IB – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A tragedy strikes this school annually, around this time each fall. Year after year, flocks of intelligent, ambitious and unfortunately naïve tenth graders at Churchill follow the herds of lemmings preceding them, blindly unaware of the unpleasant fate that awaits them below.

First, they will fall victim to the shock that is the first failing grade they will have received since… well, in all likelihood, ever. Fatal blows will be mercilessly dealt to their poor self esteem, as they persist to maintain their sense of identity. Days, weeks, even months on end will be endured without adequate replenishing of sleep, the beauteous essence of life that so unfortunately evades their grasp. Social lives will be forsaken, beautiful heads of hair will be stripped of their color and luster, glowing skin will drain to white. The chiseled will atrophy, and romantic relations are but a pipe dream – if they had time to smoke a pipe that is, which they won’t. For those who attempt to cheat the odds in order to obtain sleep, health or companionship; well, they can only anticipate an even uglier outcome, as ghastly report cards will hang over their heads and relentlessly haunt them for the error in their ways…

And the name of this ruthless, unforgiving demon? The IB.

Okay, obviously I’m kidding; it’d be completely unreasonable to even think our teachers could possibly be so inhumane. Even on the worst days, our beloved IB coordinator Ms. Miller maintains that if you’re staying up past 11 pm, you’re doing something wrong. Nonetheless, it never hurts to be well informed prior to making important decisions (municipal elections anybody?) and whether or not to take the IB is one of the more significant you can make in school. Now of course our teachers and the [official] International Baccalaureate Organization website are very informative, but nothing quite compares to peer guidance when it really comes down to it. So here it is!

i think therefore ibImage courtesy of: Anders Jacobsen for IB Memes

What do we [IB seniors] have to say about our experience?
Some notable responses from the Facebook “SWC IB Community” group and around the school:

I hate IB. IB gives me the opportunity to have a life outside school, said nobody ever.

IB is a handful as first, but it gets better later on 😛 AND ITS REALLY FUN BECAUSE you get so close to all your classmates because you see them every single day for the rest of your high school years :’)
But I still hate it. 😀

I agree… IB is pretty fun since you suffer with everyone else. HAHA! IB in churchill is preeeetty challenging cause everyone’s so smart and you sometimes feel like you’re so dumb because everyone gets things SO MUCH FASTER THAN YOU DO. In other schools, the pressure isn’t as bad. I think that one of the things that you should keep in mind as an IB student is that IB is more of a learning experience, and it’s there to make you develop skills such as time management (I’m still trying to develop this. lol). ANDDD one thing I like about IB is that you get to be close to the most awesome teachers xD

Whatever you do, don’t take HL math

IB was the worst decision I ever made.

Transfer credits are great; superiority complex; social life is lame anyways; knowledge is power; the more you know; most people in university are stupider than you; sleep is dumb; coffee is your friend; G4 lets you vent your anger (if you mark); I made up all 75 hours of CAS; blah blah etc. etc.

If you are a committed athlete, don’t take IB…  if you want a committed and cute relationship, don’t take IB.

Love to learn 😀

IB is by a far margin the best decision I have ever made! It provides an enriched curriculum and exceptional faculty to go with it! In IB, “friendship” is redefined and cemented; the bonds you build with your cult members in the international baccalaureate will last you a lifetime!!!! The workload is also quite manageable, who needs sleep when you can have knowledge!! Who needs to develop their strength of character through interconnected social activities when instead you can connect with your textbook?? I love IB!!!!!!!1!!!!!
[I’m not lying,] I prefer to call it creative truth-telling. Every IB student is innately proficient at it.

Ironically, the full IB students (consequently the ones with the heaviest workload) less frequently display extreme resentment towards the system. Though they might just be too sleep deprived to experience emotions as intense as hate.

hl mathsImage courtesy of: Samantha Jäger for IB Memes

What’s the point of taking IB?

