IB FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What is the difference between an IB Diploma and an IB Certificate? Is one better than the other?
  2. What is the difference between IB and AP? Is one better than the other?
  3. How does the IB Programme help students with university?
  4. How does IB help a student with their university application?
  5. Can IB give a student university credits?
  6. What is CAS?
  7. Are IB students still involved in extra-curricular activities?
  8. What is the IB Points Matrix?
What is the difference between an IB Diploma and an IB Certificate? Is one better than the other?

Students who earn an IB Diploma must complete and pass the following: three higher-level courses, three standard-level courses, CAS, an Extended Essay (EE), and Theory of Knowledge class (TOK). Grades earned in their six higher- and standard-level classes must add up to a total of 24 points on the IB Points Matrix. They must also earn passing grades in their EE and TOK class.

Students earn IB Certificates when they complete and pass individual higher- and standard-level classes with a grade of 4 or higher.

Both a Diploma and Certificate can be beneficial, depending on the goals of students in high school and beyond. Both routes provide valuable learning experiences and personal growth. It is important for students and their families to have conversations about the reason for taking IB, so that appropriate choices of classes and commitment to the program are beneficial.

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What is the difference between IB and AP? Is one better than the other?

IB is a curriculum developed in Europe in the middle of the 20th Century, to address some of the social and economic issues that were a result of two World Wars. The goal of the organization was to hep students develop into caring, ambitious, and globally-minded students who would continue to work for the betterment of their community and the world, even after they finish the program. It is holistic in nature, and it addresses academics, citizenship, and health of students. Assessments are a combination of work done at the school and externally marked IB exams.

AP was developed in the USA as a program aimed at increasing the academic achievement and performance of students. Each AP class is stand-alone, culminating in a final exam worth 100% of the AP grade. Students study individual subjects, based on their interest and commitment.

The choice of a student to take IB or AP depends on their reasons, commitment, and future plans. Both programs provide in-depth study in a broad range of subjects. Both have the potential to increase a student’s preparation for university. Based on the goals and commitment of each student, they should choose the program that is best suited to their needs and desires. Each will require a greater commitment to study and homework than a typical high school student. The more courses a student takes in either program, the greater the time and effort commitment required.

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How does the IB Programme help students with university?

The IB Programme at Pearson is designed to help students develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours that prepare them for post-secondary school. Students often mention learning knowledge equivalent to first-year classes, analysis and writing skills beyond their university peers, time-management skills, and strong study skills.

In some instances, students earn IB grades high enough to earn university credit. However, this is not common, and not always recommended. Many students who have the option of taking credit for a university course, instead choose to repeat the course at university, in order to gain a different perspective. They often end up achieving top marks, which increase their GPA.

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How does IB help a student with their university application?

Students taking IB courses can use two marks on their university applications: IB marks (on a scale of 1-7) and Alberta Education marks (percent, %). Each university will consider those marks differently, but most will choose to use the mark which is most advantageous to students in their application.

Some universities are also asking students about their extra-curricular activities and community involvement. All IB students at Pearson are required to complete CAS hours, which provide multiple opportunities and experiences that can be used in their university application.

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Can IB give a student university credits?

Yes, in some instances, students can earn university credits for grades they achieve in IB. Credits are usually only given for grades of 6 or 7 (on a scale of 1-7) for higher-level courses. Each university has different criteria for awarding credits, so it is important to check with each university about entrance requirements and credit for IB courses.

However, it is not always advantageous for students to take university credits, even if they have the option to do so. When a student chooses to take the credits, they will not be exposed to the perspective and expectations of the university in that discipline area. They may also be awarded a standard grade. If credit is available to a student in a class which is part of their major area of study, it may be more beneficial for the student to repeat the course, using their previous knowledge from IB. This often leads to very high marks, which can increase the student’s GPA. If a student can take university credits for a class that is not their major area of study, this provides more time to study and can also save money.

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What is CAS?

CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service. This is part of the IB Core. All Pearson students, even those in Prep-IB in Grade 10, are expected to complete CAS hours.

IB strives to help students become well-rounded, balanced students: they can’t spend all of their time studying. By engaging in other activities outside of the normal classroom setting, students earn other valuable knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are helpful in life. These might be: how to effectively work in a group, dedication and commitment, learning a new skill, persevering in difficult situations, setting goals and working to achieve them, improving or maintaining a healthy body, showing empathy and compassion to others, and effective communication.

Pearson IB students keep track of their CAS hours in a log throughout the year. They also submit a portfolio at the end of each year: a summary of their activities and what they learned. Grade 12 IB students will make a presentation to their teachers and peers after their final IB exams in May of Grade 12, reflecting on their IB experience, including CAS.

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Are IB students still involved in extra-curricular activities?

Yes, IB students are often the most active and involved students in the Pearson community! Many choose to play on sports teams, dedicate their time and energy to clubs and groups in the school, while being involved in other activities in their community. Many use their extra-curricular activities to complete their CAS requirements and as a break from the expectations of their IB courses.

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What is the IB Points Matrix?

For students completing the IB Diploma, their are multiple criteria that all must be met. This includes: marks in their six IB classes (on a scale of 1-7) that total to 24 or higher, passing grades in their EE and TOK, and completion of CAS. If all those criteria are met, there is the possibility of students earning ‘bonus points’. The following diagram shows the IB Points Matrix and how many bonus points a student may earn:

Points matrix

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