All about the IB Program

Why IB?

The IB Diploma Programme (DP) was founded in 1968 to provide a rigorous, well-rounded education for students throughout the world so they would qualify for university study no matter where they pursued their high school education. The IB DP has a common, broad-based curriculum that is assessed by internationally developed and graded oral and written examinations.

The IB DP is unique in that it provides a liberal arts, interdisciplinary education leading to a diploma that is recognized throughout the world. Students pursue studies in six areas: Language A (English), Language B (Spanish or French), Individuals and Society (social studies), experimental sciences, mathematics, and the arts. Three additional requirements for the IB DP include Theory of Knowledge (TOK) , Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) hours.

The curriculum is based on the topics and goals identified by the curriculum board of the International Baccalaureate Organization based in Cardiff, Wales. Teachers who become instructors of IB courses are required to attend IB training with the goal of educating young people to act intelligently and responsibly in a complex global society. The common thread of “international mindedness” runs throughout the IB DP in all the courses in which students participate.

At Rockville HS, we have developed pre-IB classes in grades 9 and 10 to prepare students for the types of learning that will be expected in the IB DP in grades 11 and 12. Participation in the IB DP equips students with a rich understanding of themselves and of others, heightening their capacity for tolerance and engendering respect for different viewpoints and perspectives. According to the IB Learner Profile, IB students are: inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, knowledgeable, open-minded, reflective, principled, and well-balanced.

The International Baccalaureate Learner Profile

The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.
IB learners strive to be:

  • Inquirers They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
  • Knowledgeable They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
  • Thinkers They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.
  • Communicators They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
  • Principled They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
  • Open-minded They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
  • Caring They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
  • Risk-takers They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
  • Balanced They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
  • Reflective They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

International Baccalaureate Acronyms: A User’s Guide

IBO International Baccalaureate Organization
IBCA IB (Cardiff, Wales) Curriculum Assessment center
IBNA International Baccalaureate North America (New York/Vancouver)
IB International Baccalaureate
MARC Mid-Atlantic Regional Coalition of IB Schools
DP Diploma Programme (grades 11 and 12)
MYP Middle Years Programme (grades 6-10)
PYP Primary Years Programme (grades k-5)
HL Higher Level course (2 years/240 hours of study)
SL Standard Level course (1 year/150 hours of study)
TOK Theory of Knowledge (core requirement)
EE Extended Essay (core requirement)
CAS Creativity, Action, Service hours (150 hours – core requirement)
EA External Assessment
IA Internal Assessment
ITGS Information Technology in a Global Society (group 3 course )
OCC On-Line Curriculum Center (for teachers)
IBIS IB Information System (for students)

NOTE: All the information that is available on the IBO web site ( can be instantly translated into Spanish or French (go to the top right corner of the home page and click on one of the languages).

Differences Between IB and AP

Both of these academic programs offer students the opportunity to learn academic material at the level of a college course. Often, as a result of the scores that students earn and the colleges which they attend, students may receive college credit and/or advanced standing. There are, however, some essential differences between these two programs:

