| Huijia 14IB Graduate Yiyang Li|
"I started my study in the Huijia IB Program since elementary school all the way to high school graduation, from PYP to the MYP Program then to DP. At last, I got my desired full score of 45 on the IB Diploma (over a hundred students out of the ten thousands in each year’s IB programs globally could receive the full score), so I think as a student, I could speak for this IB system and my experience learning from IB at Huijia)……"
I need to first explain the limitation of the range of IB I will be discussing. I personally think that IB in the PYP period is more about giving guide to the student’s learning method, including reading, discovery, composition, and the nurturing of habits and qualities of cooperation with others – for example, implement interactive learning through the form of presentation as a result of team collaboration. In the MYP period, there would be requirements of community service and the ninth grade personal project. In high school, IB would finally carry the form of DP curriculum to systematically decide the content and means of our learning. Therefore, I will mainly discuss my views and feelings about IBDP.
I’m sure the first and foremost thing everyone cares about is the difficulty of IB and its acceptance and acknowledgement in American universities. Because these are the two most frequently discussed points, I will generally answer the first one: IB itself is not hard, yet its “rules of the game” are not easy to grasp, and it depends more on the specialties of the students themselves. However, if you want to understand this sentence by detail, we need to discuss some key features of IB.
The IB curriculum is to the entirety a very character-oriented curriculum, and its curricular setting promotes both freedom and innovation, which therefore heavily relies on the student’s own interests to the subjects as well as its learning methods. For a simple instance, there is a 2,200-words-long internally assessed essay in every subject and an optional 4,000-words-long extended essay (EE). Pay attention: the word I used was “optional,” because, to me, these essays could best demonstrate my own thinking, understand my comprehensive learning abilities, and allow me to take on research topics of my liking. Therefore, I really enjoy this freedom of IB. In the curricular settings, IB would often allow students to get into contact with some seemingly top-level knowledge. Even if they don’t tap too deep down, they would still be considered a springboard for interested students going forward. For example, students taking Physics in the IB system have the opportunity to glimpse at some basic quantum physics and even relativity. Economics students would instead learn about emerging areas of study like developmental economics.
Yet on the flip side, these two advantages also have their weak spots. First, IB’s acceptability depends on the student themselves. To me, it’s good to have the opportunity to write essays, but to many others, they feel “pushed” to write them, and it is to these students who are not that strong in writing or do not entirely enjoy the topics of their writings that writing for IB could a tough ride. The majority of complaints received of the difficulty of the IB curriculum have come from this. In the meantime, because essay writing is a very subjective thing, which is hard to escape from the influence, if any, of the personal factors of the essay assessors or of any underlying criteria and patterns of writing. As for the advancement of the curriculum, getting to areas of knowledge too advanced early on could inflict possible loss of depth, causing potential and unnecessary harm to the student’s long-term development. For instance, we tapped into many higher level concepts without the knowledge of calculus in learning physics, and in economics, we skipped some of the major influential theories of economics and simplified many complex theoretical inductions, making the process of learning the subject become something that requires tremendous memorization of definitions, which would oppose the original intent of economics – “making people consider the way this society operates on.”
Therefore, my overall feeling towards my experience learning IB is that its difficulty would mainly rely on the student’s personal traits and the quality of the instructors. If the instructors are not confined to the knowledge areas set by IB and are willing to guide students into further discoveries, I would then at least enjoy the process of learning and would not feel the hardship, if any, of the IB program. Of course, I consider myself as the type of students that would relatively feel fit with IB, which was probably why I received the 45. It’s just those things that everybody else complains a lot about, such as the variety of essays and the “theory of knowledge,” that I’d rather feel quite comfortable with.
As for the difficulty of the curriculum itself, I didn’t feel if there was a particular subject that required an extremely high level of intelligence or ability of comprehension (but this again depends on the student), or it might just be that I didn’t get to select those courses that are abnormally hard. I felt Math the only subject that gives me the sense of a little challenge, but because there are five levels within the IB Math program, and most schools would not offer the two levels on top, I would probably have felt some more thrill of the challenge if I were to have the chance to get to those top two levels. In terms of humanity subjects, I unluckily missed my chance of taking Philosophy due to my already full course load, which is why I feel like I missed the opportunity to experience this subject field that would require the most comprehension and thinking capabilities. The most frequent struggles of the other subjects would mostly lie in their requirement of memorizing the uneasy load of content as well as knowing the most “secured” way to answer certain questions. The latter is a real annoyance, since it disobeys the original intent of IB to let students seek chances to freely explore.
Speaking of the efficiency of IB facilitating college applications and its function after the student has started college, I could only discuss my personal view. First, when applying to colleges, most American universities would carry their expectation of the applicant’s high school curriculum as they should have “chosen the hardest courses while obtaining great grades from them,” yet I consider those subjects that could best deliver the challenge these officers seek should be the ones that are related to the applicant’s later learning (meaning college). To these officers, the IB curriculum is considered some of the hardest. Through this curriculum, students could challenge themselves. Because the criteria to getting the IB diploma is for the student to select three standard level courses and three that are more advanced, and I chose four in the advanced level, adding some difficulty while having obtained perfect grades in all of them, doing this could bring yourself up to the admission officers. And because I applied to colleges in the States, where IB grades would only be released after the application period, all grades submitted would have to be estimated, and to prove my own academic level, I chose to self-study and take seven AP exams and received all 5’s (perfect score). My view is that learning AP after going through the matching IB content wouldn’t be as hard. I believe that the IB curriculum’s required training on personal skills like writing compositions and doing research would all come useful in my future learning in the college.
Therefore, in general, I feel relatively satisfied about the learning outcome of myself going through the IB system, since I perfect scored it after all. Throughout the IB learning process, my gains have not been tiny, and they especially gather around the enhancement of my interest to learning and my overall skillsets, as well as my confidence (after completing the extended essay, I felt attached to my essay and read over it to myself many times). Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and outcome of the IB curriculum.
After spending fifteen years studying and living at Huijia, I’ve become familiar with all the details and subtleties here and have witness the changes taken place to the school, having grown alongside this alma mater. I’d like to finally thank the school, our teachers (my homeroom teacher, academic teachers, college counsellors, house parents and many others), and my dearest fellow classmates. In the meantime, I’d like to remind my dear schoolmates in the lower grades currently going through the DP curriculum: I hope you could all present yourselves with a clear and precise time schedule to keep track and stay on top of what you do. Because everyone is different in their abilities, levels, and traits, you need to ask yourself over and over again: where else do I fall short on, what are my highlights, why should the universities I’m applying to accept me, what do I do better than the others, and what are the possible factors that the universities would pay attention to against my acceptance? Then, you could try to piece up all these elements to have a better understanding. Finally, you should also have a thorough grasp of the different systems and the decision process of admission within every university you are applying to.
Applying to great U.S. universities is not as scary as it may sound. I hope you could all get into your most desired school of your choice, and walk into the world from Huijia.