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Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is the IB?

According to the IB’s website,,  the International Baccalaureate® was founded in 1968 and “is a non-profit educational foundation offering four highly respected programmes of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.”

2. What is an IB Diploma and what do students have to do to earn one?

In addition to earning a New York State diploma, students at Somers High School have the opportunity to earn an IB Diploma as well. To do so, students must enroll in one course from each of six groups of classes that IB offers, three of which must be HL (higher level) and three of which must be SL (standard level).  Diploma candidates also take a ToK (Theory of Knowledge) course, write an Extended Essay (EE), and participate in CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service). The IB Diploma certifies that students have successfully completed this course of study as high school students.

3. Which IB courses will Somers High School offer? And at what levels will they be offered?

There is a detailed list of this information under the IB Courses tab of this site.

 4. What is the difference between HL and SL?

They are equally rigorous, but HL classes involve more units of study. All HL classes meet every day for two years and require a minimum of 240 hours of study.  SL courses require a minimum of 150 hours of study.  Some SL courses meet for one year, alternating between one period per day and two periods per day, similar to the way most science classes have an additional lab period.  Other SL classes will meet every day for two years.

5. What are the other requirements for an IB Diploma?

Students will write an Extended Essay on a topic of their choice that arises from one of the six IB classes they take.  This inquiry-based research paper will be a maximum of 4000 words. All students will get guidance and direction from the Extended Essay Coordinator, who is housed in the Writing Center, and from their EE supervisors, teachers who are experts in the subject of the essay. For more information, see the EE handbook.

Students will also participate in CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service), an experiential learning component of the IB. Students will complete a wide variety of activities: extracurricular, community service, athletics, and other personal challenges.  For more information, see the CAS handbook.

 Finally, DP Candidates must take and pass the ToK (Theory of Knowledge) class, including the presentation and the essay required by the IB. The Theory of Knowledge is a two-year, one-credit course that meets every other day. ToK promotes higher-level thinking and inquiry-based learning. Rather than focusing on content mastery, students in ToK will examine how we know the things that we already know. Special consideration will be given to how knowledge can be constructed, questioned, examined, evaluated, revised, and justified.

6. Why would a student want to earn an IB Diploma?

The major advantage is that all classes are connected to each other through the Learner Profile and through the Theory of Knowledge course. Additionally, enrolling in this rigorous programme allows students to demonstrate that they are willing to take risks and accept challenges.  

The IB Diploma is an internationally-accepted standard of excellence, accepted by universities and other institutions in over eighty countries. In addition to global esteem, many US colleges and universities value the rigors and challenges of the programme in their acceptance and credit policies. A list of universities and colleges that grant credit, scholarships, and /or advanced standing for IB diplomas and certificates is available online at

7. How are students evaluated in the IB Programme?

IB students will earn grades from their classroom teacher, take tests, do homework, complete projects, write essays and journals and blog entries, participate in and write up labs, and take exams the same way that they would for other classes. These grades would be reported on their report cards. 

Additionally, students will take several IB exams in May and in some cases participate in oral exams, performance exams, and portfolio assessments. These internal (teacher-moderated) and external (IB-moderated) exams will combine to determine a final score for each IB course on a scale from 1-7, with 7 being the highest.  Students must earn at least a 4 to receive a course certificate from IB, and must earn at least 24 points total to earn an IB Diploma.  The total maximum points a candidate may earn is 45 ( 6 courses  x 7 points = 42, plus up to 3 additional points earned from their ToK and EE grades).

8. Do students have to be a DP candidate to take an IB course?

No. Students may take as few as one IB course and as many as seven, including ToK (which is the number required to earn the IB Diploma).  While the IB Organization suggests that students attempt a full diploma, not all students at SHS need to take the full IB course load in order to participate in IB classes.  Some students may choose selected IB courses where they have particular strengths or interests, similar to the way they would enroll in honors or AP courses.  Students who satisfactorily complete an IB course will earn a certificate from IB and the course will be noted on their permanent transcript.

9. Are students who take Year One of an IB course required to take Year Two of the course?

Students who sign up for an HL course are making a two-year commitment. In certain rare exceptions such as failing the class, a student may not continue for year two.  Students who do not take year two of the course will be ineligible for the IB certificate for that course, and will no longer be eligible for the IB Diploma.

10. Do students enrolled in IB courses have to take the culminating IB exam?  What is the cost?

Just as SHS students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses take the College Board's AP examination at the end of each AP course, IB students must take a series of exams throughout and at the end of the course. At least one of of these will be an IA (Internal Assessment, designed and moderated by IB, but given and scored by the classroom teacher) and at least two of these will be EAs (External Assessments, designed and scored by IB). The fee for all three (or in some cases four) assessments per IB course is $119, for the 2021/2022 school year.

