High School Course Guide 2021-2022


High School Diploma

The ISB High School Diploma program at ISB is a four-year university preparatory course of study that prepares our students to be thinkers, leaders, global-minded, curious, respectful lifelong learners. We believe that building strong relationships, while being inquisitive, creative, resilient and a willingness to take on challenges, will prepare our students to contribute meaningfully to the world of the future. 

High School students at ISB are expected to work toward completion of ISB’s graduation requirements within a four-year period. All students are expected to graduate from ISB by the time they are 19 years of age. By the end of high school, the ISB graduate will have earned a minimum of 24 credits. In addition, students will have demonstrated, through participation in experiential learning opportunities, co-curricular, athletic, service opportunities, and our social emotional curriculum, their commitment to global citizenship and to enriching the world around them. 

ISB is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in the United States, the Council of International Schools (CIS), and the National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development (NCCT) in China. The ISB high school diploma is highly respected by colleges and universities around the world. 

All students graduate with an ISB Diploma, if they have met the requirements below.  In grade 11, ISB students can choose to follow two graduation pathways with a variety of course options and learning opportunities in each Pathway.  Students can earn an IB diploma which presents an exciting, challenging pathway of studies for many of our students. Students can also follow a personalized learning journey through our Pathways Program where families, supported by our University Advisors help design a program to best suit the needs of the student.  Students can take a variety of IB courses for individual certificates and can also find choose other courses to help them prepare for their university or career pathway after their time at ISB.  Some of these opportunities include student directed projects and courses and opportunities for Work Experience.   

For further information about the ISB Pathways, IB Diploma and IB courses, visit the Course Guide pages of the Dragons’ Gate, or speak to your child’s School Counselor or University Advisor. 

Diploma & Course Requirements

Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 24
Distribution of credit as per the chart below:
Department Credit
English 4
Social Studies* 3
Mathematics* 3
Science* 3
World Language*/EAL 2
Physical Education & Health 2
Film, Arts and Design | Performing Arts 1

The requirements shown total 18.0 credits; the remaining credits needed for graduation are to be made up of electives and must include at least two credits from the subject areas marked with an asterisk*. 

Additionally, students must demonstrate a sustained commitment to culturally aware global citizenship through participation in co-curricular and community service activities. Please see the HS Handbook for more details.

Earning Graduation Credits

The International School of Beijing High School program is modeled on a U.S. high school program leading to a college preparatory U.S. high school diploma. Students in grades 9 through 12 work toward earning a specific number of graduation credits each year. A passing grade in a subject for a year’s work earns one credit toward high school graduation. A passing grade in a one-semester course earns one-half credit. Students must earn 24 credits, distributed as shown on the chart at the right.

Students are required to complete one full credit in the Film, Arts and Design or Performing Arts during their four years of High School. This credit may be earned through semester-long or year-long electives.


To be eligible to earn a High School Diploma from ISB, a student must be in attendance the entire grade 12 year. If a student transfers into ISB after the start of his/her grade 12 year, the sending school will be responsible for awarding graduate status and a high school diploma for that student.

Notes on Requirements

ISB’s challenging high school courses create an atmosphere of high expectations. Students must earn a minimum of six (6) academic credits per school year. 

We recommend that students take no more than five courses from the core academic areas (English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages or EAL) each semester.

Study Hall is a non-credit block in which students may work on assignments, study for tests, in the  Library Media Centre. Students in grades 9 and 10 are allowed to take one study hall each semester.  Attendance is taken.

New seniors with no previous high school language credit will be required to complete only one credit of a world language.

Minimum Academic Standards

We use a 1-7 grading scale. Students at ISB must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 and must not receive more than one 1 at the end of each semester. Students who do not meet these standards will be placed on academic probation. An academic probation contract will be jointly developed by the student, parent(s), Principal, and School Counselor and/or University Advisor. A student who fails to meet the requirements of the academic probation contract may be asked to withdraw from ISB.

