How Difficult Is The IB Program? (IB Difficulty Explained)

October 31, 2021

how difficult is ib

The International Baccalaureate is an exam-based program, which requires students to take six classes, write a 4,000-word essayand complete a Theory of Knowledge course.

The program has an identical assessment administered worldwide for all the subjects and it appeals to students who would like to study internationally.

In 2020 alone, more than 170,000 students in at least 158 countries completed their IB Diploma Program, a big number that confirms the international reputation of the program. But is the IB Program hard?

How Difficult is IB? (What the Study Shows)  

Students in the International Baccalaureate program have significantly more stress compared to students who enroll in standard secondary diploma.

Owing to the difficulty of the program, even the dropout rate is as high as 50%.

Furthermore, some students drop out of the program in their first year of study and opt for the standard secondary diploma instead.

Based on what the data shows, the complexity of IB makes enrolment impossible for students who are either not interested in studying difficult subjects or academically weak.

Are you already feeling the intensity of the IB Program and need help with your Extended Essay? Let us help!

Why Students Drop Out of the IB Program

The rate of dropout from the IB Program varies from school to school, with the value still standing above 50%.

If anything, students drop out from the program because they find it too difficult and too stressful. Not to mention it requires a lot of work.

Some students walk out of the program only after a few days in. At least 7 out of 15 quit the program within the first year. Some give up after they’ve been through the program for about a year and a half.

Sticking to the program requires patience, hard work, and discipline. In fact, those who choose to stick to the program confirm that it does help out a lot later in college.

What Makes the IB Program Hard?

The International Baccalaureate is a difficult program because it requires you to do eight subjects, which includes Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. 

Three of these subjects are Higher Level and 3 are Standard Level.

The HL subjects are usually what you like and they will be relevant to a university course you’d with to take. The SL subjects are those that you won’t have to study in great depth.

All these subjects demand a lot of input from you and if you’re not good in one or more, you are likely to get a bad score. According to a discussion in the student room, studying a large number of subjects is one of the reasons why IB is such a difficult program.

How Difficult is the IB Program?

Before you decide to enroll in the IB program, it’s important to know how difficult it is so you’re better prepared.

So here’s what you need to know:

1. The IB Program is Intense

The IB program is intense because it requires students to take six subjectsAny three or four of these subjects should be Higher Level and the rest should be Standard Level.

Unlike the Standard Level subjects, you’ll have to do more research for your Higher Level, and that means you must study the subjects in this category in great depth.

It doesn’t end there.

You also have to participate in CAS (Creativity, Activity, and Service), take Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, and write an Extended Essay (EE).

As you can see, there’s a lot of work to do, and it doesn’t take a second guess to realize just how demanding the program is.

While IB itself is a comprehensive program, with every subject well interlinked to one another, the learning curve and experience is undeniably intense.

2. Your First vs Second Year in the IB Program 

Everything is new in the first year. Your teacher engages you to everything about IB and ensures you understand the program.

The second year is more than likely going to be touch, even if you’re confident that you’re a top performing student.

Year 2 is challenging because you have to make multiple submission, work on your final exams, and complete your CAS reflection.

Your teacher expects you to complete your Extended Essays, Internal Assessment, and Theory of Knowledge assignments.

Year 2 is going to be tough and if anything, it doesn’t open room to procrastination. A slight delay in following your learning schedule and you can have a difficult time completing your IB Diploma Program.

3. IB vs AP: Which One is More Difficult? 

There are significant differences between International Baccalaureate and the Advanced Placement Programs.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Advanced Placement (AP)

The IB program has a globally recognized evaluation process. They have a structured and systematic examination standard for assessing students.

The AP program is flexible and doesn’t have established global standards for candidates. The flexibility allows students to choose subjects of their interest.

IB focuses on depth. Students who enroll in the program have to study their subjects more elaborately.

The AP program focuses on breath rather than depth. Students cover a lot of topics more outwardly

The IB program requires students to take part in CAS and study metaphysical subjects such as the Theory of Knowledge

Doesn’t include extracurricular activities such as CAS. You won’t study Theory of Knowledge.

The IB program doesn’t stress on retaining facts and knowledge. The program promotes analytical and critical thinking instead.

The Advanced Placement program puts more emphasis on embracing facts and knowledge

4. The Workload in IB is Huge

As you transition from year 1 to year 2 in the IB program, you can’t take your chances with procrastination because the workload is undeniably huge.

  • You will need about 20 hours to complete your Theory of Knowledge assignment
  • Your internal assessment will take up to 30 hours to complete
  • The CAS demands that you put in about 150 hours of studies and work spread over a period of two years
  • Your Extended Essay won’t be easy to put together. You will need to invest at least 40 hours in research, writing, revision, and editing
  • You will also have to work on a TOK Exhibition , which will take another 30 hours to complete.

As you can see, IB consumes a lot of time, taking not less than 300 hours of work to complete.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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