How should one choose our IB subjects?

It is a big decision as it will affect what university courses you will be eligible to take. For example, it would not be possible to study Medicine at University if you do not have a HL Chemistry background. QE will discuss some of the factors at play in the decision for which IB subjects to pursue.

Whilst you are still required to pick 5-6 subjects from the 6 groups (Language and Literature, Language Acquisitions, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Maths, The Arts) with 3 at SL and 3 at HL levels, this would probably be the first time you can pursue only the subjects you want and drop the other subjects you are not interested in. Hence, it is a great responsibility to choose subjects. The choice cannot be easily reversed. Many students may be undecided and find it hard to choose. Should one go for more Sciences (analytical, data driven and knowledge based) or Humanities (subjective, expository and creativity based)? It really depends on your interest!

With freedom comes responsibility. Whilst you may no longer need to study certain subjects you hated (for example one of the Sciences or Physical Education). You need to be aware that the subject combinations you choose will decide the possible careers you can do. In addition, you will still need to select compulsory subjects such as Maths and one Humanities and one Science group.

To be honest, the subject choices will not restrict overtly for your career choices except for the more competitive courses that may need top grades for a HL subject as the cutoff requirement can be quite strict. Examples include Medicine, Engineering and Law. Being able to study 6 subjects rather than the standard 3-4 subjects in A levels will keep your horizons broad and options open. Subjects such as CAS, TOK, EE will help as well for exposure. Broad based studies will help develop an all-rounded foundation for future work.

Besides career considerations, it is important to note that your desired school may not offer the IB subject that you are interested in studying. Rarer optional subjects include Psychology, Global Politics and Visual Arts. It is important to do your research before applying to the school. One option is to study and take an IB subject by yourself online without the help of the school. However, you will need clearance from your school’s IB coordinator. You may approach QE as well for help and advice!

It is important to research the entry requirements of university courses you may wish to study. This will help you plan your IB subject combinations. For example, Engineering often requires Maths and Physics HL, usually 6 or 7s in a top tier university. Computer Science and Economics will require Maths HL, 6 and 7s preferably as well. This is especially for schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE and UCL.

Some people may say that the IB subjects we study in high school may not be related to our eventual careers. This is especially true and there are many stories of how you can be taking a science-heavy IB subject combination and end up studying humanities in university. And vice versa. Hence, the main overriding principle we advise our students is to explore with an open mind and commit once they find something they are passionate about. It is also important to work on the portfolio and extra-curricular activities as studies are just one aspect of life.

Do approach QE if you have further enquiries at