The Diploma Programme (Gr 11-12)

An IB Diploma opens many doors. It has become the gold standard for university entrance.

The Diploma Programme is sometimes seen as an enriched course of study only for the academic elite. Our view at Stratford Hall is different. We believe that the DP is accessible to any student who is motivated to do it. As such, our student population is diverse and dynamic. It was once said that in the DP, "students will be expected to work extremely well, but the programme itself is not extreme." Students are meant to challenge themselves, while being themselves and pursuing what many consider to be the best secondary school programme in the world.

The Diploma Programme at Stratford Hall is designed to equip students with the academic skills needed for university study, further education, and their chosen profession. But more important than developing good students, our goal is to develop good people who can make a difference in the world. These traits are encouraged from the classroom, to canoes, to international trips to on-stage and online - all through the IB Learner Profile. The DP at Stratford Hall is designed to give the community of learners the experience of navigating the complexities of living in the 21st century. In the process, students develop the values and skills needed to live a fulfilled and purposeful life.

If you would like to learn more about our programming, feel free to connect with our DP Coordinator, Caitlin Shepard.

The IB Diploma Programme

The Diploma Programme is presented as six academic areas enclosing a central core. It encourages the concurrent study of a broad range of academic areas. Students will take six courses and three DP Core Requirements.

In each of the academic areas, students have some flexibility in making their choices, which means they can choose subjects that particularly interest them and may wish to study further at university.

Students are required to choose one course from each of the six academic groups, although they can substitute a second choice from groups 1 to 5 instead of an arts subject in group 6.

Normally, three subjects are taken at the Higher Level (HL), and three are taken at the Standard Level (SL). HL subjects are studied in greater depth and breadth than SL subjects. At both levels, many skills are developed, especially those of critical thinking and analysis.

All Diploma Programme students also participate in the three Core Requirements: Theory of Knowledge (ToK), Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay. These Core Requirements embody the principles that lie at the heart of the thinking behind the Diploma Programme. When choosing courses, students should review university entrance requirements as each institution is different. Personal interest and academic ability are also crucial factors. At Stratford Hall, we allow students to make course requests, but we reserve the right to place students in the most appropriate courses to give them the best academic experience. This decision will be based on Grade 10 academic results, students' habits of mind (or Approaches to Learning), and students' post-secondary goals.

Choosing the right courses is a big decision and students should speak with their Diploma Programme Coordinator and their teachers for advice and support.

The International Baccalaureate Organization provides significant guidance for teachers, espousing modern pedagogy for responsive and engaging education: this is termed Approaches to Teaching. Approaches to Learning concerns how a student learns how to learn, how to be organized, how to give and receive feedback, how to advocate for their individual needs, how to reflect on their own learning, and how to collaborate.

These are the attributes of mature and engaged world leaders.

Principles of the IB Programme

An IB Diploma opens many doors. It has become the gold standard for university entrance. Universities aggressively recruit IB students for very good reasons: IB students already know how to work hard and manage their time; they already have university-level skills and knowledge; they bring a global perspective to their studies; and they contribute to their university and wider community. Because they value the Diploma Programme so much, universities not only often grant first year credit for Diploma courses, but also offer important benefits such as early registration, placement in dormitories, and academic advising – to say nothing of generous entrance scholarships.

The IB Diploma Programme is more than a collection of courses. The Diploma is synoptic by design. In other words, the six academic subjects are meant to work together. Although students rigorously learn the particular language, concepts, and methods of the various academic disciplines, the Diploma is inherently interdisciplinary. Teachers and students are invited to make connections between their academic subjects – a process formalized by Theory of Knowledge (ToK). The other core requirements – the Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) – allow students to extend their learning beyond the classroom into individual research and personal action.

The IB Diploma Programme is intended to be balanced. Classroom learning in the six academic subjects is balanced by the experiential learning of CAS, ToK, and the Extended Essay.

The IB Diploma Programme is a two-year endeavour. The programme is designed as a two-year educational experience and most DP courses will be completed over a two-year period. When students embark, they are committing themselves to two years of concentrated and connected study. Activities such as the DP Retreat, the mock exams, and the internal assessments are landmarks on this journey, one where Grade 11 and 12 blend into one another – not the normal high school experience at all.

