We’ve all heard the myths about the IB, right? The stories that say that the IB is impossible no matter what courses we take. But how can we cut some corners, and make our IB – statistically – as easy as possible? Here at Lanterna, we’ve had some fun looking at the 2019 IB graduation statistics to uncover the easiest IB subject combination you can take. These calculations are not meant to be taken as instructions on how to choose your IB courses, rather an interesting consideration of recent statistics

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Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

English A Language & Literature SL – Average Score: 5.09

When it comes to choosing your English course, the stats suggest sticking with Language & Literature over choosing Literature. Lang & Lit students have on average a 0.19 points higher score than Literature students along with a 3x lower risk of failing. Don’t be fooled though, although the average score in English A Language & Literature SL is relatively high, only 3.8% of students got a 7, so it’s not guaranteed success!

Group 2: Language Acquisition

Spanish B HL – Average Score: 5.32

The only two languages that fulfilled our requirement of at least 7,000 candidates in 2019 were Spanish and French, and Spanish takes the crown! The average score for a Spanish student was 0.1 points higher than that of a French student. Surprisingly, the average score for Spanish B HL (5.32) is significantly higher than Spanish B SL (5.03). Additionally, 15.1% of Spanish B HL candidates achieved a 7, one of the higher percentages of any courses in 2019! 

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Economics HL – Average Score: 5.09

The stats suggest that Economics is significantly easier than Business Management, History, or Psychology, beating out the other 3 common social sciences comfortably. It seems that last year taking Economics HL proved easier than Economics SL, as the average score for the higher level course was a full 0.43 points higher than the standard level equivalent! Additionally, a full 12.3% of candidates in Econ HL got a 7, that’s 6x higher rate than in History, 2x the rate in Business Management, and 4x the rate in Psychology. 

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Group 4: Experimental Sciences

Biology SL – Average Score: 4.18

This is an interesting one. All three HL courses (Chem, Bio, and Physics) actually have higher average scores. However, we’ve gone with Biology SL from group 4 in order to ensure you have 3 HL’s and 3 SL’s, and the difference between the higher and standard level courses within the sciences are not as great as they are in some of the other groups. Out of the 4 eligible SL sciences (Chem, Bio, Physics, ESS), biology comfortably has the highest average score at 4.18, beating all the other courses by at least 0.1 points!

Group 5: Mathematics

Mathematics HL – Average Score: 4.69

Controversial, we know. However, by our rules, the easiest IB subject combination is the one with the highest average scores and the average score in Maths HL is actually a full 0.5 points higher than in Maths SL! This is clearly because of selection bias, as the people choosing to take Maths HL are those who are already strong in the subject. So, if you’re using this article to choose your IB diploma, don’t take Maths HL just because it’s on this list! However, if you feel quite strong within maths, this number should give you some confidence in that it isn’t impossible to achieve a good score within the infamous course that is Maths HL!

Group 6: Arts (or additional Group 1-5 course)

French B SL – Average Score: 5.03

The only arts course that fulfilled our requirement of at least 7,000 candidates in 2019 was Visual Arts HL, which is notoriously difficult to achieve good grades in. So, taking our last spot is French B SL! Taking 3 languages is relatively uncommon, but according to the 2019 stats this will give you (on average) the highest IB score possible!

Extended Essay: 

Studies in Language and Literature – Average Score: C

When it comes to choosing your EE subject, you’re significantly more likely to achieve an A in Studies and Language and Literature than writing your essay in the field of Individuals and Societies or the Sciences (the two other eligible subjects). 16.4% of candidates who wrote their EE in their Language A achieved an A on their essay, with a full 81.1% achieving a C or better! With that being said, the most common score was a C, so you’re not guaranteed to get your 3 core points just by choosing the ‘easiest’ EE subject!


Average Score: C

The IB doesn’t publish stats about what the ‘easiest’ TOK essay title was for each year, so all the information we’re given is that the average overall score in TOK is a C! About 50% of students each year get a C in their TOK, with around 30% getting a B or higher. 

TOTAL: 30.4 points

So, if you are the perfectly average student, taking the 6 courses listed above in the exam year of 2019, you would have achieved 30.4 points. This is quite significantly higher than the actual average in 2019, which was at 29.63. So, just by taking the ‘right’ courses, you would score 2.6% points higher! Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

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A few notes about how we’ve found the ‘easiest’ IB subject combination: 

  • The subjects have to be relatively popular – with other 7,000 students electing to take them – for them to be included.
  • We’ve chosen the ‘easiest’ courses based on the courses with the highest average scores for candidates. There will naturally be some bias in this as, although Maths HL is clearly more difficult than Maths SL, the average score for Maths HL is higher (due to the nature of the people choosing to take Maths HL). 
  • We have crafted the easiest diploma fulfilling all requirements by the IB (3 HL’s, at least one subject from the first 5 groups, etc.). 
  • The stats are based on the 2019 IB Statistical Bulletin
Check Out the Hardest IB Subjects!