• more comprehensive learning

• developing effective time management

• preparing yourself for university with heavier course loads

• closer connections with classmates and tighter friendships

• university transfer credits

• internationally recognized curriculum (ideal for those wishing to study abroad)

• bragging rights

• great excuse for lacking a social life or turning down invites

• satisfying your inner masochist

ib social lifeImage courtesy of: Abderrahman Day for IB Memes

Full or Partial?!

It’s story time! Two years ago at parent-teacher conferences, a very wise English teacher met with my mother, and spoke some very wise words that changed her mind and my life: “There’s no point in taking IB; the Alberta curriculum is already so fantastic, and with IB you just get a lot more work to learn the exact same things.”
Alright, somewhat paraphrased, but you get the idea. Full IB has its merits, it’s just not for everyone. Three HL courses, a mandatory second language and an extended esssy to top ― it’s no joke, and it will take a lot of work if you intend to make it out with good marks. Consider the diploma program if:

• You adore learning. You eat, sleep and dream of learning everything the world has to offer and regular classes are not challenging enough for you. Be honest, if you wait until the night before to start your essays, the diploma program might not be the wisest choice – unless developing time management skills is on your agenda.

• You’re competitive. Scoring all 7s (out of 7!) on your IB exams is going to look good if the Ivy League is your goal, and even if you plan on staying in Canada, many schools in Ontario and BC will also look at your IB scores if they work in your favour. A 7 equates to about 97 or 98 in many subjects, and you can imagine that that will be real damn impressive.

• Similarly to the preceding point, if you wish to study in the United States or Europe for your undergrad then IB is the way to go. If the British universities don’t think your regular courses are up to snuff compared to what the local schools are providing, the IB curriculum is meant to be consistent and an acceptable standard worldwide. Kind of like the taste of fast food: it stays consistent no matter what continent you’re on.

What about all the stuff that’s outside the classroom?

If you’re taking any of the IB sciences, you’ll need to find three other buddies and put together (what is essentially) a science fair project that will be judged by teachers and 12th grade students. Here’s a Facebook note from a friend and fellow Churchillian dramatizing the ritual.

As part of the Creativity-Action-Service you may have heard about, we no longer count hours. Instead, we have objectives to keep in mind when participating in extracurriculars. It is recommended that certificate and diploma students still partake in approximately 75/150 hours respectively, but emphasis is now placed on the “Learning Objectives” as listed here.
I like this (unofficial) site’s guide better though, it’s more readable. Please do note that while they don’t ask for phone/email verification from the directors of your activities or anything of the sort, that doesn’t mean you should abuse this trust. Don’t lose the faith teachers have for your honesty in reporting CAS activities!

Extended essays, thankfully, are only required for diploma students. 4000 words doesn’t sound so bad right? This article is at just over half of that already! But wait ― it has to be an academic research paper, on a topic that must be approved by one of the IB teachers. Shucks.

oie_334943C9F9LFTPImage courtesy of: Alex Sasha Elatova for IB Memes

Okay, so I’ve selected the certificate program (partial). What courses should I take?

Here’s a quick rundown on all the IB courses provided in Churchill, along with all the important information you’ll need; you can decide which ones will best suit your personality and learning interests. In alphabetical order of course:

• [course name] – [typical standardization]
[a description of what to expect]

• Art SL – none
(description as given by the IBO) — Studio work: 60%, Investigation workbooks: 40%.
Or you can flip those values around. I have no idea either of those means, but I’m told this class is very enjoyable so long as you have a passion for art.

• Biology SL – under 7%
The labs for this class are arguably the most ridiculous of the three sciences, and indisputably the longest, generally around 20 pages or more. Lots of classroom bonding and interdependence.

• Chemistry HL – under 8% (20), under 5% (30)
Not a class I hear many complaints about; being in one of the SL sciences greatly prepares you for it. The teachers are reportedly awesome.

