From the Editorial Team
23rd December 2022
When deciding on a Junior College, students and their parents alike must contemplate the difference between A Levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculums. This article will hopefully shed some light on the key components of the IB curriculum which are not present in A Levels, so parents can make a meaningful comparison.
In the IB curriculum, students can take subjects at either Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL). In Singapore schools which offer the IB diploma, students typically take 3 HL and 3 SL subjects, so as to not overburden them.
The maximum number of points obtained for each subject is 7 points. Students taking 6 subjects will be able to obtain 42 points from their subjects, with another 3 points obtained from the combination of the grades attained for Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay. The highest amount of points obtained is 45, which is considered a perfect score.
There is a greater emphasis on independent research and assignment writing, along with preparing for the major exams at the end of 2 years spent studying the content. Students will undertake their various assignments and essays, all the while studying for the exams, which allows them to have a more holistic perspective of education.
Below are 4 components of the IB diploma which students must consider before choosing to undertake it:
Individual Assessments for Higher and Standard Level Subjects
Both HL and SL subjects have Individual Assessments (IAs) which comprise at least 20% of the subject grade. These Individual Assessments can be externally or internally assessed by the school itself. For example, the Mathematics subject for both HL and SL has a Math Exploration IA where students must choose a topic of interest and write about it, demonstrating how their thesis statement has been proven.
Compulsory Theory of Knowledge Component
The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) component is a quasi-philosophy subject which deals with epistemology. In short, it is about how we think about the way we think. There are 2 graded aspects of this subject which count towards the final IB score – a presentation and a 1600-word essay. The presentation can either be done individually or in pairs, and the essay must be written individually. Students will be allowed to choose their own “Knowledge Question” for their presentation. Every year, the questions are released for the essay and students may choose from the options available.
The Extended Essay is a 4000-word essay written by the student independently with the guidance of an Extended Essay mentor. This essay must be from one of the student’s Higher Level subjects and it must be independently researched. For example, if the student’s chosen subject is Biology, he/she must undertake the relevant experimentation on his own, designing his methodology. There will be opportunities for the student to check in with the Extended Essay mentor and submit reflections about the process so that the student knows he is going on the right track.
Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS)
Although the CAS component is not graded, it is compulsory for students to submit a portfolio of the other activities they have undertaken during the IB diploma, showing that they have taken part in a holistic educational experience. Co-curricular Activities (CCA) can be included in this portfolio. Creativity is fulfilled by undertaking artistic endeavours such as dancing, music, art, or photography; Activity is fulfilled by taking part in sporting events, and Service is fulfilled by performing community service for others.
To conclude, students must decide for themselves whether they are willing to undertake these additional components instead of devoting their full time and energy to prepare for a major exam at the end of two years. Students more suited for the IB diploma are creative, unafraid to think outside the box, and good at time management.