International Baccalaureate

Diploma Programme

Preparing students for success in higher education and to be active participants in a global society
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge allowing them to flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally, and ethically. This programme expands on the intellectual growth Mercy Girls experience in the IB Middle Years Programme. Earning an IB Diploma is an excellent indicator of how a student is likely to perform in a college or university setting, and schools throughout the country and abroad recognize this curriculum as the “gold standard” in education.

Mercy is a Candidate School* for the IB Diploma Programme. We anticipate the Class of 2027 will be the first to be able to take DP courses as juniors.

We are an IB World School, offering the Middle Years Programme, and are pursuing authorization for the DP. IB World Schools share a common philosophy—a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education—that we believe is important for our students.

The DP prepares students to become creative problem-solvers and lifelong independent thinkers, equipped to succeed in a rapidly changing and increasingly global society. The DP offers a holistic approach to teaching and learning with a keen focus on developing intercultural awareness. Students learn to explore and understand the world around them through inquiry, critical thinking, and open-mindedness. 

Why The Diploma Programme?

Families who want the best possible education for their children choose the IB because it offers:  
  • a challenging academic curriculum that serves as outstanding preparation for university and higher education
  • a student-centered approach to teaching, focused on developing students intellectually, emotionally physically, and socially, as opposed to preparation for test-taking only
  • a focus on international-mindedness, compassion, and understanding intercultural differences  
  • respected, reliable, and world-renowned academic preparation. Universities regularly cite DP students as the best prepared for higher education

The DP at Mercy

The DP will be offered to qualified students in grades 11 and 12. It is similar to Advanced Placement (AP) courses in that it is optional, rigorous, and can provide college credits. Mercy students will have options for their courses in junior and senior years, similar to the current structure of college preparatory, honors, and AP courses: 
  • Mercy will still offer both college preparatory and honors courses. 
  • Students who might consider honors or AP courses may be eligible to take DP classes in their areas of interest and strength. Approximately half of all IB students worldwide enroll in individual DP courses, rather than completing the Diploma Programme. 
  • Students looking for the highest levels of rigor can apply to complete the full Diploma Programme in pursuit of the IB Diploma. 
Diploma Programme graduates are well-equipped to adjust, engage, and succeed. They graduate with analytical, writing, communication, and presentation skills; research experience; excellent organization and time management; the ability to approach a topic from multiple perspectives; and a deep understanding of academic concepts. This provides an excellent foundation for them to succeed at their chosen university.

DP Courses at Mercy

Students must complete three Higher Level Courses (HL) and three Standard Level Courses (SL) within the subject groups and the Diploma Programme Core. DP candidates must take classes in all groups, with the exception of Group 6. If they do not wish to take an arts course, they must double in another group. Students must also complete four years of a world language to be eligible to earn an IB Diploma.

Before beginning junior year, students must have completed Algebra II Honors. Depending on math placement, further conversation may be required to ensure eligibility. Students must apply to be a Diploma Candidate. The application will likely consist of a writing sample, recommendations from teachers, an interview, and success in the Middle Years Programme Personal Project and prior coursework.


List of 5 items.

  • Do DP students have time for anything beyond academics?

    Absolutely. Most successful Diploma Programme students lead very full lives as high school students. They are often members of athletic teams and are involved in a wide range of activities. Time management and organization are key skills the IB develops in students.
  • Do DP teachers receive special training?

    All DP teachers receive professional development in the IB's approaches to teaching and approaches to learning from certified IB workshop leaders. This is a requirement for IB World Schools implementing the DP.
  • What’s the difference between the Diploma and Certificates?

    Not all students choose to take the full course load leading to a Diploma. Instead, some take a few DP courses in areas where they have a particular interest or strength, similar to honors and Advanced Placement classes. Certificates are awarded on a course-by-course basis to students who choose not to do the full program. Students who satisfactorily complete a DP course earn a certificate and may be eligible for university credit.
  • How does the IB DP differ from Advanced Placement and other college prep programs?

    The IB DP is a two-year comprehensive curriculum with a culminating set of externally graded final exams. IB and Advanced Placement (AP) programs are academically rigorous programs that prepare students for college study. There are important differences, however, in the content and exams. The DP is a cohesive and comprehensive program, not a collection of individual courses as is the case with Advanced Placement. The most important distinguishing factor is the core of the Diploma Programme (TOK, CAS, and Extended Essay).

    The Advanced Placement (AP)The Diploma Programme
    Individual coursesComprehensive/integrated programme
    Emphasizes college level content (prepares students for the what)Emphasizes college level skills and content (prepares students for the how, why, what)
    One high-stakes examMultiple assessment components throughout the programme including the end of course exam, student choice in internal assessments (IAs) and many external assessments (EAs)
    Courses offered at one levelCourses offered at standard and higher level
    Courses taken in one yearCourses taken over two years
    Can take only some courses at AP levelCan take full DP course load or can take only some courses at DP level (course candidates)

    A 2015 study obtained by the Educational Policy Improvement Center revealed that students viewed AP only as a means to obtain college credit in high school, while the DP is considered a holistic program that develops strong life-long learners.

    Additional studies on program impact are available at 
  • Will AP courses be offered?

    Yes. AP courses in a few selected disciplines will be offered as Mercy transitions to the DP. Where Mercy has identified DP courses that are more academically robust, DP courses will be offered. Qualified students could, with teacher approval, be able to take AP exams.

List of 9 items.

  • Group 1: Language and Literature

    Mercy Courses: Literature (SL/HL)
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition

    Mercy Courses: Spanish B/French B (SL)
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies

    Mercy Courses: Global Politics (HL), World Religions (SL)
  • Group 4: Sciences

    Mercy Courses: Biology (HL)
  • Group 5: Mathematics

    Mercy Courses: Analysis & Approaches, Applications & Interpretation (SL)
  • Group 6: The Arts

    Mercy Courses: Visual Arts (SL/HL)
  • Core: Theory of Knowledge (ToK)

    A unique course allowing Mercy Girls to reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know. This course culminates in a 1,600-word essay and an exhibition fair where they present and defend their findings.
  • Core: Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

    An 18-month collection of student-designed experiences that provides opportunities for personal growth, new experiences, and reflection on outcomes.
  • Core: Extended Essay (EE)

    A unique opportunity for Mercy Girls to investigate a topic of personal interest related to the Diploma Programme curriculum. This independent piece of research results in a 4,000-word paper providing practical preparation for undergraduate learning.
*Only schools authorized by the IB Organization can offer any of its four academic programs: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted. For further information about the IB and its programs, visit
Mercy High School Baltimore is a sponsored ministry of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and is a member of Mercy Education.

Mercy High School proudly partners with eCampus for textbooks and other materials for our Mercy Girls.

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