What is the International Baccalaureate Program?
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program is an internationally recognized curriculum that offers 11th and 12th grade students an opportunity to earn the IB diploma. The program is offered in over 800 public and private secondary schools and in more than 100 countries around the world. To earn the IB diploma, students complete and test in six IB subjects; write an extended essay of independent research guided by a faculty mentor, complete 150 hours of creativity, activity, and service (CAS); and participate in a critical thinking course called Theory of Knowledge. This advanced, comprehensive program of study offers an integrated approach to learning across the disciplines with an emphasis on meeting the challenges of living and working in a global, technological society.
I’ve never heard of the International Baccalaureate before. Is it an organization?
The International Baccalaureate Program is governed by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and administered by the International Baccalaureate Curriculum and Assessment Center in Cardiff, Wales. The organization originated over thirty years ago in Europe as an effort by international schools to assure quality educational standards for students, regardless of where they lived. Today, the organization uses the talents of educators around the world to continuously update curriculum, train teachers, assess student work, and evaluate the program.
What are the advantages of taking an IB curriculum?
There are numerous advantages to taking the IB curriculum. First, the IB curriculum was originally designed to insure a cohesive, comprehensive education for students, no matter where they lived in the world. Today, that goal is still at the forefront of the IB mission. Students who complete this program are preparing, not only for success in college, but for success in life. Students gain a broader world view; follow in-depth approaches to the academic disciplines; and develop time management, problem-solving, research, and organizational skills that will remain with them long after the IB experience is over. CAS activities provide opportunities for student involvement in the larger community beyond classroom walls. An additional benefit is that student work is assessed over a two-year period using internationally accepted performance standards. Student achievement is assessed in a variety of ways: on examinations that are developed and scored by international examiners; on oral language demonstrations in both the student’s native language and a modern second language; and on science laboratory notebooks, art portfolios, computer science dossiers, essays, and other projects. These activities all count for a percentage of the student’s final score in each subject and allow the classroom teacher to have input in the student’s scores. The IB Program also allows for student and school flexibility in choosing areas of academic interest for student research.
How is the IB different from AP? Is one better than the other?
The IB is a comprehensive curriculum that requires students to demonstrate knowledge and skills through both in-class and outside assessments in six academic areas. Campuses that offer IB must be prepared to offer the total program upon initial implementation. AP, on the other hand, permits campuses to pick and choose from over 30 offerings. While neither program is better than the other, they each have different aims. Students whose main goal is preparation for either a career with an international perspective or college in another country may prefer IB because of its recognition at overseas universities. Also, IB diploma students who plan to attend selective colleges may receive preferential admissions consideration and/or college credit for satisfactory IB exam scores.
How do IB courses compare to other high school courses?
IB courses are more challenging. They are aimed at highly motivated students who seek extra challenge and involvement in their education beyond the classroom.
What preparation does my child need in order to succeed in an IB Program?
Because IB courses offer a high degree of challenge, students should, above all, be highly motivated learners. To participate in the IB diploma program, students should take algebra in the eighth grade and begin foreign language study no later than the ninth grade. In addition, students should complete graduation requirements such as health, P.E. and computers early in their high school program. Honors or enriched level classes from middle school onward provide solid academic training for the IB. Students need to develop good reading and writing skills and good study habits early in their schooling.
Why should I encourage my child to take IB courses?
Students who succeed in the IB Program do better than many other groups of students in university level work. Two studies carried out in the 1980s indicated that IB students maintained higher grade point averages at universities and earned higher average SAT scores than students who had not attended IB schools. Clearly, the knowledge and skills obtained in an IB Program prepare students to succeed in higher education. Furthermore, university admissions officials expect students to take the most challenging courses of which they are capable in high school. Also, students who take IB courses learn to see the world from a variety of perspectives, to examine different points of view, and to see themselves as part of the world community.
What IB courses are required for the IB diploma?
IB diploma students take six academic courses during their junior and senior years. The six required areas are: a. Language A (English or the student’s native language) b. Language B (a modern second language which is spoken today) c. Individuals and Societies (History, Geography, Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Social Anthropology, or Organization and Management Studies) d. Experimental Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Systems, or Design Technology) e. Mathematics f. A sixth area subject, which may include Art, Music, Theater, Computer Studies, a second experimental science, a second social studies, Classical Language, or History and Culture of the Islamic World. IB diploma students also take Theory of Knowledge, a course that encourages students to make connections among the academic disciplines and to examine knowledge, perception, and language as they relate to those disciplines. An extended essay based on independent research is required also.
How and when do IB students test in their subjects?
IB diploma candidates test in three of their subjects at the higher level and three of their subjects at the standard level. Two standard level tests may be taken in May of the junior year. All other tests are taken in May of the senior year. Higher level tests are longer and more challenging than standard level tests; these are the tests which may qualify for college credit. All examinations are administered by the high school, which is responsible for ensuring that IB standards for testing conditions are met.
What scores must a student earn in order to gain the diploma?
Diploma candidates must earn a total of 24 points on their six IB examinations. Bonus points may be awarded for excellent extended essays, and for excellent Theory of Knowledge work. A score of 4 is considered to be a passing score on an IB examination. Though every university has its own criteria, most universities which award credit for IB courses require a score of 5 or better on higher level exams.
Will my child receive college credit for IB tests?
Every college has its own credit policies concerning AP and IB test scores, and students should research individual college policies. No high school can promise college credit based on these test scores. Such universities as Harvard, Radcliffe, MIT, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Marquette and many others across the nation offer credit and/or preferential admissions consideration to IB diploma candidates.
How much will IB examinations cost?
Your son or daughter will bring home a letter in his or her junior year detailing the current IB fees.
Does my child have to take an IB course in order to take an IB exam?
Yes! The IB is a curriculum that provides for ongoing assessment throughout the two-year program. Because a percentage of the exam score is based on those assessments, the student cannot just sit for an exam without having taken the course.
How can I help my child prepare for IB courses?
Students who plan to take IB courses should begin their preparation early, certainly by middle school. Encourage students to develop and practice good study habits and to work on time management skills. Proficiency in a second language is necessary so language classes should begin early. Maintaining a serious attitude toward learning, developing independence, and encouraging self-motivation are all important factors in student success at any level.
How can I be sure the courses my child is taking are preparing him/her for IB courses?
Schools that belong to the IB organization must undergo a rigorous selection process. They constantly scrutinize and evaluate their own programs in order to be certain that they measure up to IB standards. Each year, the International Baccalaureate Assessment Center provides schools with feedback about student and teacher performance that helps schools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in each subject. The IB organization also carries out periodic reevaluations of member schools and provides ongoing teacher training. IB schools want their programs to succeed, and that happens when students succeed.