Information for Parents

What are the goals of the IB curriculum?

The IB curriculum provides a cohesive and comprehensive liberal arts and sciences program of study for highly motivated juniors and seniors of different educational backgrounds, abilities, and interests.  It is not just a set of examinations, but a rigorous pre-university program, which will provide the basis for life-long education. IB aims to provide a balanced program, which stimulates thought and creativity and enhances the international perspective of students.  Students who satisfy the demands of the program demonstrate a strong commitment to learning, both in terms of mastery of content and the development of skills.

Who is suited for the IB program?

IB is for the student who is willing to work hard at his or her studies.  A student with the following characteristics would be a good candidate for the program:

oAn ability to cope with several demanding classes simultaneously

oA willingness to develop good study habits, including self-discipline, self-motivation, and time management.

oA capacity for thinking critically and creatively

oA genuine concern for others.

What are the requirements of the IB program?

To earn the IB Diploma, a student must successfully complete the courses and assessments in the six subject areas. Higher level subjects (HL) require intensive, in-depth study.  Standard level subjects (SL), are somewhat less demanding, but they are still on par with college-level coursework.

Both levels of study have internal and external assessments, which students must complete successfully to earn the diploma.  In addition to exams at the end of the junior and senior year, these assessments include a portion of their regular course work completed in each class. IB subject area groups:

   Group 1 – Language A1 (English) at higher level

   Group 2 – Foreign Language (French, German, Latin, or Spanish,) at standard level

   Group 3 – Individuals & Society (History of the Americas) at higher level

   Group 4 – Experimental Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics) at higher level or standard level

   Group 5 – Mathematics (Mathematics or Math Studies) at standard level

   Group 6 – Fine Art (Music, Theatre, Film, or Visual Arts) at higher level or standard level or a               second science class.

In addition, students will also complete a Theory of Knowledge course, an Extended Essay on a topic of the student’s own choice, and the program of Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS).

A student may also elect to earn an IB Certificate by pursuing the same course of study that is required for the Diploma and successfully passing the corresponding external and internal assessments.  Currently, school policy allows GHS students to earn three IB certificates.

The ToK course, the Extended Essay, and CAS are not part of the Certificate option.


The IB hexagon illustrates the relationships among the six subject areas, the extended essay, Theory of Knowledge, and the CAS component.

Special Components of IB:  Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, and CAS

The Theory of Knowledge (ToK) course is an interdisciplinary program designed to review and challenge knowledge.  It involves the study of language, logic, ethics, knowledge, and truth.  The course examines the methods used to obtain knowledge in various subject areas.

The Extended Essay introduces the student to personal research.  It is based on a topic of the student’s choice, chosen from one of the six subject areas.  The Extended Essay is written outside of the classroom on a student’s own time, but the writing process is supervised by an instructor.  Students begin the Extended Essay during the junior year, and submit essays in the fall of their senior year.  Each student asks either a GHS faculty member or community member to serve as his or her supervisor to guide him or her through the months spent in research and writing.  This is excellent preparation for similar tasks given to students in higher education.

Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) reinforces the IB philosophy that there is more to education that what occurs in the classroom.  Students are required to accumulate 150 CAS hours over two years.  CAS hours may begin during the summer after the 10th grade year. CAS aims to challenge and extend the student by developing a sense of discovery and self-reliance, and encouraging development of individual skills and interests. 

How is the IB program assessed?

IB classes are assessed through both internal and external assessments.  All assessment procedures are designed to value both process and content and to achieve a balanced assessment of a student’s performance.  The assessment procedure emphasizes understanding and application of knowledge, not just the student’s ability to regurgitate information.

Assessment for the IB diploma is criterion-referenced, not norm-referenced.  This means that students are not placed onto a normal distribution curve with a set portion of students deemed as having failed the course.  Knowledge and skills are assessed according to the student’s own achievement against a set of criteria.

In order for students to have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, a variety of assessment methods, which take into account the different learning styles and cultural experiences of students, are used.  All subjects are externally examined, which means that an international grading team, hired by the IBO, evaluates the student’s work.  Most subjects also require internal assessment, which involves an external moderation procedure to ensure that uniform standards are maintained.

