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International Baccalaureate » IB Diploma Program (IBDP) - FAQs

IB Diploma Program (IBDP) - FAQs

When can students begin the IBDP?

Students complete the IB Diploma program during the junior and senior years.

What is the difference between an IB standard level (SL) course and an IB higher level (HL) course?

IB higher level courses are more challenging than the same subject offered at the standard level.  Also, higher level courses are two-year courses taken over the junior and senior years while standard level courses are generally one-year courses taken either the junior or senior year (with the exception of World Language SL courses which are two years).

What is the extended essay?

The extended essay or EE is a research paper that IB students write with the help and under the supervision of a faculty advisor.  Students choose the topic they wish to research and write a fully cited, academic paper that is approximately 4,000 words long.  The value of completing this requirement is that students learn independent research skills and how to write a formal paper with guidance from their advisor.  These are critical skills to have for success at the university.

What is the Theory of Knowledge course?

Theory of Knowledge or TOK is a course that is a requirement to earn the IB diploma program.  TOK aims to make students aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge. The IB says TOK offers students and their teachers the opportunity to: reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and on areas of knowledge, consider the role and nature of knowledge in their own culture and in the cultures of others, be aware of themselves as thinkers while encouraging them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge and to recognize the need to act responsibly in an increasingly interconnected but uncertain world. 

What is CAS?

The goal of an IB education is to educate the whole person and to encourage students to become responsible and compassionate citizens.  The IB wants students to have experiences beyond the academic classroom where they can develop a greater awareness of themselves, concern for others, develop their ability to work cooperatively with other people and to develop their own special talents.  CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service.  It is a requirement to obtain the IB diploma and involves activities that the students complete outside of the classroom.  Students must complete activities in all three areas of CAS including Creativity (endeavors that involve creative thinking such as art, music and many other possible creative activities), Activity (physical exertion that contributes to a healthy lifestyle such as sports) and Service (unpaid and voluntary work that has a learning benefit for the student).  CAS activities will take place over the junior and senior years and the students will have a faculty advisor to help them through the process.

Can students earn college credit by earning their IB diploma?

Yes!  Students who earn the IB diploma with at least 30 points (our IB graduates consistently earn their IB diplomas with averages above 30) can earn a significant amount of college credit.  The UC system awards diploma grads with a package deal of 30 quarter units which amounts to almost half their freshman year.  Private universities offer generous amounts of credit as well.  Students and parents should contact the universities where the students plan to apply to learn more about the amount of college credit they can earn if they achieve the IB diploma.

Can earning an IB diploma help students graduate from college in less than 4 years?

Yes!  Our IB graduates often earn enough college credits from completing the IB diploma program that they are able to graduate from college in just three years.

Can students still earn college credit if they don’t earn enough points to get the IB diploma?

Yes!  Even if a student does not earn the IB diploma, he or she can still earn college credit depending on their scores on the individual IB exams.  Similar to the Advanced Placement program, students taking individual IB courses and exams can earn college credit depending on their scores.

What are internal assessments?

Each IB course has an internal assessment that allows the students to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned to an individual assignment or project in that subject area.  The work that the student completes is generally flexible in topic choice allowing the students to pursue individual research within the subject area that is of interest to the student.  The internal assessments allow students to learn valuable independent research skills that will be vital to success at the university.

How can earning an IB diploma help with college applications?

US universities evaluate a student’s academic grades in the context of the high school’s curriculum and its degree of rigor. The two-year IB Diploma Program is widely regarded by universities as an academically demanding program, and one that provides excellent preparation for college level coursework.  Universities view IB diploma graduates as some of the best prepared students for success at the university level.

What is the main value of participating in the IB Diploma program?

IB students develop strong academic, social and emotional characteristics. They learn valuable research, study and time management skills that prepare them for success at the university level.  They are likely to perform well academically – often better than students who did not complete the IB.  Data collected by both the IB and universities show that IB students are more likely to be successful at the university and are more likely to complete their four-year degree when they reach the university.  To learn more about this research, please visit the International Baccalaureate website at ibo.org.

What are the main differences between completing the IB Diploma program and taking AP classes?

While colleges value both Advanced Placement (AP) and IB programs, there is a difference between the programs.  The AP program is focused on students taking individual courses based on the student’s choice of subject.  Students can choose to take courses in only the subject areas in which they excel.  The IB Diploma program takes a more holistic approach to learning.  Students are required to take courses in 6 different subject areas with the goal that the students will be well rounded by taking subjects in all academic areas instead of just picking and choosing a few subjects.  Universities recognize that IB students are challenging themselves in ALL academic areas not just picking individual AP classes in their strongest subject areas.  The IB Diploma program also has the requirement of the Extended Essay which provides the students the opportunity to learn valuable research skills and how to write a fully cited, academic paper which is a skill that university professors expect students to have when they start college.  Students have the support of their own faculty advisor throughout the process. 

Can IB Diploma students have both AP and IB classes on their transcripts and get credit for both AP and IB exams?

Yes!  Most of our higher level IB classes are combined with an AP class during the first year.  IB students have the option of taking both the AP and IB exams and will show both AP and IB classes on their transcripts.  Many of our IB Diploma graduates end up with a significant amount of college credit after combining the credit earned from taking both IB and AP exams.

Can students take IB classes without having to complete the entire diploma program?

Yes.  Students can take individual IB courses similar to how students take individual Advanced Placement courses.  The students are called “IB Course” students and they take the class, complete all the requirements of the class and take the IB exam at the end of the course.  Taking individual IB classes as an “IB Course” student is a good opportunity for students to have IB courses on their transcript.