#1 - The IB, What's That?
Hey guys! This is my first blog post on this journey I’ve started as a youth ambassador for JUT, and I’m so so excited. This post might be a bit longer as I give you some background information about myself, but I promise to write bite-size chunks from then on, so it’s not too long and boring and easy enough to follow. I’m not going to pretend I know everything that’s happening right now, it’s a pretty hectic time in my life at the moment but I guess that’s the whole point! I just hope you learn with me and grow with me and hopefully we’ll all make it out alive!
I’m going to start by giving you some background information about myself, and then we can go from there?
I haven’t even introduced myself! My name is Mayline and I’m 17, I’m currently finishing year 12. I go to sixth form, but unlike most people I don’t do A Levels, I do something called the International Baccalaureate. I take higher level English, Economics and Global Politics. My standards are Spanish, Biology and Maths Studies.
Not many people know what the IB is though, so that probably means nothing to you. I guess I’ll begin by explaining what it is, and the main differences between A Levels and the IB. Hopefully this helps anyone who’s stuck between both courses, or just informs anyone who’s interested!
The IB Diploma Programme is basically an international qualification that involves you taking 6 subjects from different subject areas as well as core elements - Theory of Knowledge (TOK), The Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity Activity and Service (CAS). The subjects you take have to be within specific subject areas. These are:
- Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
- Group 2: Language Acquisition
- Group 3: Individuals and Societies
- Group 4: Sciences
- Group 5: Mathematics
- Group 6: The Arts
One of the immediate clear differences between the IB and A Levels is the number of subjects and courses. As I’ve already mentioned, I take 6 subjects as well as 3 compulsory core elements, whereas my friends who do A Levels tend to take 4/5 subjects at AS and 3/4 at A2. Another main difference is that IB students have to make their subject choices according to and within the 6 subject areas. This means that you have to take English, you have to take Maths, some kind of Science, some kind of Humanity etc. The only exception is Group 6 (The Arts) - students must take six subjects, one from Groups 1 - 5 and either one from group 6 or a permitted substitute from one of the other groups.
Now this is where it gets a bit complicated. Three subjects must be taken at a Higher Level (HL) and the rest at Standard Level (SL). It’s hard to compare these to A Level Courses, but roughly (with some exceptions) your HL subjects are similar if not equivalent to A Level courses and your SL subjects are similar to AS courses. Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that it's very hard to compare though, they’re two completely different things. This all means that most of the time, your HL subjects are the ones that you go on to do or need in university, although some degrees require certain SL subjects, such as Maths if you want to do Economics (at most universities).
The core elements are compulsory aspects that are necessary in order to pass your diploma. TOK is a course that involves epistemology and critical thinking. It’s basically philosophy, sort-of-ish. The EE is an independent research paper of 4000 words in an IB subject that you take or are interested in. And finally, CAS is an extended participation in social or community work (service), physical activities (activity) and creative activities (creativity).
I’m almost done I promise! Unlike A Levels, the grading system in the IB doesn’t use standard letters. Each of your subjects is graded out of 7, with 7 being the highest grade and 1 being the lowest. In your SL subjects, the pass mark is 3 and in your HL subjects it’s 4 - failing any subject results in an automatic failure of the whole diploma (yikes). The core elements holistically add up to 3 points, and this makes your final grade come up to a number out of 45.
What’s it like? Why did I choose it?
I won’t lie to you, it’s hard work. Very hard work. It’s content heavy, it’s intensive, it’s tiring, it’s time consuming. It’s just endless deadlines. But we have a strong school community, I guess because we’re all in the same boat. We all get each other through it, and hopefully it’ll work out for everyone in the end. I often get asked why I chose to do the IB, and I find it very hard to answer, I’m not even too sure why. There’s many reasons but the main one is that I’m not entirely sure whether I’ll stay in the UK for university and with the IB being an international qualification, it’s easier for me to go abroad with it than with A Levels. Another reason is because I wanted a challenge, I wanted to be a lil’ bit different. I also wanted to carry on with a few subjects such as English, Maths and Spanish while getting the opportunity to start new subjects like Economics and Politics, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that with A Levels. It also helped that I loved the school which offered the qualification, so that was an added bonus. And lastly, I’ve heard from many, many people that the IB prepares you very well for university due to its sheer intensity, so I guess I sort of wanted a head start. But when I get there, I’ll let you know whether that’s actually true! I just felt like the IB was the best option for me, and my parents, friends and teachers agreed.
So is the IB for me?
When making your decision, you have to stay realistic. You have to know yourself and your abilities. If you know you’re not a very academic person and don’t cope well under pressure and deadlines, then I really wouldn’t recommend the IB - it’s not for the light-hearted. However, if you’re just on the border of this criteria and want to push yourself then I would encourage you to consider it because that’s the position I was in, and it’s been character building so far to say the least. You'll also need to do a lot of research - you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. No you can’t drop subjects after the first year like your friends, no you won’t have as many free periods as them. It sucks, but it’s life. If that’s not for you though, then think about that before you make your decision. A lot of people will spread false information too; will tell you the IB is impossible, that universities don’t like it etc. From personal experience, I can tell you that that’s all wrong but don’t take my word for it - speak to different people, google stuff, speak to your teachers. You have the opportunity to tailor your education to your needs so I would highly recommend you don’t take it lightly. But at the same time, one of the mistakes I made is that I went into it with such a pessimistic mindset, mainly thinking it was going to be hard, that I found it difficult to break out of that bubble and challenge myself. I’m still trying to do that!
I hope this somewhat helped, if you have any more questions don’t hesitate - I’ll be happy to answer them. I’ll leave my social media contacts down here too. Thanks for reading, please let me know what you want me to talk about too, it really doesn’t have to be school related.
IG & SC: @maylineamegan