All forms of assessment are designed to measure the extent to which the individual student has met the aims of the subject.  Therefore, the assessment tools go far beyond testing the ability to memorize isolated facts and bits of information.  The assessment tools measure what students have acquired in terms of their ability to integrate knowledge, apply academic skills, and effectively communicate their understanding of subject matter.

What is the external IB grading scheme?

Each of the six subject areas is graded externally on the following scale:

Grade 7 – Excellent

Grade 6 – Very good

Grade 5 – Good

Grade 4 – Satisfactory

Grade 3 – Mediocre

Grade 2 – Poor

Grade 1 – Very poor

The number represents the student’s score on both internal and external assessments.  Up to three bonus points can be added to the student’s total score based on overall performance in Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay.

A diploma cannot be awarded, regardless of the total score, to students who have:

1.  not submitted an Extended Essay;

2.  not followed a course in Theory of Knowledge;

3.  not completed the required CAS hours;

4.  received a grade 1 in any HL subject.

Approximately 70 – 75 percent of diploma candidates earn the diploma worldwide.  The student who does not satisfy the requirements of the full diploma is awarded a certificate for the courses completed successfully. 

What are the benefits of an IB diploma?

Upon completion of an IB diploma, the student has had a first-class education, which is accepted as an entrance qualification for higher education in over sixty countries around the world.  Universities are eager to attract IB diploma students because

They are recognized as being prepared to accept educational challenges;

They have self-confidence with university-level material;

They have developed the capacity for independent research and study;

They have cultivated sound thinking and communication skills;

They have engaged in extracurricular activities alongside academic studies;

They have thought in global terms and have a cultural sensitivity and international orientation.

Why make the effort to complete the IB program?  Why work so hard when there are other avenues available?

The IB Program is truly unique. The goal of the IB Program is to prepare high school students for quality university life in a way no other educational program can. This program will offer one of the most enriching experiences possible. The IB Program is not a different version of already existing programs that are academically challenging; rather, it blends together key ingredients of many academically challenging programs into one comprehensive piece. There are three key components to the IB Program:

1.Academic Rigor:  Students learn how to learn, how to analyze, how to reach considered conclusions about humankind, its languages and literature, its ways in society, and the scientific forces of its environment. An IB diploma candidate is indeed functioning at a level of an introductory college student.

2.Comprehensiveness of the Program:  Students encounter rigor throughout ALL disciplines. Students refine areas of strength and developmentally improve areas of weakness. Students also submit a significant portion of their course work for evaluation (e.g., essays, oral commentaries, lab books).

3.Internationalism:  The IB Program encourages students to think globally and the IB curriculum is based on true international standards. An international grading team, composed of professionals from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, grades Coursework and exams.

The IB Program enjoys an exceptionally good relationship with universities abroad and United States universities.  Many competitive United States universities grant advanced standing for students with the IB Diploma and those students are being recruited due to their excellent academic preparation and study skills.

However, it is important to remember that the IB Program is not for everyone. Many students want the external benefits (e.g., weighted grades, advanced college standing), but the true benefit of earning the IB Diploma is intrinsic in nature. The change that occurs within a student academically and personally while pursuing the diploma produces great personal growth and satisfaction.

How do I make sure MY son or daughter becomes a successful IB student?

Students will spend much time studying outside of class. Ideally, students will become very familiar with school and community libraries and use them as resources.  Students will need a quiet, uninterrupted study environment, and they will also need to access libraries and other resources frequently.  Students also benefit from working with each other in self-selecting study groups, and you can help insure your child’s success by offering your home for study group sessions. 

Students should work hard to develop study habits that work for them.  Students often enter our program thinking that the study skills they have used through elementary, middle, and the first two years of high school are sufficient.  However, IB teachers have found that students develop much more refined study habits as they progress through the IB program.  Additionally, students must develop organizational skills and time-management skills.  While we certainly encourage students to participate in school, community, and church activities, we also encourage parents to watch their children’s grades and help them to choose priorities if time management becomes an issue. 

