International Baccalaureate (IB)

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What is IB?

International Baccalaureate (IB) is deemed one of the most academically challenging curriculum. A look at the IB learner profile will shed light on what this program focuses on: curious, knowledgeable, principled, open-minded, caring, risk taking, balanced, reflective and inquisitive. The curriculum of IB is structured in way that encourages students to take initiatives in their learning.

The IB Diploma Program (IBDP) consists of six groups of subjects together with the study of Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the research and writing of an Extended Essay (EE) and the completion of the Creativity, Action, Services (CAS) program. Most of the subjects are offered at two different levels: standard level (IB SL) and higher level (IB HL). The core syllabus of standard level covers a great breadth of the subject while the higher level and options add depth to the subject. IBDP places a strong emphasis on developing students’ research skills through the Internal Assessments and Extended Essay.

The IB program prides itself on shaping students with greater global awareness and strong critical thinking skills. The diploma program is recognized by many renowned universities worldwide. Students can gain credits in first year courses with a six or seven in their higher level IB subjects at many universities.

An increasing number of international schools in Hong Kong have become IB World schools. Even though more schools are offering the continuum of the IB program from PYP to DP, most of the students doing IBDP in Hong Kong currently have to transition from another curriculum, such as (I)GCSE or HKNSS. Many of them experience challenges with the steep learning curve during the transition. At CANA, our tutors are experienced in helping IB students through the transition to excel in the program. 

 

IB English A1 is part of the Group 1 Subject, which is a course that all IB candidates are required to take. This course is primarily a pre-university course in literature for native or near-native speakers. Usually, it is aimed at students who intend to read literature at university, as well as at students whose formal studies of literature will not be pursued beyond this level. The former tends to take the Higher Level (HL) programme and the latter the Standard Level (SL) programme. IB English A1, as with other A1 languages, is offered at both Higher Level and Standard Level. The IB English A1 course is composed of five assessments, both internal and external.

Aims

The aims of the Language A1 programme at both Higher and Standard levels are to:

  • encourage a personal appreciation of literature and develop an understanding of the techniques involved in literary criticism
  • develop the students’ powers of expression, both in oral and written communication, and provide the opportunity of practicing and developing the skills involved in writing and speaking in a variety of styles and situations
  • introduce students to a range of literary works of different periods, genres, styles and contexts
  • broaden the students’ perspective through the study of works from other cultures and languages
  • introduce students to ways of approaching and and studying literature, leading to the development of an understanding and appreciation of relationships between different works
  • develop the ability to engage in close, detailed analysis of written text and
  • promote in students an enjoyment of, and lifelong interest in, literature.” -- (Language A1 Guide, p. 8)

External Assessment

In IB English A1, there are four sections to be studied, namely Part 1 - World Literature, Part 2 - Detailed Study, Part 3 - Groups of Works, and Part 4 - School’s Free Choice. At Higher Level, candidates are required to study a total number of fifteen works. At Standard Level, candidates are required to study a total number of eleven works. There are no additional external assessments required of Higher Level.

Higher Level
Paper 1: Commentary (25%) - Two unseen texts for commentary with no guiding questions. Candidates are expected to write a commentary on one of the two texts for two hours.
Paper 2: Essay (25%) - Two genre-specific essay questions and four questions of a general nature. Candidates are required to answer only one question, and the answers are based on the Part 3 works studied.
World Literature: Assignments (20%) - Two assignments to be written during the course and externally assessed, each 1000 - 1500 words.
Assignment 1: Comparative study of at least two Part 1 works.
Assignment 2: Based on work(s) not used in Assignment 1 to either i) make a comparative work
ii) write an imaginative or creative assignment
iii) write a detailed commentary

Standard Level
Paper 1: Commentary (25%) - Two unseen texts for commentary with four guiding questions. Candidates are expected to write a commentary on one of the two texts in one and a half hours.
Paper 2: Essay (25%) - Two genre-specific essay questions and four questions of a general nature. Candidates are required to answer only one question, based on Part 3 works studied, and, if relevant, a Part 2 work of the same genre.
World Literature: Assignment (20%) - One comparative study of two Part 1 works studied, which is written during the course and externally assessed, 1000 - 1500 words.

