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IB Math: Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL)?

Part of choosing math in the IB is deciding between taking a Higher (HL) course, or a Standard Level (SL) course. So, how should a student decide what level they should take?

Both levels are meant to be taught during a 2-year period. According to the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation), SL subjects require at least 150 hours of instructional time, while HL subjects require at least 240 hours.

SL students are required to do two papers in the final math exam. Paper 1 lasts for one and a half hours and consists of short-answer questions. Paper 2 also lasts for one and a half hours but instead consists of long-answer questions.
The structure of Paper 1 and 2 is the same for HL students, though both papers last longer, two hours each. Besides this, they are also required to do an additional Paper 3, which lasts for one hour.

Although they both have a compulsory internal assessment (IA), the criteria of both courses differ from one another. This is due to the additional requirements and different criteria of HL, such as the addition of Criterion E in the Mathematics IA. Therefore, this changes the weight of the assessments in the final IB grade.

The core syllabus is the basic content of the IB math curriculum and, thus, is compulsory in both levels. Furthermore, there’s additional content for HL subjects (that is not taught at SL) to explore the subject more in depth.

Students should always take into consideration the subject they want to pursue in university. This is because many universities require students take certain subjects at the HL. Math HL is a must in some university courses like mathematics, physics and engineering.

In conclusion , students who struggle with mathematics and want to pursue university pathways not involving mathematics (e.g. English, Design) will be suited to SL. On the other hand, students who excel at mathematics and aim to take mathematically demanding courses (e.g., physics, engineering) may consider the HL. An experienced IB math tutor can definitely help you.