The IB Diploma Programme allows ample choice. The Diploma Programme is not meant to be a monolith. Although we face some constraints at Stratford Hall because of our size, we are still able to offer an impressive array of courses, including: three different sciences at the higher and standard levels, math courses designed for arts or science students, three different levels of language instruction, and a variety of classroom and online electives. The vast majority of students find that they have ample opportunity to pursue their interests and to play to their strengths.

The DP exams are rigorous, fair, and internationally recognized. Perhaps the best part of the Diploma Programme is that we are all in it together. The assessment is comprehensive, transparent, and largely external. Students produce work to publicized standards, and are graded by expert IB Examiners. Teachers see the results of their instruction in measurable terms, and adjust their practice accordingly. The quality and nature of external assessment takes a great burden off staff and student alike. No one is trying to guess the criteria for success, and there is no question of favouritism. Teachers become more like guides and mentors than dispensers of knowledge, as they work with their students to achieve a common goal.

DP Core Requirements

The Extended Essay

The Extended Essay is a hallmark of the Diploma Programme. It provides students with a wonderful taste of intellectual adventure. Students pursue their own interests at length and in depth. The research essay can be on math or music, chemistry or choreography. This is the student’s opportunity to push beyond the confines of the classroom and the syllabus to explore a topic of personal interest – to follow a passion within a set structure. Under the direction of a faculty supervisor, students delve into their topics for a year and write a 4,000 word (20 page) research paper. In the last few years at Stratford Hall, we have had some very successful and highly diverse extended essays. Consider these titles, for example:

• Movement and Stasis in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye
• A Study of the Effect of Ocean pH on the Luminosity of Bioluminescence in the Dinoflagellate Species Pyrocystis Lunula
• The Role of the Berlin Wall in the Fall of Communism

These were ambitious projects for high school students; in each case, they were also labours of love. Students were able to follow their own interests to their logical conclusions. They faced dead-ends, overcame difficulties, and produced impressive results. Most students do not do this kind of research until the end of their undergraduate degree, if then. No wonder universities always mention the Extended Essay when they explain why they want to enroll DP students!

Assessment of the Extended Essay is external. Students’ essays are sent to professional markers around the world and are graded. Combined with the ToK essay, students’ EE standing earns them a possible 1-3 core points in the IB Diploma, out of a maximum 45 points.

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is an exciting course particular to the Diploma Programme. ToK asks students to consider what they (really) know and how they know it.

They begin by exploring several principal Ways of Knowing: sense perception, emotion, faith, reason, memory, intuition, and language. A selection of these will be investigated in detail to ascertain its benefits and limitations. What, for example, can we know only through emotion, and how reliable might that knowledge be? How credible is our perception, and why does that matter?

Once students are comfortable with the Ways of Knowing, they move on to consider the Areas of Knowledge: Mathematics, the Natural Sciences, the Human Sciences, History, the Arts, Ethics, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and Religious Knowledge Systems. Several questions naturally arise here: Are these distinct areas or do they overlap significantly? How do the various ways of knowing apply to the areas of knowledge? Can the arts be approached through reason, or is the only valid approach to the arts emotional?

Theory of Knowledge is a reflective, engaging course which unites the academic courses in the Diploma Programme: students will learn about the topics distinct to TOK, but they will also explore—in a more philosophical way—topics that they already study in their six chosen DP courses. This process supports and deepens their IB experience.

Assessment in ToK is comprised of the internally-assessed Presentation and the ToK Essay (1600 words on a prescribed title). This essay is submitted electronically to external markers. Combined with students’ Extended Essays, their ToK standing earns a maximum of 3 core points towards the Diploma Programme final score, tallied out of a maximum 45 points.

Creativity, Action, and Service

Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) is at the heart of the Diploma Programme. It is one of the three essential elements in every student’s Diploma Programme experience. It involves students in a range of activities alongside their academic studies throughout the Diploma Programme. The three strands of CAS, which are often interwoven with particular activities, are characterized as follows:

Creativity: Any experiences that involves creative thinking;
Action: Physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle, complementing academic work elsewhere in the Diploma Programme; and
Service: An unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student. The rights, dignity, and autonomy of all those involved are respected.

