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Top 5 Most Difficult IB (International Baccalaureate) Subjects

Written by CB Community

IB, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma, is a tedious and challenging course designed to be completed during the last two years of high school. For those who don’t know, this course helps students get easily admitted into their desired university and register for their target programs.

However, acing the International Baccalaureate Diploma is not an easy task. To graduate, each student has to pass at least six subjects, four of which should be HL or Higher Level studies.

The program also requires each candidate to write an Extended Essay, indulge in creative activities, and participate in Theory of Knowledge. Juggling all of these together while maintaining a 7 passing score in each subject can get difficult.

But, if you choose the right combination of subjects and direct your hard work in the correct direction, you can nail the IB in the first attempt.

How Can You Effectively Gauge Each Subject Difficulty?

In the current year, more than 170,000 students participated in the IB from around 158 different countries. It has a standard operating process that attracts high-performing students looking to study in international universities.

Every student chooses their IB subjects based on four basic reasons. The career stream they have in mind, their personal strengths, the availability of quality study material and tuition, and of course, the difficulty of the subjects.

While the first three aspects can be decided according to your personal experience and research, it is difficult to gauge the hardest IB subjects.

The IB program works by dividing various subjects into groups with varying cut-off ranges to balance the difficulty level in each course. But, most of the time, students tend to determine the difficulty of a subject based on how hard it is to score a 7.

For example, statistics show that more students achieve 7 in chemistry as compared to biology. However, this number might simply highlight that more students with a background in science tend to participate in chemistry examinations instead of biology.

So, working out which subjects are the hardest should include multiple aspects rather than merely counting how many students manage to pass. After thorough research with organic student experiences, we’ve rounded up the list of the five hardest IB subjects below to help you out.

Top 5 Most Difficult IB Subjects

Remember, as an internationally recognized degree, all subjects in IB require a considerable amount of hard work and dedication.

Nevertheless, this list will show you some of the most demanding options so you can balance out your curriculum and achieve the desired grades.

1. Further Maths HL

The Further Maths HL course in IB is easily one of the hardest subjects to nail from the lot. However, any student who wishes to pursue University studies in science, engineering, or commerce should definitely go for this subject.

The course covers all the optional courses in Maths HL, which comes at a close second to Further Maths HL in our list of hardest IB subjects. In addition, it includes complex topics that can make the sharpest minds bite their nails.

While IB subjects have SL; standard level, and HL; higher-level versions of all subjects, this is the only course that goes beyond HL.

Some of the most daunting topics in the course include linear algebra and advanced geometry, which might become difficult to cover without professional tutoring services.

That’s because these courses are usually covered in a span of one or two semesters at the university level, so high school students will definitely need help in acing them within two years with six other subjects.

2. Maths HL

Taking the position right after its big brother, Further Maths HL, Maths HL is one of the hardest IB subjects for high school students. Along with the difficult concepts and complex optional topics, the subject has an immense workload and tricky exam questions.

If these aspects weren’t enough to justify its reputation, Maths HL has higher grade boundaries than other IB subjects. This means it is relatively hard to get a good grade in the subject even if you study rigorously.

Besides that, the average score for the subject worldwide is only 4/7, which is considerably lower than other subjects in the curriculum.

However, if you have the right resources, trained tutors, and a passion for maths, you can succeed in nailing the subject.

3. Chemistry HL

Chemistry HL is the only natural science subject that makes it to our list. Mainly because it also requires thorough memorization and rote learning along with a mathematical approach like physics.

Furthermore, students have to cover more than twenty complex topics. These include thermochemistry, stoichiometry, and of course, organic chemistry.

Besides that, you’ll also need to be proficient in your lab skills to ace the subject.

4. Physics HL

The only reason we’ve considered Physics HL after chemistry is because it has lower grade boundaries than its predecessor. While chemistry might be conceptually easier, students have to achieve a higher grade boundary in the subject than Physics HL.

Moreover, the IB focuses on testing students regarding the minute details. This means the applications and terminologies involved in the Physics HL course can cause students to lose marks.

Additionally, the MCQs in the exam are pretty tricky, which causes the sharpest students to lose precious marks.

5. History HL

Believe it or not, History HL is one of the hardest IB courses, with only a 2% success rate worldwide. What makes it difficult is that students have to provide critical discourses for historical sources. Additionally, they have to memorize the facts and write good essays.

The course is detail-oriented and requires well-structured writing skills, which scare most students off. Students have to study at least three historical topics. Then, they need to present their understanding of the concepts based on their personal opinions to ace the subject.

Final Words

The five subjects mentioned above are some of the hardest subjects to study and achieve a good score. However, the list is not restricted to these options as each student has unique intellectual competence.

Other IB courses reputed for their difficulty include Music HL, English HL, Economics HL, and Visual Arts HL.

In the end, the hardest courses in your case depend on your tutors’ quality and dedication to the subject. That’s why make sure to assess your strengths and capabilities before all other factors while choosing your IB subjects.

Good Luck!

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.