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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

From Upperclassmen to Underclassmen: How to Choose Your IB Subjects

From Upperclassmen to Underclassmen: How to Choose Your IB Subjects

Choosing the classes you are going to take for the next two years is a daunting task for 10th graders. These classes will influence the rest of your high school experience, college applications (especially if you are applying internationally), grades, and your mental state. Should you take English higher? Math HL? Which science is best suited to your academic ability? What’s it like to take economics?

These questions, among others, are currently facing WIS 10th graders, and so I turned to some upperclassmen for some words of wisdom on common IB-choice conundrums.

Question: Should I take English HL or SL?

“For English HL, just take it higher, you’re doing the exact same work in less class periods” – Claire Ochieng

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The general consensus is that English HL and English SL have similar workloads, and that if you’re deciding between the two classes, English Higher gives you more class time to do the same amount of work. In English Higher, there also tends to be more discussion because of the smaller class sizes and because there are more books to go through and analyze.

Question: What science should I take? Higher or Standard?

“Unless you want to pursue sciences, take ESS” – Tomas Medina Mora

“Bio HL makes me feel like I’m dying, but in a good way…. it’s not all memorization anymore because you still have to understand the concept otherwise you won’t get it” – Karina Cheah

“Don’t take physics, chemistry or bio standard if you don’t want to pursue it later” – Erika Undeland

Taking sciences higher is a courageous decision; lab reports and tests begin to consume your existence. The general consensus is only to take sciences higher that you are really passionate about the subject, because of the amount of work involved. Physics is very logic-based, chemistry is surprisingly math-based, and bio is less memorization than you might think. ESS is, by far, the easiest science option. For those students interested in geography, and aren’t planning to go into STEM fields, it’s a low-stress option to understand the biology behind geographical concepts.

Question: Which humanity should I take?

“If you’re interested in what goes around the world and understanding how it works, it’s likely that economics is a good course for you… If you’re not good at notetaking, and not ready to read it chapter by chapter, it is absolutely not the class for you.” – Henri Nicolas-Grossman

Economics is the most objective and math-based of the social sciences. That being said, it requires a greater ability to analyze graphs and understand the reasoning behind them, than any mathematical prowess. One new aspect of IB history is the focus on debate between contemporary historians’ perspectives. The course is more research and writing-based than in 10th grade, but the topics are in-depth and fascinating. And although many of the topics are similar to those in 10th grade, the course goes more in-depth and provides sufficient new material that it isn’t simply a re-hash. According to junior Pascual Gonzalez, the main difference between geography in 10th and 11th grade is the amount of content the course covers; it’s more memorization-based and faster-paced, and requires a greater degree of synthesis. That being said, as long as you pay attention and stay organized, it’s a very manageable higher.

Question: Should I take my language higher?

“Take a language higher because that GPA boost is unreal” – Franco Savastano

If you enjoy the language that you’re studying, definitely consider taking it higher. The only differences between taking a language higher versus standard is having one extra class a cycle, reading one more book, and being graded using a slightly different rubric. Especially if you’re considering taking four highers, choosing a language as one is a safe option.

Question: Should I take art higher or standard? What’s IB theatre like?

“It’s very dumb to take art standard because you’re in the same class and you’re doing the same thing” – Leina Gabra

Taking art, although it comes with a daunting workload, is a nice break from a heavily-academic course set. Art higher is almost identical to art standard, but you have more classes a cycle in which to work on projects. Theatre higher is a mix of history and English, is a surprising amount of work, and is mostly writing-based, rather than acting-based, according to Claire Ochieng.

Question: Is Math HL a death sentence?

“[Math Higher] is not that bad. If you do your homework, you’ll be fine. Pick the subject if you want to do it, if you pick it because your parents want you to, you might not be as motivated.” – Julia Van der Helm

Math HL often gets the toughest rap of all the IB subjects, and the prospect can often seem daunting. However if you’re good at, and enjoy doing math, it can turn out to be a lot of fun. Math higher is fast-paced and the tests can be overwhelming, but any tenth grader doing reasonably well in advanced math is more than capable of the challenge. On the other hand, if math isn’t a subject you enjoy, then you may be better off in standard. Neither economics nor physics require math higher level, and if you’re planning on staying in the U.S. for university, it’s very often not required.

The overwhelming feeling among 11th graders is that above all, the most important consideration in choosing your IB classes is what you are passionate about. Taking a class because you’re doing well right now, or because your parents want you to, is a recipe for disaster. As 11th grader Marina Schechter said, “Don’t pick something that you think you’ll get a 7 in, pick what you like… even if they have nothing to do with each other”. Also, don’t put too much pressure on the importance of your IB choices. Especially if you’re applying to U.S. colleges, you could take Bio and Chem HL, then go on to major in philosophy. And above all, don’t be too hard on yourself at the beginning of the IB program; it starts off badly but everyone adapts quickly, and the relationships you form with both teachers and fellow classmates are unlike those in previous years.

By Rosie Bradbury

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