The program offers many subjects, and students are required to take a certain number of courses in each of six areas of study. Students must also complete 150 hours of "creativity, action, and service" (commonly known as CAS), with at least 50 hours in each catagory. Students must also complete 4000-word extended essay in the subject of their choosing, and a theory of knowledge course. At the end of each course, students take an IB exam which tests their understanding of the subject.
Upon completion of the program, students receive a diploma certifying completion. This diploma is useful in obtaining college admission, and is widely recognized throughout the world.
Some IB courses are recognized as equivalent to college level courses and colleges may award entering students with credit for high IB exam scores. In this regard it is similar to the Advanced Placement Program. Students who are not interested in completing the entire diploma program may choose to only take a few IB classes.