CAS enables students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development through experiential learning. At the same time, it provides an important counterbalance to the academic pressures of the rest of the Diploma Programme. Individual CAS experiences should be both challenging and enjoyable — a personal journey of self-discovery. CAS is not an instructional course. Rather, it provides students an avenue to get out of the classroom and meaningfully interact with their local and global communities. Sports, volunteering, directing a play, learning an instrument, building a computer—all of these can be CAS experiences. This means that students’ lives will continue in the DP, but it will also extend and expand interests and abilities in ways they may not have expected.

CAS must involve:
• real, purposeful activities, with significant outcomes;
• personal challenge – tasks should extend the individual and be achievable in scope;
• thoughtful consideration, such as planning activities and maintaining a CAS portfolio; and
• a variety of approaches for reflection on outcomes and learning.

It is essential that CAS activities do not replicate other parts of the student’s Diploma Programme. Concurrency of learning is also important in the DP. Therefore, CAS activities should continue on a regular basis for as long as possible throughout the two years.

Assessment in CAS concerns the successful completion of all CAS requirements, essential for an IB Diploma. Students need to regularly document their CAS experiences and provide a thorough reflection for each completed activity. Reflections need not just be a typical document; rather, students are encouraged to use a variety of media for their reflection. For example, students may create a blog or website to chronicle their experiences and reflections. The options for reflection are endless, just as long as they are introspective, thorough, meaningful, and enriching. Students must provide evidence through a variety of CAS activities that they have achieved the learning outcomes.

The IB Diploma

Earning an IB Diploma

If students earn an IB Diploma, it means they enter university as prepared and inspired graduates. Although this is no simple task, there are a few simple elements to understand.

In each HL and SL course, students earn a Course Grade out of 7.

In their six DP courses, each DP candidate’s final goal is to earn a maximum of 42 points based on final exams, on other External Assessment projects, and on their Internal Assessment projects.

This is a challenge. Students need to complete all coursework to the best of their ability in order to gain the skills necessary to earn an IB Diploma. Keep in mind that at the beginning of Grade 11, marks might seem low because teachers will be assessing performance based on Grade 12 standards, as DP courses last two years. HL academic standards are higher than SL academic standards.

External Assessments are marked by professional IB markers around the world. Stratford Hall teachers will not mark final exams written by students at Stratford Hall. This ensures an accurate, unbiased approach. Internal Assessments are marked by our DP teachers; samples are marked by professional IB markers outside the school to ensure accuracy.

Students’ performance on their Extended Essay and their Theory of Knowledge Essay is translated into a maximum of 3 points, allowing students to reach a total of 45 points, maximum. It is possible to earn zero core points.

The conditions under which a student may not earn an IB Diploma are as follows:

The IB Diploma will not be awarded to a candidate in the following instances:

  • CAS requirements have not been met
  • Candidate’s total points are fewer than 24
  • An 'N' has been given for Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay or for a contributing subject
  • A grade E has been awarded for one or both of Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay
  • There is a grade 1 awarded in any subject/level
  • Grade 2 has been awarded three or more times (HL or SL)
  • Grade 3 or below has been awarded four or more times (HL or SL)
  • Candidate has gained fewer than 12 points on HL subjects (for candidates who register for four HL subjects, the three highest grades count)
  • Candidate has gained fewer than 9 points on SL subjects (candidates who register for two SL subjects must gain at least 5 points at SL)

Students will earn a letter grade from A to E in Theory of Knowledge (ToK) and on their Extended Essay (EE). Their combined score on the ToK/EE matrix earns them 0-3 points, leading to a maximum score of 45 points in total when combined with the Group 1-6 scores.




























Falling Condition

DP Course Selection

Stratford Hall’s DP Courses: Choosing the Right Combination

In keeping with Stratford Hall’s commitment to excellence and student success, course offerings are made with the following considerations:
• maximum benefit for the largest number of students;
• university entrance requirements;
• the expertise of our staff; and
• optimal class sizes.

