The IB is notoriously hard. But how hard can it get? In this blog, we discuss the hardest IB subject combination you can take on! We’ve calculated the ‘hardest’ IB subject combination by taking all the courses with 7,000+ candidates with the lowest average score! Stay away from the following combination…

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

English A Literature HL – Average Score: 4.67

This is by far the most difficult English A course according to the stats. Only 2.5% of candidates got a 7, and the average score is around 0.35 points lower than any other English A course! If you want an easier life, stay away from Lit HL.

 

Group 2: Language Acquisition

Spanish AB. SL – Average Score: 4.96

While Spanish B HL is the easiest foreign language, Spanish Ab initio is the hardest according to our calculations! The average score isn’t the lowest in the world, and a surprisingly high amount of students actually got a 7 in this course, but the most common score is a 4, so best to go with another language! Ten cuidado!

 

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

History HL – Average Score: 4.29

Perhaps unsurprisingly, History HL is the most difficult social science that the IB offers. At a measly average score of 4.29, with 3x as many people failing the class as getting a 7, this is not one for the light-minded. In fact, only around 10% of students taking History HL in 2019 got a 6 or higher! This may just be one of the most difficult courses that the IB offers. 

 

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Group 4: Experimental Sciences

Chemistry SL – Average Score: 4.01

All SL sciences have significantly lower average scores than their corresponding HL counterparts. This isn’t to say that SL sciences are easier than HL sciences, but given the fewer teaching hours, perhaps it has proven more difficult for the standard level students to achieve the criteria that the IB has laid out! In any case, chemistry proved the most difficult of the bunch in 2019, with around 18% getting a 2 or lower! 

 

Group 5: Mathematics

Math Studies SL – Average Score: 4.17

Similar to Maths HL, this is definitely down to selection bias. The people studying Math Studies SL may be those who don’t think of the area of mathematics as their strongest discipline and thus will have a hard time achieving high scores. Clearly, Maths SL or Maths HL are more difficult courses, but by the letter of the law, this one is included in our ‘hardest’ IB subject combination!

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

Visual Arts HL – Average Score: 4.26

The dreaded visual arts rounds out our ‘hardest’ IB diploma. In fact, the average score for Visual Arts SL is even lower (at 3.76) but not enough candidates took the exam in 2019 for us to count it, so Visual Arts HL it is! It seems that even for the artists of the IB achieving high scores in this mammoth of a course is no easy feat. 

 

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Extended Essay: 

Individuals and Societies – Average Score: C

Although the average score for writing an EE within Individuals and Societies is the same as it was within the ‘easiest’ EE subject (Studies and Language and Literature), you’re much more likely to get a D (and much less likely to get an A) if you choose to write your EE in the social sciences! Only 25% get a B or higher in Individuals and Societies, compared to 37% in the sciences and 44% in Language A.

 

TOK: 

Average Score: C

Of course, the IB doesn’t publish what the ‘hardest’ TOK essay was, but the average score in 2019 was a C.

 

TOTAL: 27.36

 

What does this tell you? Well, the perfectly average student taking the 6 courses listed above would get a measly 27.36 points. That’s a full 2 points lower than the world average! So just by taking the ‘hardest’ courses, you’ve decreased your score by a whole 7.7%! Not a good idea.

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