• Chinese SL/ab initio –
Standard half-day Saturday Chinese school, you’ll know what it’s like if you’ve ever attended one.

• Computer Science HL – none
Honestly I have no idea what goes on in this class and I only know one person in it. If it helps, he says it’s awesome and programming codes is bliss.

• English HL – 2 to 6%
You know those really productive days you have in English 10? Not to say the regular days aren’t productive, but the extraordinarily productive days ― for example, the day before your essays are due, or the day before a presentation. The majority of days in English HL are like that.

• French ab initio – under 4%
Quizzes in the lab on Mondays, presentations on Fridays. It’s a pretty chill class, but Madame Dieng can and will shred your physics homework if she catches you doing it!

• French SL –
Not recommended for the weak of tongue. Even a good mark of 90+ in French 20 (prerequisite) might not guarantee you will be adept for this class. While an excellent choice for anyone fascinated by this romance language, ab initio is a much better fit for many full IB students needing a language to complete their syllabus.

• Math HL – (small)% to (huge)%
Well, there are the common chum barely scraping by, and then there’s the genius(es) that screw everyone else’s standardization by being too amazing at math. Hence the very wide range.

• Math SL – 5 to 10%
Most popular IB class. There are a few extra topics that are not included in the Alberta curriculum (matrices, truth tables, probability, statistics), and this class goes a little more in-depth and at a faster pace.

• Marketing SL
Newly introduced class. No information available.

• Physics SL – 3 to 10%
Some really comprehensive graphs and some really picky marking. Otherwise I’m told it’s not too different from a standard physics class in terms of content.

• Spanish SL/ab initio – under 4%
Very small class sizes, usually integrated within the French class. Heavy emphasis on self study, as would be expected when it’s three kids sitting in the back of the French classroom with their textbooks.

• World History HL – 2 to 6%
Current event quizzes! As the name states, there is a lot more emphasis on history compared to a regular social studies class, and more writing assignments.

change my classesImage courtesy of: Adelaine Redynolds for IB Memes

Wait… what’s standardization?!

Those in IB math will already be quite familiar with standardization, but for everyone else it’s worth mentioning. The idea of standardization is that it’s meant to predict what your mark would have been in a non-IB class. Essentially the process involves taking everyone’s grades, closing up the gap between the highest and lowest, then shifting everyone up. Outliers are standardized individually on a different basis. So why do some classes have greater standardization, allowing for multiple people to have 100%, while other classes don’t? Math is one of the classes with notably higher standardization, and it isn’t hard to imagine why with  the above knowledge. Receiving a 95% in non-IB math is within reach for many of us, whereas a 95% in regular English is inconceivably high. A greater disparity between your theoretical math mark and your actual math mark means you deserve to be scaled up more to compensate.

Okay! I’ve decided that IB is for me.

Excellent. Though a rare occurrence, not all students that apply for IB get in and some are rejected. It’s not 100% about the marks. Two things that make a massive impact are your extracurriculars and teacher recommendation ― and not all students realize that. You need to effectively prove to our IB coordinator that you have what it takes and will commit to your classes, CAS requirements, and so on; and your teacher has to think that the programme is suited to your learning style. Again, lots of teachers do believe that the Alberta curriculum is excellent, and a superior choice for many students.They may think it is for you, but if you are certain this is your calling be sure to correct them.

Oh, and don’t fill out your application form in purple crayon. Good luck!

I couldn’t decide on an appropriate conclusion. So here’s a cat gif. Cheers!

cat gif

Note from the author: the idea for this article came to me over a month ago. And three weeks ago, when I’d intended to have this article published, it was 75% done. Two weeks ago, it was 80% done. Last week, it was 81% done. Thank heavens the IB application process hasn’t begun yet, or so I’ve heard, and I won’t have to feel terrible about having failed the students in my goal of informing them ― let that be a lesson to you; whether you’re in the IB or not, procrastination is not your friend ☹


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