To IB or not to IB?
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
With the idea of the International Baccalaureate (IB) created in 1962 and the official IB organization founded in 1968, students all over the world have been following the IB curriculum for over fifty years. It was heavily influenced by leading researchers, scholars, and psychologists in the field of education and child psychology, and its main goal is to provide students with “broader education with some degree of specialization, ethics in science, ‘the beauty of mathematics,’ and critical analysis and learning to learn (rather than to accumulate encyclopedic knowledge and learning through memorization).”
IB requires its students to take courses in each of the following categories: Studies in Language and Literature (literature); Language Acquisition (foreign languages); Individuals and Societies (history, economics, etc.); Experimental Sciences; Math; and the Arts. Students take 3-4 courses at a Higher Level (HL), with 240 hours of class time, and the rest at a Standard Level (SL), with only 150 hours. For each class, students must take a two-part exam, which consists of an external exam (consisting of any combination of essay questions, multiple choice questions, short-answer responses, etc.) corrected by certified graders, and an internal exam which consists of assignments (presentations, papers, etc.) graded by the teacher. IB students are also required to write an “extended essay” of around 4,000 words on a research topic, take a class on the Theory of Knowledge (i.e. critical thinking and learning), and participate in one extracurricular activity in athletics, community service, or the arts.
With all of this in mind, it’s may seem clear how IB can be helpful: it’s an internationally recognized, intense academic program which prepares its students for the demands of university. Admissions committees all across the US — and the world — are familiar with the demands of the International Baccalaureate. And with the program’s focus on writing, colleges like Princeton and Stanford have endorsed the program, saying that IB students are often more ready to tackle the challenges of university-level academics in a way that others are not.
That said, it’s definitely not for everyone. IB students are certainly better prepared to write essays than their non-IB peers, but they aren’t necessarily better prepared to take standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. The IB program doesn’t have its students take nearly as many multiple-choice tests as it makes them write essays, meaning that they will have to prepare independently for the standardized tests so critical to college admissions.
The workload of IB is also noticeably greater than that of other college-preparatory programs, like Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Curricula are stricter, meaning that, once again, students may have to prepare for standardized tests on their own (if, of course, the curricula don’t include the necessary material). There is a great deal of work that not every child will be able to handle (especially if s/he wants to pursue meaningful extracurricular activities — also critical to their college application).
So although the IB program might be good for some students, it might not be beneficial for others. It certainly prepares students for the intensity of university, but it will not necessarily prepare them for standardized tests or allow them to have the time they need to pursue the activities they enjoy. #InternationalBaccalaureate #SAT #admission #standardizedtests #advancedplacement #ACT #college #IB