Introduction to the IB

Introduction+to+the+IB

Fundamentals

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a two-year-long course allowing high school students to focus on six key components: mathematics, science, arts, language and literature, language acquisition, and individuals and societies. Overall, these subjects strengthen critical thinking skills as well as prepare students for careers and even everyday life.

The IB program has existed since 1968 and aims to create a better world through education. The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers a continuum of international education, encouraging both personal and academic achievement, and challenges students to excel in their studies and personal development. Each age group learns different important skills (see the IB table), as while the PYP course focuses on social abilities, the DP strives to broaden knowledge, allowing students to flourish in different components and retain useful information for their future. The aspect in which the IB differs from other systems is that it focuses on inquiry instead of memorization, which improves preparation for adulthood. Ultimately, the IB aims to help students’ succeed in their future endeavors. 

Trying to define the IB is very challenging as it includes many different aspects. When asking Mrs. Van der Meer, FIS IB coordinator, to define the IB, she replied, “Wow, that’s a big question!”. A majority of people usually think about the IB as the Finals in May and that simply provides a grade from 0 to 45. However, the IB is an organization designed to provide a pathway for future leaders, profitable to all who seek education of quality in an inquiry-driven way. It’s those flags that you see walking up and down from FIS with the IB learner profiles, focusing uniquely on preparing students to be capable of solving unfamiliar problems that don’t exist today by developing approaches to learning instead of specific content itself.

Students are taught to be internationally-minded, multicultural, and to embrace differences. Therefore, the IB should be taken advantage of, as it is much more than a grade, but is an experience.”

The IB is very versatile, as students can go for the full diploma or only take a few courses. For the full diploma, students are required to participate in 6 different courses. However, no matter the course, they are asked to take risks. Mrs. Van der Meer also clearly underlines that students should accept that there are things that they do not know and that they should use strategies to access this knowledge. The IB asks students to find a balance between academics and remaining mentally and physically healthy.

Contemplating on what students usually lack when entering the IB, many assume it would depend on the student, right? It does, yet not in an academic or intellectual way; instead, transfer students with different approaches to learning need time to adjust to this new environment. The PYP years strongly influence scores, as “preliminary learning has been guided by those IB principles”. Mrs. Van der Meer also emphasizes that she doesn’t think that students particularly lack something, but that adapting to new principles can be a challenging experience. Furthermore, she strongly encourages improvement in organization.

The IB allows students to be “exposed to styles of teaching and learning”, which will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Being versatile learners and adapting to different surroundings, among other skills are just a few of the benefits of the IB. The IB “opens the door to the world” for students. Mrs. Van der Meer explains that the IB diploma helps students get into the universities and schools of their choice. Taking this globally recognized diploma will provide opportunities for the future that students can mold into any form they like. So how can students do their best in the IB? 

 

Preparation 

Naturally, as students near their career-related and diploma years, they start wondering how to prepare for their exams. Middle and high schoolers are already building useful skills as all previous courses are specifically designed to prepare them for the more advanced programs. Realizing that the significance of 9th and 10th grade and that they really do matter is very beneficial to students. There isn’t necessarily one required thing to know, but starting to understand IB questions, how to access knowledge, advocate, organize, how to ask well-structured questions, and taking risks are very helpful skills for the future. 

Firstly, understanding what is being asked of students and having a good sense of each course will greatly help point them in the right direction. This can be practiced by knowing what a 6 or 7 might look like and being exposed to new approaches of learning beforehand. Mrs. Van der Meer suggests becoming involved in school and activities to build relationships with teachers and to advocate for oneself by asking for individualized feedback. This can help students find their learning styles and where their shortcomings and strengths lie; to be as knowledgeable of themselves as they can be. Furthermore, each learner is allowed and even encouraged to reach out to their teachers when they need that help. Students realize this later on in their IB journey, however, Mrs. Van der Meer expresses that students “should know that the teachers, me and the counselors are here to support them” and that “they should feel comfortable to reach out”.

Many don’t know where to begin, but learning how to organize oneself in 9th and 10th grade will help in 11th and 12th grade. Organization is one of the most important skills to develop because “being organized and knowing when the deadlines are is really key to staying on task and being successful”. Each student should find a balance between academics, mental health, and physical health. Moreover, the years of paperwork need a note-taking system to go from a giant notebook to just having a few pages to revise from for exams. This can all be accomplished by finding the most effective and non-irritating way in order to maintain organization. Options range from using apps and calendars, to planners, and more. To prepare, learners should think of systems to remember deadlines and ways to organize their notebooks and time.

