• Sean Wang

Breaking Down IB


The International Baccalaureate Programme is a prestigious education program available across the globe. It acts to improve and challenge students’ academics and extracurriculars, effectively emphasizing the importance of balance in a student’s life.

Moreover, the IB has a learner profile, displaying the traits and skills necessary for success in the program. For example, an IB student should be “an outstanding communicator, thinker and risk-taker”. The program will further your development in your overall awareness and reflective nature. Here, in Halifax, we are fortunate enough to have several schools offering the Diploma Programme, beginning in your grade eleven year and ending in your grade twelve year. Throughout this article, I will examine the pros and cons of being an IB student and hopefully it will give you and your family a clearer idea of what the mysterious IB is all about.

When I first heard about IB, the descriptions were quite vague. Honestly, being almost halfway through my second year, I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

Okay, let’s break down the giant that is IB. You will choose six courses, plus TOK (but we’ll get to that later). These will be your core of your IB education. You have a choice to sciences (chemistry, physics, biology), a second language (French or Spanish), and either history, economics or theater. Also, you will have to take a math course. The courses you choose will be marked on a range of 1-7 rather than percentages or letters.

The workload for any path in IB will be of a higher degree in comparison to the regular or advanced courses. Finally, TOK, or Theory of Knowledge, is a mandatory course that is marked based on a letters rubric (A, B, C, or D). This will be the foundation of your educational career of the program and it is a lot.

The stress and workload that awaits you is enormous, however perhaps beneficial as well. Many people say it helps you with coping with university level courses as many of your subjects will dip into university curriculum (up to 3rd year in chemistry!) therefore preparing you for post-secondary education better than any regular high school course will. Furthermore, it allows the improvement and development of organizational skills and management techniques.

Honestly, IB is extremely stressful, and it doesn’t get better in the second year either. However, it is quite beneficial with regards to your study habits and it makes you more aware of yourself and surroundings. The rigorous program and challenging courses will serve as a great university or college prep and spark early development and maturity for the students.

Secondly, the other weight on your shoulders is the necessity to perform well not only inside but also outside of school. This involves completing your 150 hours of CAS, an Extended Essay, and TOK papers and presentations.

Firstly, CAS is an extracurricular system implemented by the IB to promote healthy lifestyle as it is mandatory to complete 50 hours of Creativity, 50 hours of Action and 50 hours of Service. This allows the student to branch into different communities whether it be starting piano, playing football or helping out your local food bank. It flourishes and thrives on willing students to dedicate themselves not only to their education but to finding themselves and helping out others.

In my opinion, this is one of the smartest implementations in the construction of the program as it takes students out of their comfort zone and helps self-development. This allows the pursuit of that perfect balance between extracurricular and school to come easier and emphasizes the importance of community involvement.

Secondly, the EE (Extended Essay) is a memorable part of IB. Oh, it’s a lot of fun alright! 4000 words will be your aim for the paper. The fun part is it could be anything you want! History, chemistry, music, sports -- you name it. It should be a critical analysis of your interests so pick something you are actually intrigued by because you’ll be spending more than 40 hours on just researching it. To be serious, the essay is a great tool for again improving and strengthening the student’s ability to manage and organize his/her academic pursuits. My advice is to finish your research over the summer of your grade 11 year. It helps a lot!

Thirdly, TOK is an IB spinoff of a philosophy course. It is quite interesting as you question how you know what you know. It is mandatory and your paper and presentation make up the whole of your mark. It activates your mind and allows for an openness with regards to issues, conflicts and questions. In brief, the extracurricular sections of the Diploma Programme are instrumental in creating a balance and galvanizing self-improvement.

Lastly, although not in the IB curriculum guide, I feel like the connections you make throughout your years is vital in your success. I’m talking about with students and teachers! Your peers will be more than willing to aid and guide you through the stressful two years as everyone is in the same boat. You get close with your friends and teachers, forming study groups and forums to help everyone succeed. Another tip for IB survival: organize study groups, plan meetings, and use all tools available to further your comprehension. That’s what will get you through this heavy course.

In conclusion, as you and your family wonder if IB is the right decision, please remember to think twice. Think about who you are as a person and if you are willing to take on the challenge. I won’t say it’s impossible, however, so far, it is pretty hard. There will be tears, laughter and sad nights alone locked in your room, but that’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of the fun! Be ready to deal with stress but remember your class, your family, and your teachers will support you through it. The learning that takes place during your IB career is much more important than what’s on the pages.