The IB Program from a Year One Student’s Perspective – Everything you have to know

Hey guys! Welcome back to my blog!

This week, we’ll be talking about the IB Diploma Program! As you hopefully don’t know (because it would be creepy), I am a year one IB Diploma student. This post will be about a day in the life of a student in the two-year IB Diploma program, and everything else you need to know.

Now, I know that the IB has gotten a lot of love and hate for being a rigorous, stress-inducing, student-torturing program.
If you are thinking of going into the program, I would say that it is a great opportunity and greatly encourage you to join in. The program adequately desensitizes you to the rigour of university, and you will feel that university is not much harder than high school. Although this may sound intimidating, never fear! I will clear up all these facts and myths based on my own experience – and give you some precious advice too.

Day in the Life of a Typical Year One IB Diploma Student

Usually, I wake up at around 7:30 am and eat some breakfast before making my way to school. Our school’s IB program works on a day 1, day 2 system, which means one day I’ll be taking 4 courses, and the next day is the other 4 for the whole year. This is different from the usual semester system, but I think the day 1, day 2 system is better because you always have 2 days to finish your homework.
Here are my classes during the day:

For more information on courses, go to the “Advice on Courses” section

After school, I usually have volleyball practice from 5-7pm to stay fit and not become a blobfish after I get my Diploma. When I get home, depending on the day (my day 1 classes are way more intense), I get 1-3 hours of homework. Since I am in year one, we don’t have insane amounts of homework, but next year, I might have to pull a couple all-nighters (none so far).

As a teacher told us, “You will have homework every night. If you don’t, you’re missing something. Go find out what it is.”
Usually, that something is to study for your subjects so that you won’t have to cram before any tests.

After all this, I’m usually able to sleep at 11:45, which is pretty good!

Advice on Courses

If you don’t know anything about IB courses, the last section must have been kind of confusing. Here’s what you need to know:

There are six sections that IB wants you to cover. This means that from each section, you need to pick a course. Confused? I’ll explain.

The six sections are: language, language acquisition, science, arts, math, and humanities. You will therefore need to pick a language course (language for the country you’re in), a foreign language, a science course (biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, etc.), an arts course which can also be replaced by a science or humanities course (so you can take drama, music, etc. or another science or another humanities course), a math course (math AA if you want to go to university and math AI if you simply want a diploma), and a humanities course (psychology, history, etc.).

In addition, you will need to take TOK (Theory of Knowledge), which is basically philosophy, IB style.
You will also need to complete around 150 CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) hours on your own time, and complete a CAS project, which is an at least 3-month activity that includes at least one strand of creativity, action, and service.

For each course, you will need to complete an IA (Internal Assessment) which you send to the IB headquarters where professional IB markers mark your work. After 2 years of IB Diploma, you will do your final exams on all your subjects which is literally the final goal of the IB Diploma.

SL and HL courses:
SL (standard level) courses cover less content than HL (higher level) courses. However, both are quite a bit harder than the non-IB curriculum. HL subjects cover first-year university content, and if you do well in HL courses, you can get first-year university credit, which means you can skip the course in university. You should ideally have 3 SL and 3 HL courses, and you should plan carefully to make sure your strongest subjects are HL. Also, be sure to not have all HL sciences, because you WILL NOT SURVIVE (fact). Why?

HL subjects are basically SL plus some extra stuff, and the extra stuff is taught after school, usually once a week. Science HLs are usually taught in year two, and humanities in year one. If all your HLs are in year two, which is when you will also have to prepare all your exams, all your IAs, and proofread your EE and CAS project, your blood pressure may surpass the U.S. national debt (no offense).

If you’re wondering what “ab initio” is, it is if you are a beginner to a language acquisition course, and an SL or HL course is too hard for you. This also fulfills the requirement.

For studying, I use many different resources, but the best resource is IBDP questions online and your own notes!

Here are some IB studying stationery essentials that I highly recommend!

Memorization flashcards:
These are useful for psychology and biology because you need to memorize a lot of content.

Pen with 5 colors plus mechanical pencil!:
This is so genius because you can use this “pen” that has the equivalent of 6 pens.

Zipper Folder:
Keep all your homework in one place with these cute folders!

For now, I am not very stressed, but that credit also partly goes to my handy stress-relieving notebook (yes, there’s a stress bear on the cover). I use it as my handy-dandy planner.
Where I got this notebook, there are also other styles, like a penguin, a cat, a strawberry, a shiba inu, etc.!

How to Stay Sane in IB

In IB, time management is KEY. I cannot stress that enough.
If you procrastinate, you may end up failing a project.
Make sure you finish your assignments as early as possible, and use a good planner to plan your life out, literally.

Do your CAS project in year one, when you have more time, and complete your EE in the summer between year one and two. Study for your exams throughout the whole two years, including the summer, and prepare your IA questions during the first year.
And most importantly, have fun!
IB is rigorous, sure, but it’s a lot less work when you enjoy it. Pick courses you enjoy and use CAS hours to relax and get your mind off school.

Thank you for reading my blog, and I’ll see you guys next week! Make sure you leave any questions about IB in the comments section so I can answer them!

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