Overall, students in the IB should develop a willingness to learn and grow, be open-minded, to take risks, and to continue improving to get to the next level while accepting that they don’t know everything. They should experiment with organizational methods in middle and high school to figure out the best systems for themselves, as there is no right or wrong way, and it is only a matter of finding and sticking with a method that works. 

 

CAS, EE and ToK

Following this, a number of students in middle and upper school wonder how to prepare for CAS, and achieve their desired grades. The term CAS stands for creativity, activity, and service. CAS does not affect the final IB score, however, it is required to receive an IB diploma. To be specific, the three extra points outside of mandatory classes can be earned by students from the Extended Essay and ToK scores.

In the college admissions process, extracurricular activities take an important role in participation experiences. Most schools, including FIS, have a variety of clubs that students can join and participate in for the IB. Service groups, band, orchestra, athletics, and other extracurriculars can be used for CAS credit. Extracurricular activity also creates breaks for students from studying, provides social opportunities, highlights one’s individuality, and forms experiences. 

To prepare for CAS, it is beneficial for students to be involved in several clubs they are interested in. To get great marks for CAS students need the ability to reflect and explore new subjects they have never experienced before. To illustrate, in English, learners reflect on their reading and writing which is a strong component for the IB. Therefore, students should set a detailed and realistic goal for each subject, to push themselves to achieve their best to prepare for CAS.  According to the goal students set, the supervisors of the IB seek students’ growth during the IB rather than their intelligence. “In IB the idea of reflection is considered very important” and “extracurricular activities are being valued by the IB, therefore you need to pass CAS to pass the IB deployment”.

The extended essay is an independent piece of research, culminating in a 3000-4,000-word paper. The significance of this activity is practical preparation for undergraduate research, an opportunity to investigate a topic of personal interest, which relates to one of the student’s six DP subjects, or takes the interdisciplinary approach of a World Studies extended essay. Following, extended essays are required as an important part in the IB. It is because this task builds up students’ ability to formulate an appropriate research question, engaging in a personal exploration of the topic, and finally developing an argument. To prepare for this assignment students should take great participation and effort in the 10th grade in the mini-extended essay. This task will build students’ ability for the future and for the IB. Additionally, all the types of activities that are happening in 9th grade classes as well helps students to prepare for the extended essay. Finally, the extended essays are assessed from the scale of 0 to 34, also the students will receive a band. The band is A- work of an excellent standard, B – work of a good standard, C –work of a satisfactory standard, D – work of a mediocre standard, E – work of an elementary standard.

Lastly, the TOK score, TOK stands for theory of knowledge, this particular activity provides opportunities for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and to figure out the process of learning the subjects students don’t know. The main purpose of it is to question the students on ‘How do we know?’. To illustrate, some of the research questions can be ‘what counts as evidence for this?’, ‘how do we judge the best model of this?’, and ‘what does this particular theory mean in the real world?’. As a result, students can gain greater awareness of their personal ideological assumption, as well as developing an appreciation of the variety and richness of different cultural perspectives. ToK is assessed from an oral speech presentation and 1,600 word essay. The IB examiners will value the students ability to apply ToK thinking of real life situations during the presentation.

 

Summary

The IB is clearly much more than a simple set of exams and is key for future endeavors. However,  students’ TOK scores and extended essay grades can gain up to a maximum of 3 points in the final IB score; while CAS is necessary for an IB diploma. Therefore, students can prepare for the extended essay starting from upper school by following the tasks that are required in the 9th and 10th grades. Before entering the IB Diploma Program though, students should practice organization and know that all classes are equally rigorous and challenging. Moreover, FIS emphasizes the values of an IB education even if you are not pursuing the full IB diploma, as students just need to “find the right combination that works for you, that plays on your strengths” and that puts you in direction for your future. In all cases, the IB strives to put “students at the center of the IB” and gives tasks and activities to help establish, improve and flourish learners while enjoying the process. It asks to develop skills and importantly, it is “not about being perfect”! As Mrs. Van der Meer describes, the IB is clearly “asking a lot but at the same time it is very purposeful”.