Transferring Credits

Twenty-four credits are required for graduation. Students transferring to ISB may be credited with up to eight graduation credits per academic year. Credits for courses at other schools are awarded at the discretion of the counselors.

Attendance and Earning Credit

To receive credit for a course, a student must be in attendance for at least 80% of the scheduled class time each semester. Students may be absent from a class only nine class periods each semester. Students who exceed nine class absences, for any one course in one semester, may be in jeopardy of losing credit for lack of attendance in that class. For students who exceed the maximum allowed absences, the Academic Review Committee will review each case on an individual basis. This committee is composed of the High School Principal, the Assistant Principal, and the School Counselors and University Advisors.

Repeating a Core Academic Course

A student may repeat a course by teacher recommendation or to improve skills. The grade and credit earned during the first year that the course is taken will be listed on the transcript and included in the calculation of GPA. When a course is repeated for remediation or to improve skills, no credit is awarded the second time; nevertheless, the grade is recorded on the transcript and calculated into the student’s GPA. 

The following elective courses may be repeated for credit because these elective courses have process-based curriculum standards, allow for more personalization and student agency for skill development and assessment tasks: 

  • Music Production 
  • Filmmaking 2 
  • Stagecraft 
  • Play Makers 
  • Design Studio 
  • Impact Project 
  • Work Experience 
  • Independent Fitness and Physical Health
  • Concert Orchestra, Band, or Choir 
  • Guided Study 
  •  The Studio Art Experience

Drop/Add Procedures

Ordinarily, students will not be permitted to add or drop courses after the start of the semester in which the course begins. Students are expected to be conscientious in their decision-making regarding course selection. Teachers, students, parents, and counselors are all involved in the process. Therefore, once a program of study has been initiated, changes to selections should occur during the 5-day drop/add period only if a student has been misplaced. A student may request to drop or add a course during this 5-day period if he or she obtains written permission from parents, teacher(s), and the counselor. Students who drop a course after the drop/add period without approval for extenuating circumstances will receive a failing grade for the course. In addition, seniors wishing to drop a course after transcripts have been sent to colleges and universities must notify each institution of the modification to their academic program.

IB scores (1-7) are awarded to students in the summer following graduation by external examiners appointed by the IBO.

Course Availability

The preliminary choice of subjects during the registration process helps to establish the widest range of individual choice. It is, however, sometimes necessary to ask students to accept modifications to their original choice. Modifications may be needed because of scheduling difficulties - one course conflicting with another; or because too few students select a course, making it no longer viable. We therefore ask students to be flexible in their course selection choices. We always hope to meet the requests of students to help them in their planned course of study.

Every student is required to choose three alternate courses, including options for second-semester offerings.

Students must select a full-time course load for both first and second semesters at the time of registration.

Independent Study Options and Online Courses

ISB students who are particularly self-motivated and who have demonstrated strength in managing their academic and Co-curricular commitments may wish to engage in a course that helps them develop as independent learners. There are several independent study options available, described in detail in the section of this guide entitled “Directed Independent Study at ISB.” Enrollment in an independent study requires case-by-case approval. Students must discuss options with counselors and teachers before submitting a request for independent study.

Our online educational options include courses through three different providers; IB-approved Pamoja courses, Global Online Academy (GOA) courses and Virtual High School (VHS) courses. GOA and VHS courses are open to students in grades 10-12. Pamoja IB courses are only available to students in grades 11 and 12. Enrollment in an online course requires approval from the counselor and, in the case of Pamoja, the IB Coordinator. No more than one online course may be taken in a semester. For more information, see the Online Learning section of the High School Course Guide.

External Examinations

ISB offers a broad selection of external examinations. These include final examinations for all Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses taught and transcripted by ISB (including approved online courses taken through Pamoja or Virtual High School).

ISB is also a testing site for college admissions testing, including:

  • PSAT, SAT and SAT Subject Tests
  • ACT

The High School counselors can assist students with registration for any of these examinations.

The TOEFL is not offered at ISB. Students who need to take the TOEFL must make arrangements on their own.