Internal Assessment for both Higher Level and Standard Level

This part of the course assesses candidate’s ability to prepare an oral commentary and an oral presentation within a short period of time. This assessment is broken down into two parts, namely Individual Oral Commentary (IOC) and Individual Oral Presentation (IOP). These two compulsory oral activities will be internally assessed by teachers and externally moderated by the IBO.

1) Individual Oral Presentation (15%): this involves the candidate presenting a topic of his own choice, based on Part 4 work(s).
2) Individual Oral Commentary (15%): the candidate will be given an extract with guiding questions from one of the Part 2 works studied to prepare for 15 minutes. The candidate will then deliver a commentary on the extract for 10 - 15 minutes.

Assessment criteria

The method of assessment in the IB is criterion-referenced. Thus, any piece of work submitted to the IB, whether internal or external, is judged in relation to the assessment criteria and not in relation to the rest of the candidates. All Language A1 works are assessed according to sets of assessment criteria and mark band descriptors. The assessment criteria are the same for both Higher Level and Standard Level. However, there are different sets of descriptors for Higher Level and Standard Level.

For each criterion, there are a number of descriptors each, which describe a specific level of achievement and performance. Externally assessed components have six descriptors for each assessment criterion, covering from level 0 - 5. The lowest level of achievement is represented by 0, the highest by 5. For the internally assessed oral component, there are six descriptors for each criterion, which describe the various achievement levels. In general, the external and internal assessment are assessed against the following criteria: (Knowledge and) Understanding of the text (or works), Interpretation of the text (or Response to the question), Appreciation of literary features, Presentation, and Formal use of language, whereas for World Literature Assignments, they are : Selection of the Aspect and its Treatment, Knowledge and understanding of work(s), Presentation, and Formal use of language.
 

Mathematics is one of the Group V subjects in the IB curriculum. IB Maths Standard Level consists of an internal and an external assessment. The internal assessment, also known as the portfolio, consists of two types of projects: Mathematical investigation and Mathematical modelling.  The external assessment consists of two written papers based on the knowledge of the Core syllabus.

Mathematics SL is primarily intended for students who "expect to need a sound mathematical background as they prepare for future studies in subjects such as chemistry, economics, psychology and business administration," and its curriculum is a proper subset of the Mathematics Higher Level curriculum. Topics from the following areas form the common "Core curriculum" for both courses:

  • Algebra
  • Functions and equations
  • Circular functions and trigonometry
  • Matrices
  • Vectors
  • Statistics and probability
  • Calculus

External Assessment

Two written test papers make up the External Assessment.  Paper 1 is a “non-calculator paper” that prohibits the use of a calculator.  Thus analytical approaches are emphasized.  There is a minimal amount of calculations.  Paper 2 is the “calculator paper” where, for many questions, proper use of a GDC calculator is expected.

Each paper is 90 minutes long and divided into two sections, A and B.  Each section is worth 20% of the final mark.  Both Section A and Section B assess knowledge, understanding, and proficiency across a wide range of syllabus topics.  Questions are ordered in increasing difficulty.  While short response questions constitute Section A, extended response questions are found in Section B. 

The following table offers a glimpse of both Papers and Sections:

Course

Exam

Time limit

Description

# and type of questions

 % of final mark

Mathematics SL

Paper 1 (no calculator)

1 hour, 30 minutes

Section A

~7 short response questions

 

 

 

 

Section B

~3 extended response questions

40%

 

Paper 2 (GDC required)

1 hour, 30 minutes

Section A

~7 short response questions

 

 

 

 

Section B

~3 extended response questions

40%

 

Internal Assessment

Each of the two portfolio projects is worth 10% of the final mark.  They are:

  • Mathematical investigation: the student identifies and investigates some sort of pattern, formulates a formal conjecture to describe the pattern, and provides a formal mathematical proof of the conjecture.
  • Mathematical modelling: the student is given a scenario, is provided with or generates a set of data relating to the scenario, and develops a mathematical model to accurately describe the data and make predictions about future data.

