What are IB Exams?

Why take them?

The International Baccalaureate or IB program can be tricky to navigate. While the IB program is prevalent across many European high schools, many American high schools are not familiar with it. This leaves American students feeling lost and unsure how to navigate the IB program and the exams that accompany it. Gooroo is here to help!

The IB program is an alternative to the Advanced Placement or AP program. In short, it is a way for high school students to take college-level courses. IB began in Switzerland in the nineteen sixties to create an international standard of education for high achieving high school students. IB exams can be a wonderful opportunity for curious high school students because it allows students to showcase particular academic areas of interest. Many American colleges and universities offer college credit for passing scores on these exams. If you are a student who is pretty confident in your desired area of study, IB exams can be a great opportunity to get ahead of general education or introductory requirements for your major or minor.

In addition, IB exams an provide a bridge for American high school students, who are planning on applying to universities abroad. Because, IB exams are oftentimes a standard evaluation method of competitive institutions abroad.

Which exam should I take?

      When it comes to IB exams, there are some important protocols and delineations to be aware of. There are two types of IB exams: higher level (HL) and standard level (SL). Higher level courses require a minimum of two hundred and forty hours of instruction, whereas standard level courses require a minimum of one hundred and forty hours of instruction. These courses are bound to take up a significant amount of your time, so it is important to think your preferences, before you commit to taking them. Some colleges only give credit for higher level courses. As you decide which IB courses to take, it can be worthwhile to research the policies that the schools you are considering applying to have towards the IB program.

      Another important characteristic of the IB program is that you can enroll in the full diploma program or elect to take individual exams. The diploma program can be particularly intimidating to navigate; however, it can be an incredible opportunity to explore, because the diploma offers an unparalleled interdisciplinary scope of study. In order to earn a full IB diploma, you have to take six courses.

 Five of those six courses have to be in Literature, Foreign Language, Social Science (history, economics, geography etc.), Science, and Mathematics. The last course can either be another literature, foreign language, social science, or science course, or a course in the arts (visual arts, theater, dance, music etc.). Students pursuing the full IB program elect to take between three or four of those classes at the higher level. The remaining courses of the diploma will be taken at the standard level.

Taking the exams

      The IB program differs from the AP program in the way that it is assessed and scores. Whereas the AP only has an external assessment, IB exams have external and internal components. The external component of the IB exam comprises of the test that is administered in May. The internal assessments are managed by the teachers. These assessments often include oral and written work. An appointed IB moderator evaluates the internal assesments to assign a curve to the school of the student. This is done to standardize grading across schools and account for potential disparities in grading method or quality of education. IB exams are graded on a scale of one to seven. Most schools give IB credit for a score over five. In order to achieve the IB diploma, students need to average a score of four on all exams.

      Overall, taking IB exams can be a daunting but enriching experience. I recommend researching the possibility of IB as early into your high school experience as possible. There is no set curriculum that works for every student, but I encourage students to take college level courses in the subjects that they are most curious about, rather than the courses that they think colleges will look upon most favorably. It is far better to do fewer subjects well than to do many subjects poorly. In the end, if you are able to invest in your courses, you will get far more out of them.

About the Author

A. T.

A. T.

A.T. is an experienced tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.