Student responsibilities:  Students are expected to share responsibility for creating a challenging and fruitful learning environment. Students should demonstrate mutual respect and consideration for others. This assists in creating an atmosphere of harmony and cooperation, which is necessary for the kind of learning that takes place in an IB classroom.

Academic honesty:   Maintaining academic integrity within a program is paramount. Within the IB Program, this goal is taken especially seriously. Students must abide by GHS’s academic honesty policy.  It is a policy in the International Baccalaureate program that malpractice, which includes plagiarism and cheating, will result in disciplinary action and can result in dismissal from the program.  You and your child will be asked to sign a document stating that you understand the definition of “malpractice” as it applies to IB classwork.  Malpractice, in this instance, includes, but is not limited to:

ocommunicating with another candidate during a test or examination;

ocopying information from another candidate’s paper, such as a homework assignment or lab report;

odownloading information from the Internet and submitting any part of that information as the candidate’s own work;

onot properly citing information obtained from outside sources;

ocheating or using unauthorized materials while taking a quiz or exam.

Assignment due dates:  Students must meet course, CAS, and Extended Essay deadlines. The IB Coordinator, in consultation with teachers, sets due dates for all student work evaluated by the international grading team. Teachers set other major course assignments. The timing of submission dates spreads the workload fairly across the two years of the program.

The IB is a demanding program of study, but well-organized students are able to do well and still find time to pursue other interests both inside and outside of school. A good IB student:

Works consistently throughout the two years of study.

Makes a study plan for the coming week and month, anticipating deadlines for essays, assignments, etc., and forthcoming school, community, church, and social activities.

Works in surroundings conducive to thoughtful study.

Begins studying sooner rather than later, and in a sustained fashion.

Follows up recent class notes carefully and checks for clarification with the teacher to ensure he understands what is being taught. Class notes are well organized.

Engages in lively discussion and debate with fellow students and teachers.

Demonstrates an eagerness to ask questions.

Submits thorough assignments that are carefully researched, analyzed, and presented.

How do college admissions officers view IB candidates?  Aren’t their grades lower than that of other students?

Parents and students are sometimes concerned that their child’s participation in the IB program will lead to a lower GPA and class rank.  IB classes are graded on a college level, and so it is natural that students’ grades will drop to some extent upon entrance into the program.  Some students in your child’s class will take less demanding coursework and end up with a higher raw grades on their report cards as a result.  However, when college admissions officers examine students’ transcripts, the first criterion often is the rigor of the academic program that the student has chosen.  It is also very important to remember that IB course grades carry the highest weight allowed by the state of Tennessee in the calculation of the students’ GPA.  The reward later is worth the effort and the sacrifice now.  Students can enter college and finish their freshman year in one semester or less, thus defraying the high cost of a college education.  IB students enter college completely prepared for the academic demands of college, while many of their peers struggle to adjust to a college-level workload especially after “coasting” during the senior year of high school.  IB students have already made that adjustment and can apply their study skills, time management skills, and organizational skills to the challenges of college life. 

In response to a questionnaire from IBO, college admissions officers explained their perception of the IB program when they see transcripts of IB candidates:

Marilee Jones, Director of Undergraduate Admission, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Send us prepared students a la IB . . . . It is the best high school prep curriculum an American school can offer.”

Christoph Guttentag, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Duke University

“One of the advantages of an IB curriculum is its structure and quality.  It is a coordinated program, well established, well known, and well respected.  We know the quality of IB courses and we think the IB curriculum is terrific.”

Dan Walls, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, Emory University

“Advanced Placement and IB examinations for the most highly selective institutions are the ‘gold standard’ in terms of quality and in terms of predicting success on our campuses.”

Marilyn McGrath Lewis, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Harvard University

“IB is well known to us for excellent preparations.  Success in an IB program correlates well with success at Harvard.  We are always pleased to see the credentials of the IB Diploma Program on the transcript.”

William Shain, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Vanderbilt University

“I have always been a supporter of the International Baccalaureate.  It is a thoughtful and genuinely intellectual curriculum with an unusually high degree of integrity and connectedness.  There is no other curriculum anywhere that does a superior job of both educating students and inspiring a true and broad-based love of learning.”