From getting that text from Mom with the uncomfortably placed LOL to listening about the NRA on the news–or even hearing stressed out friends drone on and on about SATs, APs, and ACTs–acronyms seem prevalent everywhere…and the IB does not disappoint! Much like social media, politics, economics, you name it, the IB program comes with its own special set of lingo that students are fluent in by the time their journey is over. So, just what exactly is this IB lingo I speak of? Well, hold on to your hats, folks, because you’ve come to the right place! Welcome to the IB tour–giving you the nitty gritty on the IB program, one acronym at a time.

IB & IBO: The first stop of our tour–the International Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaureate Organization. Think of these as the foundation of a building or the entrance into a park or university; this is where our tour begins!

The International Baccalaureate program was created in Switzerland in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organization, and is available to students from the ages of three to nineteen. IB students are in a program that emphasizes hands-on learning, encouraging them to dig deeper into their own areas of interest and to cultivate and establish projects of their own. Focused much around reading and writing, the goal of the IB program is not to teach to the test, but to aid students in broadening their minds and think of themselves as global citizens.

A question that often comes up is how IB compares to AP, and the answer would be that the two are difficult to compare as they are very different from each other. Other than the fact that both are academically challenging, one of the only similarities between Advanced Placement and the International Baccalaureate is that students are able to enroll in just a few IB courses, like enrolling in AP courses, without going for the IB diploma. The students who choose to immerse themselves in the IB program and go for the diploma are in for much more than just IB classes; the full IB program consists of CAS, ToK, EE, in addition to IB courses…which leads us into the next stop on our tour!

SL & HL: A prerequisite to receiving the IB diploma is to study six academic subjects within the program, including the native language, second language, a humanities course, a mathematics course, a science course, and an arts course that is able to be replaced by a second subject in one of the categories listed. These courses come in different levels called Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). Students can take a maximum of four out of the six courses at Higher Level, and the rest are required to be at Standard Level. Think of SL and HL to be pools with the same depth, except with different sizes; the main difference between SL and HL is how much the courses cover. SL is the pool that you are happy to jump into on a hot summer’s day to cool off, and HL is the pool that you want to jump into with your competitive swimming gear on to practice for your meet coming up soon!

ToK: You may want to put your thinking caps on for this stop! How do we measure knowledge? To what extent do our emotions have an impact on our every day decisions? Nature or nurture? Is it ethical to hire disabled persons to skip lines at Disney World? These are only some of the issues tackled in the course of Theory of Knowledge. ToK is a course to encourage IB students to reevaluate themselves as thinkers, examining knowledge and how we know things- emphasizing greatly on rationalization and analyzation. On our virtual tour, ToK would be the beautiful garden; touched by lovely sunlight with plenty of trees and plants thriving, you would be able to see people sitting around tables and on benches, discussing intellectual issues with each other.

CAS: Right now on our virtual tour, we’re approaching the center of extracurriculars! Standing for Creative, Action, and Service, CAS hours are a requirement to receive the IB diploma. Diploma candidates must complete 50 hours in each category, earning 150 hours in total at the end of the IB journey. There is much freedom to attain CAS hours. Creative hours could be attained from activities ranging from ballroom dancing to writing camp; Action hours could be attained from activities ranging from going to the park with children to varsity soccer; and the same variety applies to Service hours. But true to the IB mission, CAS hours aren’t guaranteed by a mere signature from a mentor; diploma candidates have to chronicle their experiences from their activities, outlining how they grew and what they learned as a result of participating.

EE: Our last stop on the tour, the Extended–EEEEEEEEEEEEE! What was that? Oh, don’t mind the screaming; it’s probably just another student trying to write their Extended Essay. But in all seriousness, the Extended Essay is a four thousand word paper that gives the diploma candidate a chance to explore further into a topic of their own interest. The EE is the library on our virtual tour, as it is a research paper on a thesis that the student comes up with independently. Although teachers provide as mentors, the research paper is largely independent and mandates for the candidate to come up with an argument regarding their topic, supported by solid research.

We have come to the conclusion of our tour, folks! Here, at the end of the road, lies the diploma for those students who chose to enroll within the program–for those who have passed their IB tests, completed their EE’s, CAS hours, and ToK essays. Ah, what was that? That was the sound of your brain understanding the lingo that is IB…which means my job here is done! Hope you enjoyed the tour and are leaving with a better understanding of what exactly the IB program is.

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