Strengths of DP courses

Approximately half of all IB students enrol for individual DP courses, rather than completing the Diploma Programme.

These students focus on select DP courses for a variety of reasons including:

  • studying in a US public high school that offers only a small number of DP courses as honours courses
  • they are taking the DP courses as part of an overall US high school diploma and wish to use their DP courses results for credit or advanced placement at a US or Canadian university
  • taking a mix of qualifications including IB DP courses, AP, and Cambridge courses
  • pursuing a singular passion—academic or co-curricular (such as a high-level competitive sport)
  • attempting the Diploma Programme, but not meeting all criteria thereby receiving a DP course results certificate
  • attending a DP school in which the school has decided that the individual circumstances of the student are not conducive to them attempting the DP.

All students who engage in DP courses experience a high level of rigour and learn to think critically, communicate effectively, and care deeply about the world. 

DP course students sit the same exams as Diploma Programme students and are assessed to the same rigorous IB standards.

Note for students: In some countries the governments and universities will only accept students who have completed the Diploma Programme. Please review country requirements on Find countries and universities that recognize the IB and check with the university you are interested in attending. 

Read more about IB student assessment.

What the research shows us

Recent research on DP students in the US, shows that 79.7% of DP course students enrol in university immediately after high school. These students are also more likely to persist in university with 85.4% of students continuing on to their second year at university. 

For DP course students, IB participation and performance were associated with positive postsecondary outcomes, after adjusting for students’ demographic characteristics. The more DP assessments taken by a student, the greater their odds of enrolling in, persisting in and graduating from college.

Note for universities: About 20% of those who attempt the IB Diploma, are not awarded the Diploma, but are still awarded DP Courses. These students should be assessed on their individual merits; many of them are successful in gaining places at university and are successful on their chosen degree program. The IB strongly recommends that you consider admitting these students.