IB Acronyms: What do they all mean?

The IB curriculum is divided into six groups, that outline the classes students must take all four years.

Whether you are a Pre-IB student or an experienced upperclassman in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the many acronyms and terms that are unique to the curriculum can be confusing. Hearing teachers, classmates and counselors refer to all of these IB buzz words can be overwhelming when you don’t know what they mean. The following is a list of common IB terms you will hear throughout your years in the program:

“As a sophomore I was pretty overwhelmed with all the terminology and it seemed like there were a million assessments. As I finally got to IB classes and as the teachers explained everything it was not as complicated as it seemed,” senior Jorge Valero.

  • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS): CAS refers to student learning experiences outside of the classroom during a period of 18 months spanning junior and senior year. These activities must be logged in reflections consisting of writing and pictures depicting your experience and growth in these areas. Your CAS experiences can fall into three categories (Creativity, Action, Service) and must have a minimum of three reflections each. With each experience one of eight learning outcomes must be met. Additionally, IB students must complete a CAS project that involves planned, sustained and collaborative involvement in a local or global community. Completing CAS gives you an extra point towards your IB diploma.
  • Coordinator: Our IB coordinator, who you have most likely met before, is Ms. Van Wyk. She works meticulously overseeing the operations of the program at Gables and is a valuable resource if you have any questions regarding the program and any of its requirements.
  • Career-Related Program (CP): The CP program offered at Gables is different from the traditional IB Diploma program most students know. The CP program requires a student to take two IB classes and test in these, as well as an additional career-related study. With less requirements than the diploma program, students do not graduate with an IB Diploma but instead with an IB certificate.
  • Diploma Program (DP): The Diploma Program is the traditional IB curriculum that consists of six subject groups, Theory of Knowledge, CAS and the Extended Essay. In order to graduate with an IB diploma from the program one must receive 24 points from all of these requirements.
  • Extended Essay (EE): The Extended Essay is a mandatory research paper written during junior year under the supervision of an IB teacher who aids the student in the writing and research process. The 4,000 word paper can be on any topic of your choice as long as it falls under one of the broad categories of EEs. If you receive a score of Elementary on your EE you will not receive your IB Diploma. If you do well on your Extended Essay and TOK you can receive extra points towards your IB Diploma.

    Starting and planning your Extended Essay can be a difficult and long process.

  • Groups: Each of the groups referred to in IB, one through six, correspond to one of the required classes in the curriculum that must be taken and tested in. Group one being language and literature, group two is your second language, group three is your history class, group four is your science, group five is mathematics and group six is your IB elective.
  • Group Four Project: The group four project is completed in the first year of your IB science, either junior or sophomore year, and is done in groups with students in different science courses. The purpose is to conduct an interdisciplinary science experiment and collaborate with other IB students.
  • Higher Level (HL): Out of your the six IB groups, three of those must be Higher Level. That means you will study the subject for two years and with greater depth and intensity. HLs are usually the subjects you feel strongest in, as you must pass all of them and they will be more rigorous. All HLs are tested senior year.
  • Internal Assessment (IA): An IA refers to an evaluation assigned and graded by a teacher in an IB class. Teachers can read your assignment and give you feedback once, then they assign a score. IB then uses a few samples to either validate the teacher’s grading scale or modify it.
  • Marks: Marks refers to the points given on an IB paper or assessment.
  • Orals: In English and in your second language you will have to do orals to demonstrate your knowledge of the language and literature studied. Your score in these orals is calculated into your final score in the subject.
  • Papers: This is an IB term for exam. IB classes have multiple papers (usually 2, sometimes 3) in order to evaluate their knowledge in the area and calculate their score for that subject area. Most IB papers are free-response or essay form, except for Paper 1 in IB sciences that is multiple choice.
  • Standard Level (SL): Of your six IB classes, three must be studied and tested at the standard level. Some SLs can be completed in one year or started in 10th grade so you can test out junior year. These are usually the classes you may not feel as strong in but still do well in.
  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK): TOK is a class that requires students to reflect on the nature of knowledge and knowing. It is a required class junior and senior year for which you must complete a TOK presentation and an essay, known as the Prescribed Title (PT). By doing well on TOK evaluations and your EE, you can get extra points towards your IB Diploma.

“I think everyone was overwhelmed by all the terminology and IB evaluations. Once you get into junior and sophomore year you just have to do all of these things all of a sudden so you learn. I think it helps to have somewhat of an idea of what these things mean,” senior Brooke Ford said.


Lanterna Education In TOK students explore how they know what they know.