Q & A

IB Diploma and Certificate Programs at Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who can take IB Diploma Program courses at B-CC?

A. The IB Diploma Program and individual Diploma courses (Certificate Program) are open to all B-CC 11th and 12th graders who are interested in participating. There is no application process.

Q. I’ve heard that some IB Diploma Program schools offer pre-IB courses in grades 9 and 10? Does B-CC?
A. B-CC is an IB Middle Years Program (MY) for the entire school in grades 9 and 10. We don’t separate the prospective IB Diploma Program students in their classes because (1) the level of instruction is rigorous across the board; and (2) the decision to participate in the Diploma Program should be made in grade 10, and the students who didn’t participate in pre-IB courses might believe they weren’t prepared to participate in the Diploma Program.

Q. How do students learn more about the Diploma Program?
A. So that all 10th graders registering for junior year courses have complete information, there is a full day of AP and IB information assemblies at the beginning of December. Students attend through their English classes, and the program is repeated in the evening so that 10th grade parents can attend. In the information assemblies, students who would like to get more information about participating in the Diploma Program – either as full Diploma candidates or by taking one or more IB courses – make an appointment with the IB Diploma Coordinator to design their personal IB program. These appointments are mandatory to sign up for any IB courses but do not oblige the students to participate in IB courses.

Q. What’s the difference between the Diploma Program and Diploma courses (certificate)?
A. The IB Diploma Program requires that students take six different IB course sequences: English, World Language, History, an Experimental Science, Math, and an IB elective as well as two semesters of Theory of Knowledge. Diploma candidates also write an Extended Essay of about 4000 words with a guided research class to support the process. Diploma candidates will also complete Creativity/Action/Service (CAS) activities and a project between the beginning of junior year and March of senior year. Certificate Program students (or what the International Baccalaureate calls “diploma courses” students) pick one or several courses from the six course sequences, but don’t take Theory of Knowledge, don’t write an Extended Essay, and don’t complete CAS activities or the project. Within an IB class – IB English, for example, certificate and diploma students do the same work.

Q. I hear that IB takes a lot of time and work. Can students participate in extracurricular activities and be in IB – especially as diploma candidates?
A. IB does take a lot of time and work; but most of our diploma students are active in extracurricular and sports. We support our students with time management and organizational seminars and strategies, as well as encourage study groups and mentor relationships in the IB cohort.

Q. What about exams? Do students have to take them?
A. The International Baccalaureate requires that all students who register for IB courses must register for, pay for, and take the IB exams. It’s their way of ensuring that the quality of instruction remains consistent, since teachers and students know that they are facing an exam at the end of a course sequence. IB exams are the same all over the world, so our students taking an IB exam take the same exam as students anywhere else. Incidentally, in those cases where college credit is offered for IB courses, the credit is based on examination scores.

Q. What about the cost? Is there financial help available?
A. Diploma candidates currently pay $815 total for their six exams, divided into two payments of $400 and $415 – one in the fall of 11th grade, one in the fall of 12th grade. Certificate candidates currently pay a $160 registration fee for each year they are taking exams, and then $110 additional for each exam. There is financial aid available for students who need it.


Q. How is IB different from Advanced Placement courses?
A. The best way to respond to this question is to look at the origins of both programs. Advanced Placement (AP) began as a set of courses designed by the College Board to bring the first-year college experience to able high school students. So AP courses resemble introductory university-level classes in the various disciplines. The courses are stand-alone.

International Baccalaureate began as a high-school diploma program that would allow students in secondary school outside their home country to achieve a high school diploma that would stand in for their national diploma and allow them to return to their home country for university. Because so many countries had to agree to recognition of the IB diploma as an acceptable substitute for the home country diploma, the courses have become both content –rich and process-rich. Each IB course contains elements of how scholars in that discipline construct knowledge. For example, IB experimental science courses contain an important strand on experimental design. IB history looks closely at historical methodologies. IB courses also are interdisciplinary; weaving many of the same strands of knowledge and inquiry throughout. The experience of Theory of Knowledge – a course which examines how we know what we know – and the writing of an Extended Essay exist only in IB.

Q. Do a lot of students take IB courses at B-CC?
A. There are currently 185 Diploma candidates in 11th and 12th grade, and another 300 who take one or more IB courses but not the full program. About 55% of the students in the junior and senior classes take at least one IB course.

Q. What are the requirements for getting into the IB Diploma or Certificate Programs?
A. IB Diploma and Certificate programs are self-selecting, and by far the most important requirement is that students want to be part of the program. That said, it is helpful for Diploma Program Students to have completed at least Honors Algebra 2 by the end of 10th grade, and at least level 3 of Spanish, French or Mandarin, or level 2 of the other languages taught at B-CC by the end of 10th grade – but this isn’t a “dealbreaker” for being in the Diploma or Certificate Program. It’s also easier to create a schedule for IB Diploma students if they have completed their technology, fine arts, physical education, and health requirements (as well as two years of English, Biology, Chemistry, 2 years of Math, US History from 1865, and National/State/LocalGovernment) before beginning the Diploma Program.

Q. What about the IB and college?
A. IB courses are recognized as among the most rigorous those students can take in US high schools, and almost all colleges evaluate a student’s transcript not only for the grade point average, but also for the level of challenge offered by the courses studied. So IB students – especially Diploma candidates – do get special recognition in the admissions process for the level of difficulty of the courses they’ve taken.
Many colleges offer credit or advanced standing for good results in IB exams, and some offer special “perks” for Diploma Program graduates. It’s helpful to check the website of individual colleges and universities for more information.
What’s probably the most important reason to participate in IB is that students learn the skills they need to be successful in the post-secondary world while they’re still in high school (and have the supports of high school all around them): how to write well, how to think critically, how to synthesize and evaluate information, and how to manage their time and workload.

Q. Where can I go to learn more about the IB Diploma and Certificate Programs at B-CC?
A: Check out the IB at B-CC website at
ib-bcc.com , and the International Baccalaureate’s public website at http://ibo.org