The IB sets out the Diploma Programme so that students must take a range of courses. Course selections are tailored to meet students’ plans for post-secondary studies. All students will take CAS and ToK, and will complete an Extended Essay. Most courses span the full two years of the Diploma Programme, though it is possible to complete one SL course ahead of schedule with special permission.
As an example, the courses available at Stratford Hall for the 2016-2017 year as shown below. Students select three Higher Level (HL) courses and three Standard Level (SL) courses, selecting one course from each group. Choosing four HLs and two SLs is sometimes possible, but only with permission. Please review the math and science requirements.

There are two routes of study at Stratford Hall: Full IB Diploma and Courses route. All students are well-prepared through the MYP to pursue the full diploma route, and are encouraged to do so. When making course requests consider your own strengths, post- secondary goals, personal goals, work-life balance and learning needs should be considered. Both routes are academically rigorous and recognized by post-secondary institutions. Both routes are outlined below:

1. IB Diploma route
• students complete all BC Ministry and IB requirements;
• candidates are eligible for an IB diploma and a BC Dogwood Diploma.

If you feel the IB diploma route is your best choice:
• select one course from each of the six groups (unless no Group 6, then double up in Group 2, 3 or 4);
• select three HL and three SL courses (4 HL and 2 SLs is possible in some cases, with permission); and
• complete CAS, ToK and EE.

2. Courses route

• students complete BC Ministry requirements and a modified IB programme;
• candidates are eligible for IB certificates and a BC Dogwood Diploma.

If you feel the Courses route is your best choice:
• select five or six courses (a Group 2 second language is not required, but encouraged);
• choose all SL courses (1-2 HL courses can be chosen); and
• complete a modified CAS, ToK and EE.

Pamoja Education offers online courses, supervised by qualified DP teachers. Only highly-motivated, independent learners should take an online course. Students may take one online course if it is not offered as a class at Stratford Hall. For more information, please review this website:

DP Extra-curriculars

At Stratford Hall, students arrive for homeroom at 8:20AM, and attend four classes each day. Classes are 75 minutes, allowing time for appropriate breadth and depth of study. The Diploma Programme requires that there be 240 hours for each HL class; 150 of hours for each SL class; 100 hours of ToK; and that all DP Core Requirements are met by students. At Stratford Hall, we provide a balanced, rigorous schedule that meets these requirements, but addtionally provides time for:

  • the Diploma Programme retreat;
  • seminars on research skills, time management; and academic honesty;
  • mock examinations;
  • CAS projects;
  • music and circus performances;
  • athletics;
  • public speaking;
  • theatre;
  • student-centered Extended Essay research;
  • international trips;
  • leadership programs;
  • regular meetings with advisors

FAQs in the DP

Is the Diploma Programme only for international students? No. Although the DP was designed originally for international students and is widely offered in international schools, it is open to all. The Diploma Programme provides an international perspective in its curriculum and is internationally recognized by universities for admissions.

Am I smart enough to do the Diploma Programme? Our experience, and that of other IB schools around the world, is that attitude, effort, and organization are the keys to success in the DP. Although the DP is academically challenging, you do not have to be brilliant to do well; you have to work hard, be organized, and stay positive.

I having diagnosed learning differences – can I do the Diploma Programme? Yes. If you have professionally diagnosed learning differences, IB may grant requests for extra time on final exams, use of a laptop, a scribe, and many other allowances. Talk to your Diploma Programme Coordinator to review your options.

Can I take Diploma exams again to improve my scores? Although it is not normally done, you can – with permission– retake any of your DP exams after graduation. This is, however, not an ideal situation; permission to retake exams is given at the DP Coordinator’s discretion. There may be an additional cost involved, depending on the circumstances.

Do universities automatically accept DP students? Canadian universities accept Diploma courses almost universally; however, they do vary regarding which subjects they give credit for. UBC typically grants credit for HL courses with a score of 5 or more. It is best to check with the university you have in mind.

How many points do I need for university entrance? This varies from place to place and program to program. In general, you will be considered for university admission if you earn the IB Diploma; 30 points will likely give you a choice of Canadian universities; 35 points will probably bring generous entrance scholarships to Canadian universities, and 40 or more points will make you competitive for the best universities worldwide.