How to do well in IB Mathematics? Listen to our experienced tutor:

  • Do not deemphasize any syllabus topic --- you never know which topics will “make their way back.”
  • Read the instructions carefully: rounding, key words, what the question is asking, use all given information.
  • Show your work.
  • Be familiar with Command Terms: Write down, Calculate/Find/Determine, Solve, Draw, Sketch, Plot, Deduce, Justify, Show that, Hence, Hence or otherwise, Simplify.
  • Manage your time --- pace yourself and set time-milestones as you go along.
  • Think…Write…Rethink...Apply
  • Do not “over-think.”
  • Know when to use a GDC --- do not use without proper setup.  Do not overuse.
  • Using a GDC --- it’s a tool, not a solution.  Always check if the answer makes sense.
  • Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

Economics is one of the Group 3 subjects in the IB curriculum. IB Economics are offered at both Higher (HL) and Standard (SL) level. IB Economics consists of both the internal and external assessments. The internal assessment (IA) is based on commentaries on news media extracts while the external assessment consists of written papers.

External Assessment

The IB Higher level Economics consists of five sections and IB Standard level Economics consists of four sections. The IB Economics Standard Level shares the same modules with IB Higher level Economics, including Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Economics, and Development Economics. IB Higher level Economics has an additional topic on Theory of Firms. There are no options offered in IB Economics and thus students have to study all contents of the syllabus.

IB Higher level Economics external assessment is composed of three papers, while IB Standard level Economics is composed of two papers:

IB Higher level Economics:
Paper 1: Extended response question (20%*) – Answer 1 question out of 4. The question is sub-divided into a) and b). Part a) carries 10 marks and part b) carries 15 marks**.
Paper 2: Short answer questions (20%) – Answer 3 questions out of 6. Each question is worth 10 marks.
Paper 3: Data response questions (40%) – Answer 3 questions out of 5. Each question is worth 20 marks.

*IB Higher level Economics weighting
**The full marks of a paper is not equivalent to the weighting of the paper in the total IB grade, e.g. the total marks of paper 1 is 25 marks, and paper 1 weights 20% in the total IB Higher level Economics grade. Therefore if a student scores 20/25 in paper 1, the mark is translated into 16/20 in the total IB grade.

IB Standard level Economics:
Paper 1: Extended response question (25%***) – Answer 1 question out of 4. The question is sub-divided into a) and b). Part a) carries 10 marks and part b) carries 15 marks****.
Paper 2: Data response questions (50%) – Answer 3 questions out of 5. Each question is worth 20 marks.

***IB Standard level Economics weighting
****The full marks of a paper is not equivalent to the weighting of the paper in the total IB grade, e.g. the total marks of paper 1 is 25 marks, and paper 1 weights 20% in the total IB Higher level Economics grade. Therefore if a student scores 20/25 in paper 1, the mark is translated into 16/20 in total IB grade.

Internal Assessment

IB Higher level Economics IA (internal assessment) constitutes 20% of the total IB Economics grade while IB Standard level Economics IA constitutes of 25% of the total IB Economics grade. IB Economics internal assessment, both higher and standard levels, requires students to write four commentaries based on a news media extract, linking economic theory to a real-world situation. Each commentary has to be between 650-750 words. At least 3 of the commentaries must have their main focus on a different section of the syllabus.

IB Business & Management – Course Outline

Business & Management is one of the Group 3 subjects in the IB curriculum. IB Business & Management is offered at both Higher (HL) and Standard (SL) level. The Business & Management SL consists of five modules IB Business & Management HL course consists of six modules while the IB.

The IB Business & Management SL shares the same modules with IB Business & Management HL, including business organization and environment, human resources, accounting and finance, marketing and operations management. In addition, IB Business & Management HL has an additional module on Business Strategy.

In short, the course is designed to give students an international perspective of business and to promote their appreciation of cultural diversity through the study of topics such as international marketing, human resource management, growth and business strategy.

Assessment – Standard Level

External assessment (75%)
The external assessment for the IB Business and Management course consists of two papers.

Paper 1 (35% 75 minutes) covers all five topics and is based on a Case Study that is issued in advance.
Section A: Students should answer two of three structured questions.
Section B: Students should answer one compulsory structured question including evaluative skills.

Paper 2 (40% 105 minutes) covers all five topics.
Section A: Students should answer one of two structured questions based on stimulus material with a quantitative element.
Section B: Students should answer two of three structured questions based on stimulus material.

