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International Baccalaureate (IB) Program

Program Overview

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program is a comprehensive and challenging two-year liberal arts program for students in grades 11 and 12. The program is designed to offer students an experience that will provide the skills and habits for life in the 21st century. Students will need critical thinking skills and a sense of internationalism to succeed in a world that is increasingly interconnected.

IB offers students two options. Students can enroll in the Diploma Program (see below), or enroll in one or more individual IB courses. This allows for a larger number of students to gain access to IB's offerings.

The IB Diploma Program is a challenging endeavor that requires a significant commitment on behalf of its students. The best preparation for this program is to successfully challenge the most rigorous courses available as an underclassman. The following characteristics are essential to reach the highest levels of success as an IB student:
  • Good time management skills and the ability to manage several demanding classes simultaneously 
  • Self-discipline, self-motivation, and good personal study habits 
  • An interest and capacity for creative and critical thinking 
  • Moderate fluency in a second language
Although the demands of the IB program are significant, Pierson High School is committed to supporting all students willing to challenge it, as any student may enroll in an individual IB course or the IB Diploma Program. 

Diploma Requirements

To earn the IB Diploma, a student must successfully complete the following:

1. One course and IB examination in each of the six subject area groups (see diagram below). Students may choose a second course from groups 1-5 to substitute taking a Group 6 course. Students must take three of these courses (no more than four) at the Higher Level (HL) and three at the Standard Level. Higher Level courses are 250-hour courses that are taken over the course of two years. Standard level courses are 150-hour courses which are taken during a single year (with the exception of Spanish SL and French SL, which last for two years). Both levels of courses conclude with exams which students need to pass to receive the diploma. In addition to exams, students will be formally evaluated on their regular course work completed during the school year (i.e. lab books, papers, portfolios, projects, etc.).

2. The Theory of Knowledge (ToK) course. ToK, a flagship element in the Diploma Program, encourages critical thinking about knowledge itself, to try to help young people make sense of what they encounter. Its core content is questions like these:
  • What counts as knowledge?
  • How does it grow?
  • What are its limits?
  • Who owns knowledge?
  • What is the value of knowledge?
  • What are the implications of having or not having knowledge?
What makes ToK unique, and different from other academic disciplines, is its process. At the center of the course is the student as knower. Students entering the Diploma Program typically have 16 years of life experience and ten years of formal education behind them. They have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge, beliefs, and opinions from academic disciplines and their lives outside the classroom. This course asks students to consider knowledge issues rather than pursuing new knowledge. ToK activities and discussions aim to help students discover and express their views on knowledge issues.

ToK is a two-year course that is taken every other day in both junior and senior year. Students are assessed on an essay of 1,200-1,600 words on a prescribed title and are also required to make one or more individual oral presentations and complete a self-evaluation report.

3. The Extended Essay (EE). The EE requires students to develop a personal research paper of 4,000 words. The topic is chosen by the student based on his/her special interest. Typically, the topic is related to one of their six Diploma Program subjects. Students are expected to have sufficient knowledge and skills in the chosen topic. The EE is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills that are expected for the university student. While students will work under the guidance of a faculty supervisor, the essay will largely be written outside of the classroom during their own time. A student should allow for approximately 40 hours of work to complete the essay. Students are responsible for securing a relationship with a faculty member to act as the mentor/supervisor during the 12-month period while the research and writing of the essay occurs. Following the submission of the final essay, students will engage in a 15-minute interview with their mentor called the viva voce.

4. The Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) requirement. The CAS requirement is a fundamental element of the IB program. It emphasizes the importance of life outside the academic world and that there is more to education than what happens in the classroom. Each Diploma Candidate is responsible for completing 150 hours in a combination of activities that can be characterized as Creativity, Action, and Service.
  • Creativity is interpreted broadly to include a wide range of arts activities as well as the creativity students demonstrate in designing and implementing service projects.
  • Action can include not only participation in individual and team sports but also taking part in expeditions and in local or international projects.
  • Service encompasses a host of community and social service activities. Some examples include helping children with special needs, visiting hospitals, and working with refugees or homeless people.
CAS aims to challenge and extend the student by developing a sense of discovery and self-reliance, and encouraging development of individual skills and interest. Considering that CAS emphasizes experiential learning, students will learn by doing real tasks that have real consequences and then reflecting on these experiences over time.

A school appointed CAS Advisor will monitor student progress and support students as they design their own CAS experiences. Students should recognize that the minimum amount of CAS activity is equivalent to three to four hours per week, or 150 hours in total.

Award of the Diploma

Each course within the six subjects is graded on a scale of 1-7. The number represents a combined score of both internal and external assessments. The diploma is awarded to students whose total score reaches or exceeds 24 points along with the following conditions:
  • In each Higher Level subject, students must obtain a grade of 4 or better (however, one 3 is acceptable)
  • In each Standard Level subject, students must obtain a grade 4 or better (however, one 2 is acceptable)
  • Successful completion of the core elements (ToK, EE, and CAS) is worth 3 points
The diploma cannot be awarded to students who have:
  • Not earned grades of D or better for both ToK and the EE
  • Not completed an approved program of CAS
  • Received a grade of 1 in any IB course
  • Received more than three grades of 3 or below

All of this information, along with lots more, is available in our IB Information Guide uploaded below. Feel free to download it or contact the guidance office or the IB Program Coordinator Michael Guinan at your convenience with any questions or concerns. Pierson also hosts an annual IB Information Night each winter which all parents and students are encouraged to attend.

Adam Mingione,
Nov 2, 2016, 11:39 AM