BY: Max Lubkeman
The IB evokes different feelings from those who take it or know someone who is enrolled in the Program. These reactions can range from indifference to the site “IB Memes”, which tells of the hardships of IB students though popula
r internet images. As I am enrolled in the IB Program, I will give a report of my experiences over these past 1.5 years.
As a new student at ZIS in 11th grade from Los Angeles, I had no preparation for the IB. If anything, I was being prepared for the AP Program. Nonetheless, I enrolled in the IB Programme. One of the aspects that became immediately apparent was the length of the classes – two years. This meant that I had to especially consider what I wanted to focus my studies on, but it gave me the peace of mind in knowing that I had the opportunity to fully explore the subject in which I enrolled myself. Moreover, it allowed me to properly adjust to a subject in that I wouldn’t be whisked away from it after year. The length of the courses also safeguarded me, to an extent, against a “crash-course” class. In one of these classes, the syllabus would be reviewed at such a rate that it felt like I didn’t absorb the material.
There are very mixed opinions about the IB aspect of Theory of Knowledge (TOK). In regards to TOK, the students’ thoughts couldn’t vary more. Some consider it to be a useful and interesting class that explores how we perceive, judge, interpret, and ultimately learn. Others view it as a nonsense course and its material does not add to their own knowledge. I thought that the course could’ve been quite interesting, but that absolute guidance of the students is necessary. Real-world examples helped me to learn about learning, but TOK got convoluted when the Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing were forcibly crammed into a one-year schedule. If the course had an ending section that tied all the material together and showed the relationships so that I could understand how everything related to general knowledge, I felt I would’ve gotten a lot more from the class.
Another quality of the IB that is heatedly debated is the Extended Essay (EE). The EE allows students to further pursue a subject they are interested in; essentially, it is a mini-thesis paper. My Extended Essay was about the exchange rate between Germany and Switzerland, and how this was affecting the sales of Mercedes-Benz. I actually enjoyed my EE because it was very relevant to Switzerland and the current economic times, and it involved something I was interested in. However, it did take a while for me to come up with the perfect topic. The IB wants to see more focused projects that are somewhat local to the person conducting them. Hence, I had to cut down my ideas to fit the smaller scale research question desired by the IB. The length of the process was a bit much though. We were given about a year to complete a 4,000 word essay that required research. The time of the assignment is justified in the fact that the essay isn’t the only assignment going on. The students also have to complete other IA’s and school work, as well as be able to participate in extracurricular. Nonetheless the length of the Extended Essay seems to drag out the process and just make the whole thing continuously loom over one’s head.
With the two year requirement and the extra IB courses and assignments, the extra time I have needs to be carefully managed so that I get everything done. However, this hasn’t proven difficult as I have been able to be a part of the choir, multiple clubs, and play multiple sports for ZIS. I find that as long as one is aware of what they are capable of doing in a day and how well they can organize themselves, they can really do whatever they want in terms of extracurricular activities.
I do not regret taking the IB. Yes, there are some nuances like IA’s and having the final test on two years of material, but those aren’t really massive reasons to avoid the Programme. The thing I like most about the IB is that it lets me see how extended interest and performance can impact me. The length of the courses allows me to better track how I learn a subject. The Extended Essay enables me to explore a particular class more, and lets me see what writing a thesis paper might be like in university. Overall, the IB isn’t perfect, but I feel it does a great job of preparing me for what academic interest and challenge I may later face.