Internal assessment (25%)
The internal assessment for the IB Business and Management course is a written commentary worth 25 marks. The written commentary is based on three to five supporting documents about a real issue or problem facing a particular organization. The maximum word length is 1500 words.

Assessment Summary – SL
Paper 1 - 35%        
Paper 2 - 40%        
Written Commentary - 25%

Assessment - Higher Level

External assessment (75%)
Three written examination papers:

Paper 1 (40% 135 minutes) This paper is divided into three sections, each based on the IBO-prescribed case study issued to students well before the examination. In each respective section students are to:

Section A: students must answer questions by referring primarily to information derived from the case study, as well as referring to their own knowledge. Students must answer two of the three structured questions in this section.

Section B: students are to answer the one compulsory structured question in this section. Part of the question will test evaluative skills.

Section C: students must answer the one compulsory structured question in this section. The question will focus on strategic decision-making.

Paper 2 (35% 135 minutes) covers all six topics.
 
Section A: Students must answer one of the two structured questions in this section. The questions are based on stimulus material and contain a quantitative element.

Section B: Students must answer two of the three structured questions in this section. The questions are based on stimulus material.

Internal assessment (25%)
The HL internal assessment is a research project. This research project enables
HL students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge to real
organizational issues or decision-making. The expectation is that a student should gather primary research from the organization. The style and format of the report should be in the form of a useful working document for management and should not exceed 2,000 words.

Assessment Summary – HL
Paper 1 - 40%        
Paper 2 - 35%        
Research Project - 25%

Physics is one of the Group IV subjects in the IB curriculum. IB Physics consists of an internal and an external assessment. The internal assessment is based on a number of laboratory practicals while the external assessment consists of three written papers based on the knowledge of the Core syllabus and two selected Options.

External Assessment

The IB Physics Syllabus went through a major revision in 2009. Currently, there are 8 topics in the Core syllabus for both SL and HL including, Physics and physical measurement, Mechanics, Thermal physics, Oscillations and waves, Electric Currents, Field and forces, Atomic and nuclear physics, and Energy, power and climate change. HL Physics covers a great breadth with 6 additional topics including, Motion in fields, Thermal physics, Wave phenomena, Electromagnetic induction, Quantum physics and nuclear physics, and Digital technology. IB Physics offers 10 different Options. While Option A to Option D are offered to SL only, Option H to Option J are offered to HL only. Option E to Option G are offered to both SL and HL but HL students need to cover the extension materials in these Options.

  1. Sight and wave phenomena
  2. Quantum physics and nuclear physics
  3. Digital technology
  4. Relativity and particle physics
  5. Astrophysics
  6. Communication
  7. Electromagnetic waves
  8. Relativity
  9. Medical physics
  10. Particle physics

Internal Assessment

The internal assessment involves a laboratory practical. A number of laboratory practicals are conducted throughout the two years. Each of them may be assessed in one, a few or all of the assessment areas.

  • Design (D), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Data Collection and Processing (DCP), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Conclusion and Evaluation (CE), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Manipulative skills (MS), - grade from one practical will be presented
  • Personal skills (PS) for Group 4 project only

Here are some examples of the IB Physics practical:

  • Determining the Specific heat capacity of water
  • Using a resonance tube to find the speed of sound in air
  • Finding the relationship between light intensity and distance from light source

Higher level Vs Standard level

Themark distribution and structure of the 3 external assessment papers for HL Physics and SL Physics is different. 

 

 

Higher Level

 

Standard Level

Paper 1

Multiple Choice

20%

1 hr

40 Qs

 

20%

45 min

30 Qs

Paper 2

Structured Questions

36%

2 hr

15 min

1 data-based Q and some short answer Qs

2 out of 4 long answer Qs

 

32%

1 hr

15 min

1 data-based Q and some short answer Qs

1 out of 3 long answer Qs

Paper 3

Options

20%

1 hr

15 min

Some short answer Qs and 1 long answer Q for each Option

 

24%

1 hr

Some short answer Qs for each Option

Chemistry is one of the Group IV subjects in the IB curriculum. Like all other Group IV subjects, there is an internal assessment and an external assessment for IB Chemistry. The internal assessment is based on a number of laboratory practicals while the external assessment consists of three written papers based on the knowledge of the core syllabus and two selected Options.

