The Diploma Program at Desert Academy


"The International Baccalaureate (IB) provides rigorous academic programs and assessments and an unwavering commitment to prepare students to be citizens in an international community. IB is to be commended for its visionary approach to promoting a more peaceful world by engaging students, staff and community in a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, diff erences between and among the peoples of the world." —Dr. Gerald Tirozzi, Executive Director, National Association of Secondary School Principals

What is the Diploma Program?

The IB Diploma Program is a two-year programme of studies that provides an academically challenging and balanced program, encourages social responsibility and prepares students for higher education. It culminates at the end of 12th grade with external examinations and externally-moderated internal assessments.It has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students. The program has gained recognition and respect from the world’s leading universities.

The IB DP Curriculum

The curriculum in DP are arranged into 6 subject groups:
●    Language A
●    Additional Language
●    Individual and Societies
●    Sciences
●    Mathematics
●    Arts

DP students, with the goal of achieving a full DP diploma, must choose one course from each of five subject groups delivering a breadth of knowledge and understanding in their best language, additional language(s), individuals and societies, the sciences and mathematics. Furthermore, students must also choose either an arts course from the arts group or a second course from one of the other subject groups. DP courses can be taken at higher level or standard level. At least three and not more than four are taken at higher level (240 teaching hours), while the remaining courses are taken at standard level (150 teaching hours).
In addition to disciplinary and interdisciplinary study, the DP features three core elements that broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills.

IB DP Program Core

The extended essay is a research paper of up to 4,000 words that asks students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the DP subjects they are studying.

Theory of knowledge (TOK) develops a coherent approach to learning that unifies the academic disciplines. In this course on critical thinking, students inquire into the nature of knowing and deepen their understanding of knowledge as a human construction. At Desert Academy, TOK is offered as a semester-long class in junior year followed by a semester in senior year. TOK asks us to tackle such particular questions as:

  • What does it mean to know something in math and science and history?

  • Where does this knowledge come from and how secure is it?

  • Are these the same kinds of knowledge? Why or why not?

  • Why are logic and reasoning so important?

  • When do my feelings count as knowledge?

  • Is the scientific method the best or only way to gain an understanding of ourselves in the social sciences?

  • How does language help or hinder the pursuit of knowledge?


Creativity, activity, service (CAS) emphasizes helping students to develop their own identities, in accordance with the ethical principles embodied in the IB mission statement and the IB learner profile. CAS complements a challenging academic program in a holistic way, providing opportunities for self-determination, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment. It involves students in a range of activities alongside their academic studies throughout the DP. The three strands of CAS are creativity (exploring and extending ideas leading to an original or interpretive product or performance), activity (physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle) and service (collaborative and reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need). To learn more about CAS, please click here.


Approaches to learning in the Diploma Program

This area covers essential skills that include skills of behavior and emotional management, skills that allow the student to monitor their own effectiveness in their learning and skills that allow them to process information effectively (often called “study skills” in a school environment). Although these skills may be in use when developing a certain natural ability or talent, they are different from both ability and talent themselves because proficiency in any skill can be increased through the deliberate use of techniques and strategies, feedback and challenge. Skills are therefore highly teachable.

Teaching and learning in the Diploma Program therefore incorporates the development of:
• thinking skills
• communication skills
• social skills
• self-management skills
• research skills

Assessments and exams

Students take written examinations at the end of the Diploma Program which are marked by external IB examiners. Students also complete assessment tasks in the school which are either initially marked by teachers and then moderated by external moderators or sent directly to external examiners. All assessment in the DP program is criterion-related, which means student performance is measured against specified assessment criteria based on the aims and objectives of each subject’s curriculum, rather than the performance of other students taking the same examinations. Throughout the two year’s course, teachers will conduct internal formative as well as summative assessment in preparation for the end-of-program examinations.
For more information about DP assessment, please see our DP assessment policy.

Courses offered

In the Diploma Program, the following courses are currently offered at Desert Academy within each of the six Diploma Program subject groups. For more information about each individual course, please see the subject briefs linked here.

HL stands for High Level, SL stands for Standard Level

Group 1, Language A:
English Literature HL

Group 2, Language B:
Language HL and Language SL
Language ab initio SL
Spanish HL and Spanish SL
French HL and French SL
French Ab Initio SL
Mandarin Ab Initio SL

Group 3, Individuals and Societies:
History HL
Philosophy HL

Group 4, Experimental Sciences:
Biology HL and Biology SL
Chemistry SL

Group 5, Mathematics:
Math Studies SL
Math SL

Group 6, The Arts:
Film HL
Visual Arts HL

Why is DP Ideal preparation for university? (PDF)

See 10 Reasons why the IB Diploma Programme (DP) is ideal preparation for university.


College Recognition and IB (Videos)

As an IB parent and the Assistant Dean of Admission at Stanford University, Debra Von Bargen has firsthand experience working with many IB graduates. As her son began the IB Diploma Programme, she saw him do things he never thought he could do. In her role as the Assistant Dean of Admissions, she is excited to see how a student has taken on the IB and knows that IB students show very high success rates during their first year of university.


Debra Von Bargen, IB parent and Assistant Dean of Admission at Stanford University, answers your questions. In this video she tells us how highly selective universities place emphasis on programmes that prepare students for university coursework. The IB Diploma Programme is distinguished by the breadth of knowledge it provides to students as part of this preparation.


Debra Von Bargen, IB parent and Assistant Dean of Admission at Stanford University, answers your questions. In this video she tells us how IB Diploma Programme students are highly prepared for entering a liberal arts institution.


Diploma Programme at Desert Academy
PDF Files