IB Subjects

Breadth & depth of education

A broad range of subjects are offered at Westbourne, alongside a wealth of extra and super curricular opportunities carefully designed to prepare students for myriad paths that lay ahead.

As part of the IB Diploma, students study six subjects choices, one from each group, our academic team work closely with students to ensure choices are appropriate for future university options. As part of the IBDP, three subjects are studied in depth at Higher Level (HL), three at Standard Level (SL).

Choosing your subjects

Higher Level: choose subjects from those you enjoy the most and support your career aspirations, these are the three subjects you will study in depth.

Westbourne’s IB Co-ordinators will support you with this choice to ensure you make the correct selection for university courses with specific subject criteria.

Standard Level: these subjects choices help create a balanced programme of study and support the breadth of the programme.

Group 1: Language and literature

Through studies in language and literature, students are able to develop:

  • a personal appreciation of language and literature
  • skills in literary criticism using a range of texts from different periods, styles and genres
  • an understanding of the formal, stylistic and aesthetic qualities of texts
  • strong powers of expression, both written and oral
  • an appreciation of cultural differences in perspective
  • an understanding of how language challenges and sustains ways of thinking.

The IB Diploma aims to develop a student’s lifelong interest in language and literature, and a love for the elegance and richness of human expression.

As part of the Diploma Programme, students take at least one subject from studies in language and literature.

Language A: literature is a literature course that may be studied in a wide range of languages, at Westbourne we choose English. It encourages students to appreciate the artistry of literature and to develop an ability to reflect critically on their reading. Works are studied in their literary and cultural contexts, through close study of individual texts and passages, and by considering a range of critical approaches.

Group 2: Language acquisition

Subject choice is made after discussion with our IB coordinator who will support you in selecting the best choices for your University / Career aspirations.

A sample of subjects includes:

  • Ab initio:  Standard Level: Spanish, Mandarin (at the discretion of the Principal)
  • Language B:   Standard Level or Higher Level: English, French, Mandarin

Ab initio

The language ab initio course is organised into three themes:

  • Individuals and society
  • Leisure and work
  • Urban and rural environment.

Each theme has a list of topics that provide the students with opportunities to practise and explore the language as well as to develop intercultural understanding. Through the development of receptive, productive and interactive skills, students should be able to respond and interact appropriately in a defined range of everyday situations.

Language B

Language B is an additional language-learning course designed for students with some previous learning of that language. It may be studied at either SL or HL.

The main focus of the course is on language acquisition and development of language skills. These language skills should be developed through the study and use of a range of written and spoken material. Over the 2 years, students will cover the core—with topics common to both levels— which is divided into three areas and is a required area of study:

  • Communication and media
  • Global issues
  • Social relationships

In addition, at both SL and HL, teachers select a minimum of two from the following five options:

  • Cultural diversity
  • Customs and traditions
  • Health
  • Leisure
  • Science and technology

Higher Level

The aims of the language B higher level course are to:

  • develop students’ intercultural understanding
  • enable students to understand and use the language they have studied in a range of contexts and for a variety of purposes
  • encourage, through the study of texts and through social interaction, an awareness and appreciation of the different perspectives of people from other cultures
  • develop students’ awareness of the role of language in relation to other areas of knowledge
  • develop students’ awareness of the relationship between the languages and cultures with which they are familiar
  • provide students with a basis for further study, work and leisure through the use of an additional language
  • provide the opportunity for enjoyment, creativity and intellectual stimulation through knowledge of an additional language.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Group 3 subjects develop a critical appreciation of:

  • human experience and behaviour
  • the varieties of physical, economic and social environments that people inhabit
  • the history of social and cultural institutions.

In addition, each subject is designed to foster in students the capacity to identify, to analyse critically and to evaluate theories, concepts and arguments relating to the nature and activities of individuals and societies.

Example subjects at SL and HL:

  • Economics
  • Business Studies
  • Geography
  • History
  • Psychology

Students with a strong interest in Business and Economics have an excellent opportunity to attend Summer@INSEAD, alongside in-house INSEAD days which explore MBA style live cases.

Group 4: Science

Group 4 students at SL and HL undertake a common core syllabus, a common internal assessment (IA) scheme and have some overlapping elements in the option studied.

Integral to the experience of students in any of the group 4 courses is their experience in the classroom, laboratory or in the field.

Practical activities allow students to interact directly with natural phenomena and secondary data sources. These experiences provide the students with the opportunity to design investigations, collect data, develop manipulative skills, analyse results, collaborate with peers and evaluate and communicate their findings.

Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science are included in Group 4.

Experiments can be used to introduce a topic, investigate a phenomenon or allow students to consider and examine questions and curiosities.


Biology is the study of life. The vast diversity of species makes biology both an endless source of fascination and a considerable challenge.

Biologists attempt to understand the living world at all levels from the micro to the macro using many different approaches and techniques. Biology is still a young science and great progress is expected in the 21st century. This progress is important at a time of growing pressure on the human population and the environment.

All Diploma Programme biology students should be mathematically able to:

  • perform the basic arithmetic functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division •
  • carry out calculations involving means, decimals, fractions, percentages and ratios
  • represent and interpret frequency data in the form of bar charts, graphs and histograms, including direct and inverse proportion
  • plot graphs (with suitable scales and axes) involving two variables that show linear or non-linear relationships
  • plot and interpret scattergraphs to identify a correlation between two variables, and appreciate that the existence of a correlation does not establish a causal relationship
  • determine the mode and median of a set of data, calculate and analyse standard deviation
  • select statistical tests appropriate for the analysis of particular data and interpret the results.


An experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills.

It is often called the central science, as chemical principles underpin both the physical environment in which we live and all biological systems. Apart from being a subject worthy of study in its own right, chemistry is a prerequisite for many other courses in higher education, such as medicine, biological science and environmental science, and serves as useful preparation for employment.


The Diploma Programme physics course includes the essential principles of the subject but also, through the selection of an option, allows teachers some flexibility to tailor the course to meet the needs of their students.

The course is available at both SL and HL, and therefore accommodates students who wish to study physics as their major subject in higher education and those who do not.

Computer Science

Computer Science is an experimental science that offers a rigorous and practical problem-solving discipline, which, as a methodology, can be applied to all walks of life.

Group 5: Mathematics

Westbourne School offers mathematics courses that will accommodate the range of needs, interests and abilities of students, and to fulfil the requirements of various university and career aspirations.

The aims of these courses are to enable students to:

  • develop mathematical knowledge, concepts and principles
  • develop logical, critical and creative thinking
  • employ and refine their powers of abstraction and generalization.

Students are also encouraged to appreciate the international dimensions of mathematics and the multiplicity of its cultural and historical perspectives.

We highly recommend our students to check the website of the university they want to attend in order to choose the best course and take note of their entry requirements (points/subject), then discuss their choices with our IB Co-ordinators. Students looking to study Mathematics at Higher Level will be expected to have achieved Grade 8 in GCSE Maths, or an equal grade in entrance exams.

Group 6: The Arts

Group 6 allows a high degree of adaptability to different cultural contexts.

The emphasis is on creativity in the context of disciplined, practical research into the relevant genres. Each subject is designed to foster critical, reflective and informed practice, help students understand the dynamic and changing nature of the arts, explore the diversity of arts across time, place and cultures, and express themselves with confidence and competence.

Group 6 includes Visual Arts, or any other choice from Group 2, 3 or 4.