External Assessment

The IB Chemistry Syllabus went through a major revision in 2009. Currently, there are eleven topics in the Core syllabus including, Quantitative Chemistry, Atomic Theory, Periodicity, Bonding, Energetics, Kinetics, Equilibrium, Acids and Bases, Redox, Organic Chemistry, and Data Processing. Both IB Chemistry higher level (HL) and standard level (SL) cover all the eleven topics, but in a greater depth for HL. The syllabus also includes two of the seven Options. The choice of Options varies from teacher to teacher.  

  1. Modern Analytical Chemistry
  2. Human Biochemistry
  3. Chemistry in Industry and Technology
  4. Medicines and Drugs
  5. Environmental Chemistry
  6. Food Chemistry
  7. Further Organic Chemistry

Paper 1 and 2 of the external assessment are based on the Core syllabus while Paper 3 is based on the individual Option.

Internal Assessment

The internal assessment involves a laboratory practical. A number of laboratory practicals are conducted throughout the two years. Each of them may be assessed in one, a few or all of the assessment areas.

  • Design (D), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Data Collection and Processing (DCP), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Conclusion and Evaluation (CE), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Manipulative skills (MS), - grade from one practical will be presented
  • Personal skills (PS) for Group 4 project only

Here are some examples of the IB Chemistry lab practical:

  • Finding the mass of ethanoic acid in commercial vinegar through titration with sodium hydroxide (D/CE)
  • Investigation of factor affecting the electromotive force (emf) of an electrochemical cell (D/DCP/CE)
  • Using Hess’ Law to determine enthalpy change (D/DCP/CE)

Higher level Vs Standard level

Themark distribution and structure of the 3 external assessment papers for HL Chemistry and SL Chemistry is different. 

 

 

Higher Level

 

Standard Level

Paper 1

Multiple Choice

20%

1 hr

40 Qs

 

20%

45 min

30 Qs

Paper 2

Structured Questions

36%

2 hr

15 min

5 structured Qs,

2 out of 4 long answer Qs

 

32%

1 hr

15 min

Some structured Qs,

1 out of 3 long answer Qs

Paper 3

Options

20%

1 hr

15 min

3 Qs for each Option

 

24%

1 hr

2 Qs for each Option

Biology is one of the Group IV subjects in the IB curriculum. IB Biology consists of an internal and an external assessment. The internal assessment is based on a number of laboratory practicals while the external assessment consists of three written papers based on the knowledge of the Core syllabus and two selected Options.

External Assessment

The IB Biology Syllabus went through a major revision in 2009. Its structure is quite similar to the Physics Syllabus. Currently, there are six topics in the Core syllabus for both SL and HL, including Statistical analysis, Cells, Chemistry of life, Genetics, Ecology and Evolution, and Human health and physiology. HL Biology covers a greater breadth with five additional topics including Nucleic acids and proteins, Cell respiration and photosynthesis, Plant science, Genetics, and Human health and physiology. IB Biology offers 8 different Options. While Option A to Option C are offered to SL only, Option H is offered to HL only. Option D to Option G are offered to both SL and HL but HL students need to cover the extension materials in these Options.

  1. Human nutrition and health
  2. Physiology of exercise
  3. Cells and energy
  4. Evolution
  5. Neurobiology and behaviour
  6. Microbes and biotechnology
  7. Ecology and conservation
  8. Further human physiology

Internal Assessment

The internal assessment involves a laboratory practical. Students are assessed in terms of the following: a number of laboratory practicals are conducted throughout the two years. Each of them may be assessed in one, a few or all of the assessment areas.

  • Design (D), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Data Collection and Processing (DCP), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Conclusion and Evaluation (CE), - grades from two practicals will be presented
  • Manipulative skills (MS), - grade from one practical will be presented
  • Personal skills (PS) for Group 4 project only

Here are some examples of the IB Biology practical:

  • Investigation of photosynthesis with pond week (D/DCP/CE)
  • Investigation into the effect of an abiotic factor on the distribution of a population (D/DCP/CE)
  • Modeling the genetic relationship through fruit flies (DCP with Chi Square test/CE)

Higher level Vs Standard level

The mark distribution and structure of the 3 external assessment papers for HL Biology and SL Biology is different. 