11. Will students earn college credit for individual IB courses?

Often. They also frequently earn placement credit. For instance, a student with a qualifying score (typically 4 or higher) in IB Psychology SL might be able to bypass Psychology 101 in college and go straight to Psychology 102. This information should be shared with college advisors when students select their freshman courses.  An HL course is sometimes more likely to earn a student college credit, but this policy varies from school to school, much in the same way that AP credit policies vary.  Your best bet is to check with individual schools. Even when students do not earn college credits directly, completing these upper-level courses demonstrates their desire to challenge themselves in high school and facilitates college readiness.

AP scores range from 1-5. IB scores range from 1-7. In general, a 3 on an AP is comparable to a 4 or a 5 on an IB exam, a 4 on an AP is comparable to a 6 on an IB exam, and a 5 on an AP is comparable to a 7 on an IB exam.

A student is more likely to earn more college credit if he or she is a full DP candidate. Some schools even offer sophomore status upon college entry to DP graduates.

12. Who can take an IB course?

Juniors and seniors are eligible to enroll in SL and HL IB classes.  SHS has adopted a “guided open enrollment” approach: IB offers demanding coursework, and students who seek challenges are encouraged to take IB courses. Counselors and teachers will work with students so that they understand the challenges they are accepting.

13. Can students with an IEP take an IB class or become an IB Diploma candidate?

Yes. IB allows for some testing modifications and encourages inclusive learning. An updated medical note or current educational/psychological standardized testing scores will be required for submission to the IB website, and students will need to give permission to the IB DP Coordinator to upload this information on your behalf. However, the study of a second language for full diploma candidates is a requirement that cannot be waived. 

14. Will IB exam scores count on the report card?

No. In the same way that AP exam scores are not part of a student’s SHS report card, IB exam scores come out in July, after school has ended for the year, and will not be a part of the SHS report card.

15. Can students in IB courses take AP exams?

Yes.  Although this will largely be unnecessary, AP does allow students to sit for exams even when students have not taken an AP course.  This happens rarely here at SHS. An example would be if a student takes IB Psychology SL class and would like to sit for the AP Psychology exam in the hopes of having two potential chances to earn college credit for the course.

16. Are students enrolled in IB courses required to take IB exams?

Yes. In the same way that SHS requires that students in AP classes take the AP exam at the end of the course, students in IB classes will be expected to take all of the IB assessments required for that course. Students who 

17. What is the difference between IB and AP?

As a general rule, IB and AP are roughly equivalent in terms of their academic demands and the challenging nature of their coursework. Both are esteemed programs that can and do co-exist in many high schools in New York State and across the US and Canada.

However, there are several important differences as well. The most prominent of these is that the IB Diploma Programme is a comprehensive whole that focuses heavily on critical thinking through and writing across the disciplines.  All classes focus quite deliberately on nurturing the traits of the IB Learner Profile.  The AP Program focuses on specific, individual courses that challenge students to think critically. IB students write and research in all of their classes, not just in the traditional English and Social Studies courses. There is, for instance, a research paper in the Dance class and a Research Investigation paper in their Math course. IB's goal is for students to learn to think like an historian or a scientist more than it is for students to learn history or science. It teaches a way of being and thinking.

Another difference is in the exams themselves.  The AP exams are typically one 2 to 3.5 hour long session, scored on a scale of 1-5, with a combination of essay questions, multiple choice questions, and short answer questions, with a portfolio component for art and music classes and an oral component in world language classes.  IB exams instead offer several exam sessions for each course and these combine to create the IB score of 1-7.  IB exams feature almost no multiple choice, have extensive writing sections, and offer oral and portfolio components in more classes, such as on their English Language and Literature exams. IB exams also allow student choice: an exam will have three questions, for example, and students will choose which of the three to write about. There is very little choice on AP exams.

18. What are the costs associated with the IB programme?

There is an Subject fee of $119 per IB course that students take. In the same way that students currently pay for their AP exams, students will pay for their IB assessments.  See the schedule of fees on the SHS IB website page. (Please note that SHS does not want the cost to prevent any student from taking an IB course. Please contact the IB Coordinator if you require assistance with these fees.)

19. Where can I go to read the course descriptions of all IB courses?

Go to this page:

Then, scroll to the bottom and click on Access the Subject Briefs.  From there, you will click on Diploma Programme Subject Briefs and select the classes you wish to read about.

20. Do students in IB courses have to take Regents exams?

Sometimes. If a student is in a course that requires both IB and Regents examinations (such as the first year of both English and History HL), students will take the Regents exam, which will count as the final examination for report card purposes, as well as all of the IB assessments.

21. Whom do I contact if I have more questions?