How to select the right combination of IB subjects?

What I loved about the IB was that it offered everyone the flexibility to choose their own combination of subjects, but with logical constraints. Everyone has to choose some level of Math, one Science, one Second Language, and either Literature or Language & Literature at the Standard or the Higher Level. Three higher level subjects and three standard level subjects must be chosen. Every student must take a seventh subject: Theory of Knowledge (TOK).

These constraints mean that every student must pick those combination of subjects that are appropriate for their aptitude, interest, career plans, and targeted universities. 

Since I vaguely knew at the time that I wanted to pursue a career in either Entrepreneurship, Finance, or Management Consulting, I picked the following subjects: 

Higher Levels: 

Mathematics HL – to develop the technical skills required in Finance and Consulting. Even though I wasn’t naturally talented at Math, I had battle through this subject and achieve a respectable score of 6 because the universities that I targeted (US top 10) demanded that Math HL must be taken. 

History HL – to understand the ebbs and flows of politics and macroeconomics 

Economics HL – to study the most foundational concepts used in Finance, Banking, Consulting, and Business

Note that I avoided Business & Management because the universities I wanted to apply to (US top 10) perceived this subject to not be challenging enough. 

Standard Levels: 

Literature SL – I originally started the DP with Literature HL (because I was interested in Literature), but soon enough I realised how time consuming an HL subject would be, and decided to shift down to SL in order to free up some time to focus on my weak point which was Math HL. 

Physics SL – At the time, I didn’t think this decision through enough. Physics turned out to be tougher for me than I thought since I was not naturally talented in thinking in the way IB Physics would require me to. In any compulsory subject, I advise students to pick based on their aptitude, quality of teacher and their track record of getting 7s. 

Spanish Ab-Initio SL – Since I always wanted to prepare myself to be able to leave my home country, I decided to study a foreign language. This proved to be a great decision since not only was I able to score a 7, it has helped me understand the nuances of different cultures and has helped me connect with a lot more people across the globe. 


Before you start finalising which IB subject combination you will choose, please do the following: 

  1. Find out your innate talents / existing skills / aptitude – you need to figure out which subjects you will naturally find easier to study
  2. Find out your interests – if you are interested in the subject material, then you will find it much easier to study it and remember all the details 
  3. Have at least a vague idea of which career you want to pursue
  4. University requirements – you need to research which subject combination your targeted universities prefer. You can do this by visiting a guidance / admissions counsellor, researching different majors from the university website, asking visiting admissions personnel, connecting with current students at that university via online forums, etc. 
Share this article

Zeeshan Firasta is the founder of CRACK IB. He was valedictorian at Kodaikanal International School in 2008 achieving an IB score of 41/45 where he was awarded Best Economics HL student. He then went on to study Economics, Business Institutions and Integrated Marketing and Communications from Northwestern University (Kellogg School). He’s also successfully cleared a CFA Level 1 exam in the first attempt, and completed an MSc Finance degree from the Warwick Business School. Zeeshan was the first person in several years from his high school to get a full score in TOK. Since almost no IB teachers were former IB students themselves, Zeeshan is able to provide key insights and strategies in helping make each CRACK IB course solve the real issues faced by IB students and systematically help improve their IB scores.

Leave a comment