, it’s everywhere, any thing. The more you learn in this subject, the more I realize how little I know. It’s crazy, to think that the weight of an object at the end of a pendulum does not effect the speed of the pendulum. Hence, I would give this subject a 7/10. Personally, I am quite biased because I am generally interested in physics, but the subject itself applies itself to real-life situation, which really helps explain how things work in life.

The final grade for physics results from the same components as chemistry. Paper 1, 2, 3, and an IA. Paper 3 is also cancelled for my grade—a result of the pandemic. However, as an HL student, in both paper 1 and 2, there are more questions, that incorporate additional elements from topic 9 and onwards, which are considered to be ‘HL topics’. Same as Chemistry, SL physics students will not be tested in these topics.

Business Management HL

Business management is perhaps the most logical subject (alongside TOK), because the test questions are very straight-forward, as opposed to the sciences. As long as you read the textbook, maybe Kognity here and there, you’ll ace those tests. Also, finish all the work Ms. Gibb assigns. Trust me.

You only need to finish one paper for Business, and the biggest issue for this exam is the time. You will run out of time, so don’t dwell on any question for too long. You also need to complete an IA, and as an HL student, you will need to choose a company (a real one!) and write a report regarding an issue this company is currently facing, and a potential solution, through the content you learn in class.

Chinese B HL

Okay, Chinese B is relatively alright. Personally, the oral was the hardest part, and writing, reading comprehension, and listening, was not as hard. The subject itself is challenging, but also, if you’re at this level, you should have a certain level of understanding in Chinese, so it shouldn’t be a rigorous course.

In Chinese B, you will be assessed through a reading comprehension test, a listening test, a writing test, and an oral test, to determine your final grade. Personally, I think the oral test will be the most difficult task to get a higher grade, but this is different for different people. The difference between HL and SL Chinese B is that the word count for the writing test is higher, and that the oral test is based on a text/paragraph from a literature work, as opposed to a visual image which is what the SL students would be analyzing.

English A SL

What can I say about English? As an SL student, I can tell you this class has been less challenging for me, compared to the other classes. But this doesn’t mean you should drop your guard when preparing for your IO or exams. Stay vigilant.

English A is similar to MYP English Language and literature, meaning, in English A, your final exams will only be an analysis of the given text. A paper 1 for an English A SL student means to write an essay based on the given question, and two options for analysis. This is the difference between SL and HL English A. As an SL student, you can choose between the two options to analyze, but an HL student is required to analyze both. Another exam that you will have to take is paper 2, but that was cancelled for us. Finally, you will need to complete an IO—a spoken analysis of the two given text. You will practice these continuously in class, but the IO’s are still quite nerve-wrecking, since you have to talk for 10 minutes straight, with an additional 5 minutes of Q&A between the teacher and you yourself. It doesn’t seem challenging, but trust me, your mouth will get really dry after 2-3 minutes of talking non-stop, so drink lots of water beforehand. It should not be intimidating, but it is. Try to balance your comparative analysis between the two given texts, which I overlooked in my previous IO.


If I had to describe this subject in one word, it would be…philosophical. This topic revolves around how different culture, biases, and identities delineate our perspectives on different concepts. This subject is quite engaging, because it tackles world issues through our own views. It is a subject in which discussions are regularly initiated. This course is mandatory for IBDP students, so the best way to enjoy it and get the most out of it is to participate in the discussions. Once you get started, it's fun, don’t be afraid to join in.

In the end, you will have to complete an exhibition, and an essay. The exhibition is a presentation of a selected optional/core theme, and the analysis of this theme through an object. For example, if you choose to select the theme ‘Knowledge and language’, your object could be a dictionary. Essentially, you would be exploring this theme with your object, which is a dictionary in this case. The essay is the same, except this would be written in an essay form.

The grade you receive in TOK and EE, will determine whether you will receive 1 or 3 extra points in your final IB grade. For example, if you get an IB score of a 37 just from your exams, if you do extremely well in TOK and EE, then your final IB score would be a total of 40, and not 37.

For all the MYP students reading this article, I want to emphasize the fact that Pre-DP preparation is very important, if you want to survive. I went into DP without realizing how big of a step it is between MYP and DP. Sure, it might be easy for some people, but there will be people who will find it difficult to cope. Which is why I wrote small summaries of my views on each of the subjects I currently take. So that you guys might be better prepared than I was. Until next time, Bye.

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