  1. Professional Development Teachers of AP courses are not required to attend AP workshops, although many teachers do take advantage of this opportunity. IB teachers, however, are required by the IBO to attend training prior to becoming an instructor for the course.
  2. Program vs Individual Courses The IB at Rockville High School is a full Diploma Programme and, as such, students will be taking the full contingent of IB requirements, academic courses across the disciplines and the three IB core requirements. The AP courses at RHS are specific courses in a department and are not linked to any program. Typically students take AP courses that match particular interests and strengths.
  3. Assessment The IB assesses students in a variety of ways. All IB exams are written responses (rather than multiple choice). Exams are developed by the IBO in Cardiff, Wales and administered throughout the world (at approximately the same time as AP exams in the US). IB assessments cover more than an exam, however; there are two types of assessments in IB – internal assessment and external assessment. Internal assessment is an assessment developed by the IBO but scored internally by the teacher(s). Often internal assessment is moderated by the IBO (samples assessments of high, medium, and low range may be submitted for moderation to IB examiners). External assessment is an assessment developed by the IBO and scored by trained IB examiners throughout the world. AP assessments are developed by the College Board and include both multiple choice and written essays. AP assessments are scored by trained AP “readers” (typically teachers of AP courses from throughout the US). AP scores are based on the final, end-of-course exam only, while IB scores are based on both internal and external assessment.
  4. Additional Requirements The IB has as its core three essential requirements that reinforce the required six course elements – Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE)and Creative, Action, Service (CAS) hours. These additional requirements are designed to reinforce the fundamental philosophy of the IB Diploma Programme and its Mission Statement. AP does not have any core requirements.
  5. College Recognition: Colleges recognize both AP and IB exam scores, depending on the particular school and the student’s individual score. AP exams receive a score of 1 to 5 (with 5 the highest score). IB results are scored from 1 to 7 (with 7 being the highest score). Colleges may accept credit for or give advanced standing to students with scores of 3 or higher on AP exams and 4 or higher on IB assessments (but this can vary significantly from school to school). Students must take an IB course to get an IB score, but students do not need to take an AP course to take an AP exam. This is due primarily to the fact that the AP score results are based on one test, while the IB score results are based on a series of assessments (an end of course exam as well as internal assessment requirements). Thus, it is quite possible for IB students to take IB courses and the requisite assessments and also take AP exams (without being enrolled in an AP course). There can be significant overlap in the IB/AP exam and course content.

Some educators feel that these two programs are indeed quite comparable. Others believe that the IB has a slight edge in that the program encourages more critical thinking at a deeper level and represents a wider world view. Jay Mathews, Washington Post education reporter, recently compared the two programs to driving a Mercedes Benz versus a Lexus, both “gold standards” of academic rigor.

Theory of Knowledge

- An Overview “Man is the measure of all things: of those that are, that they are; and of those that are not, that they are not.” – Protagoras

“Not to question, not to tremble with the joy of questioning, that is what I find to be contemptible.” -Nietzche

Course Description The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, a flagship element in the Diploma Programme, encourages critical thinking about knowledge itself to try to help students make sense of what then encounter as they study and learn. The core content is based on inquiry and intellectual curiosity and the ability to formulate, contemplate, and consider questions about knowing. At the center of the course is the student as KNOWER, pursuing questions such as: What counts as knowledge? What can I claim to know? What are the limits of knowledge? TOK activities and discussions aim to help student discover and express their views on knowledge issues by encouraging students to share ideas with others and to listen to and learn from what others think. Connections are made between knowledge encountered in different DP subjects, CAS, and EE. TOK is essentially an interdisciplinary course in which students engage in daily discussions, prepare presentations relevant to course content, read and write regularly, and reflect on their own ideas and experiences as well as those of their classmates.

Aims The aims of TOK are:

  • to develop a fascination with the richness of knowledge as a human endeavor and an understanding of the empowerment that follows from reflecting upon it
  • to develop an awareness of how knowledge is constructed, critically examined, evaluated and renewed by communities and individuals
  • to encourage students to reflect on their experiences as learners in everyday life and in the Diploma Programme -
  • to make connections between academic disciplines and between thoughts, feelings and actions
  • to encourage an interest in the diversity of ways of thinking and ways of living of individuals and communities and an awareness of personal and ideological assumptions, including participants’ own
  • to encourage consideration of the responsibilities originating from the relationship between knowledge, the community and the individual as citizens of the world.

The Theory of Knowledge course:

  • guides students to be able to analyze critically knowledge claims, their underlying assumptions and their implications
  • generates questions, explanations, conjectures, hypotheses, alternative ideas and possible solutions in response to knowledge issues concerning areas of knowledge, ways of knowing and students’ own experiences as learner
  • demonstrate an understanding of different perspectives on knowledge issues
  • draws links and make effective comparisons between different approaches to knowledge issues that derive from areas of knowledge, ways of knowing, theoretical positions and cultural values
  • demonstrate an ability to give a personal, self-aware response to a knowledge issue
  • formulate and communicate ideas clearly with due regard for accuracy and academic honesty.