IB diploma – two years in review

Diploma program has risks, benefits


Tenzin Gyaldatsang

After nearly two years of being a candidate in the International Baccalaureate (IB), I can truly say I’ve experienced the highs and lows of the program, from cramming for history tests to passing exams with flying colors. 

Although I’m generally satisfied with my choice to pursue the IB diploma, which entails the option of six IB level courses, alongside Theory of Knowledge, Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay, I still wonder what my high school career would have looked like had I taken an AP-heavy course load. This is a real concern for many underclassmen who are contemplating taking either an IB-heavy course load or an AP-heavy course load. 

My first year in the diploma, which was a mix of in-person and distance learning, was hectic to say the least. A mix of distance and hybrid learning created unprecedented chaos, but the support given by my core teachers aided in my success that year. 

Something interesting that IB offered more that I had experienced in former classes were group and peer assignments. Compared to previous classes, especially AP classes, IB courses were more geared towards group work and collaboration, something that I enjoyed. The AP classes I took in previous years consisted of textbook reading with a test every few weeks, all up until the AP exam.

The beginning of my second year in the diploma program was all about time management. From managing college applications to the full IB-course load alongside finishing my Extended Essay, efficiency was essential during fall and early winter.

The first year in the diploma is the more challenging of the two years, so preparing for the course load is important. By the second year of the diploma, most candidates have adjusted to the workload and are able to properly prioritize assignments.

An aspect of the diploma which I don’t like is the binding aspect of the diploma program. For those who become diploma candidates, if they decide that it isn’t the best fit for them, they have essentially wasted a year of classes, as all higher level (HL) courses are two-year classes. AP classes are a one year, make or break college credit opportunity that don’t have as much downside to failing the final exam, as there are more opportunities to receive college credit.

Overall, I would choose a AP-heavy course load if you want a traditional class experience, which includes more note-based classes with more exam style tests. For those who want a more non-traditional, contemporary style of learning, the IB diploma is a great way to do so.