The Myths of the International Baccalaureate

Written by: Erin O’Reilly

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program holds a high reputation for being both prestigious and challenging, within the ISM community, and around the world. While the number of students who enroll in the program  has increased over the years, as an underclassmen, its easy to be overwhelmed and swayed by the rumors and myths that revolve around the IB. And it is for this reason that we would like to debunk a few common false impressions about the IB diploma.

Myth #1: If you take the IB you won’t have a social life.


The social life myth is one of the most prevalent misconceptions about the IB program. As college-level courses, IB classes are inherently demanding and require a heavy workload. However, most students find that they do have time to break from the studying, as they learn to be efficient and manage their time.  As junior Hardik Singh states, the workload of the IB is indeed “manageable with the right mindset and organizational skills.” Moreover, the CAS element of the IB program motivates students to get more involved with clubs and council. Halfway through her first semester of the IB, Ivi Ilaya claims, “compared to freshman and sophomore year, I am actually much more social because I am involved [with] more [activities].”

Myth #2: Only take Higher Level Math if you’re a genius, or suicidal, because its impossibly hard.


Although HL Math does tackle concepts that require a high level of meticulous problem solving and complex mathematical understanding, it isn’t impossible to excel in the class. Senior HL Math student Sang Hyun Ma warns “of course HL Maths is not for everybody,” but also comments that the “math honors programme is a good preparation… at the time 10th grade math was challenging but it was a good foundation to build upon for my higher level class.” In addition to this, Junior Saruf Alam, who also takes the course, says that if you put in the time and effort in understanding the course and your teacher, a 7 in the class is attainable.

Myth #3: You have to get nearly 100% to receive a 7 for any assignment.


Grade boundaries in the IB are very much dependent upon the subject, and thus, no blanket statement can be made about what percentage constitutes a ‘7’. However, in every subject, raw scores are mapped to different levels in the IB rubric, so that students aren’t expected to get a perfect in assessments to attain the highest level of success in the class. For example, for the HL History exam, students only need a 64% or above to be placed in the 7 mark band.

Myth #4: Universities in the US don’t care about the IB diploma.


Although every college or university in US has a separate policy regarding the IB diploma, institutions of higher education consider the IB diploma to be a very prestigious accomplishment and often give credit to students’ success in higher level classes. In attest to this, Panetha Ott, an admissions officer from Brown University states, “I don’t think there is anyone who does not respect the IB.” Moreover, Pamela Horne, the assistant director of admissions in Michigan State University, reflects the college’s stance on the IB, saying “ My eyes light up when I see ‘International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme’ on a transcript.. The challenge of completing an IB diploma means that a student has engaged in the kind of rigorous work that is likely to help them become not just an outstanding college student and citizen of the world, but an exceptional one.”

If this process has revealed anything, it is that misconceptions can easily be clarified by asking someone who has experienced IB at first-hand. There is no reason to feel intimidated by the IB. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that what one takes in IB, is what one has to take in college. Although it will be advantageous to take courses related to what you wish to pursue in university or college, this is definitely not the case. One simply has to make the right decisions, and do what makes one happy, not what one thinks will make parents, teachers, or college admission officers happy.

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