I graduated from EF Academy Oxford in 2018. While I was there, I studied the IB diploma program. It wasn’t always easy but what I think made the greatest difference for my IB grades was something simple – I loved most of my subjects.
This is my experience with my three favorite subjects (out of six in total) and some of my mandatory. how much of a difference they made for me.
History was without a doubt my absolute favorite subject! The teacher was amazing and the content was so fascinating. I studied the two world wars, the Cold War, civil rights in the US, and segregation in South Africa. This would have been all if I had taken history as a Standard Level Subject, but since I took it at a Higher Level, I also learned about Imperial Russia (the most interesting topic I had in IB!). IB History is not entirely focused on facts and details, but also about discussions on causes, consequences, and effects – for example: why did World War I start?
Economics in IB was so interesting that I’m actually planning on specializing in it at university. It’s very demanding but teaches you so much about how the world works and enables you to form your own opinion on how the world should be. In fact, after two years of IB economics, I had moved to the other side of the political spectrum.
One thing to think about before choosing Higher Level Economics is that Standard Level Economics only has essay-based exams, while Higher Level Economics also has a math-based exam. The math was really difficult for me as I took the lowest level of math in IB, but I ended up getting a 6 on the final math-based economics exam since I had gotten a lot of help from the teachers. It was a great experience and helped me realize important skills in myself.
Math quickly became one of my favorite subjects, much due to the teachers. Since I don’t always understand the logic behind math, I decided to create “recipes” for every kind of problem that could appear in the exam. These recipes were step-for-step solutions and made it very easy to revise with past papers before the exam.
4. Extended Essay
The Extended Essay is a 4000-word mandatory paper. You choose one of your subjects to write it in, then you can choose the topic and the research question yourself, but you get help from the teachers to decide what would be best for you.
I chose to write a history paper, and my topic was the Heavy Water Sabotage during the Second World War. I chose this topic because it was about Norway in recent times which made it more personal (I’m Norwegian, by the way), and I followed my teacher’s advice of “this essay will be your baby for the next few months”. I cared a lot about the topic and ended up writing a paper that gave me an A (woohoo)!
5. Theory of Knowledge (TOK)
Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is all about reflection. Everyone has to take this subject, and are evaluated based on a presentation and an essay. You have two years to do these two things. The points you get from TOK are combined with the Extended Essay grade, and you can get a maximum of three points. Since I got an A on the Extended Essay and a B in TOK, I got three points, which really boosted my overall IB score – so take it seriously!
6. Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)
Creativity, Activity, Service (or CAS) is a subject that you will not be graded in. This subject is all about the experience. To pass you need to do activities that involve creativity, activity, and service. You have to write short reflections about these activities, send in photos, and further document what you’re doing to meet these requirements. Thankfully, there are a lot of clubs at EF Academy so by getting involved in those, you can use them towards your passing grade for CAS.