 

 

Higher Level

 

Standard Level

Paper 1

Multiple Choice

20%

1 hr

40 Qs

 

20%

45 min

30 Qs

Paper 2

Structured Questions

36%

2 hr

15 min

1 data-based Q and some short answer Qs

2 out of 4 long answer Qs

 

32%

1 hr

15 min

1 data-based Q and some short answer Qs

1 out of 3 long answer Qs

Paper 3

Options

20%

1 hr

15 min

Some short answer Qs and 1 long answer Q for each Option

 

24%

1 hr

Some short answer Qs for each Option

 

“You may not be interested in history, but History is interested in you” -- (Trotsky)

IB History, as part of the Group 3 Subject, is a dynamic discipline that records and interprets past events involving human beings and their attempts to organise life materially and conceptually, individually and collectively. Students of history will be engaged with both the selection and interpretation of primary historical sources and the work of historians, and a critical evaluation of history. The IB History programme is designed to help students to better appreciate the relative nature of historical knowledge and understanding. The IB History programme, consisting of Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL), comprises an in-depth study of an individually-prescribed subject and the selection of two topics. Students have a choice of History Route 1, which covers the main developments in the history of Europe and the Islamic world from 500 to 1570, or History Route 2, which encompasses the main developments in 20th century world history. At Higher Level, students will select from a range of options that cover a wider time span to foster in-depth study. Over the course of two years, there will be one Internal Assessment (IA), which is externally moderated, and three External Assessments.

Aims

"The aims of the IB History programme are to:
- Promote an understanding of history as a discipline, including the nature and diversity of its siroccos, methods and interpretations;
- Encourage an understanding of the present through critical reflection upon the past;
- Encourage an understanding of the impact of historical developments at national, regional and international levels and;
- Develop an awareness of one’s own historical identity through the study of the historical experiences of different cultures."
(IB History Guide 2010, p. 15)

External Assessment

Higher Level - (80%)
Paper 1: Source-based paper (20%) - Five unseen sources for each prescribed subject. Candidates are required to answer all four questions. The maximum mark for this paper is 25.
Paper 2: Essay (25%) - The paper consists of five sections, each covering one topic. There are six extended-response questions on each topic. Candidates are required to answer two questions, each selected from a different topic. The maximum mark for this paper is 40.
Paper 3: Essay (35%) - The paper consists of 24 questions. Two extended-response questions will be set on each syllabus section. Candidates must select three questions. The maximum mark for this paper is 60.

Standard Level
Paper 1: Source-based paper (30%) - Five unseen sources for each prescribed subject. Candidates are required to answer all four questions. The maximum mark for this paper is 25.
Paper 2: Essay (45%) - The paper consists of five sections, each covering one topic. There are six extended-response questions on each topic. Candidates are required to answer two questions, each selected from a different topic. The maximum mark for this paper is 40.
Internal Assessment for both Higher Level and Standard Level
Internal assessment is an integral part of the course and is compulsory for both Higher Level and Standard Level candidates. This part of the course assesses candidate’s ability to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge, and to pursue their personal interests, without the time limitations and other constraints that are associated with written examinations. The student will be required to undertake a historical investigation using a good range of historical sources, to focus on a topic or event with a cut-off date that is at least 10 years before, to provide a title for the historical investigation that should be framed as a question, and to produce a written account of between 1,500 - 2,000 words. The work submitted must include a cover page, a plan of the historical investigation, a summary of evidence, an evaluation of sources, an analysis, a conclusion and a list of sources. This historical investigation will be internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB.

Assessment criteria

The method of assessed in the IB is criterion-referenced, not norm-referenced. Thus, any piece of work submitted to the IB, whether internal or external, is judged in relation to the assessment criteria and not in relation to the rest of the candidates. All History works are assessed according to sets of assessment criteria and mark band descriptors. The assessment criteria are the same for both Higher Level and Standard Level. However, there are different sets of descriptors for Higher Level and Standard Level.