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IB Program

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program is a comprehensive and rigorous two-year curriculum for juniors and seniors, leading to IB examinations. Pre-IB courses in grades nine and ten prepare students for the program.

"World-class students" is more than a slogan at Atherton High School. IB is recognized around the world, and our participation measures the knowledge and skills of Atherton students against an international standard. Ambitious and talented students earn the coveted IB Diploma or Certificate.

IB is a tough academic track, and colleges know it. Unlike Advanced Placement (AP), IB allows only students who have completed its curriculum to take the IB examinations. Colleges and universities recognize the value of the IB Diploma and the academic depth, breadth, and rigor it represents.

IB was conceived more than 30 years ago in Geneva, Switzerland, which is still the organization's home. The idea was, in part, to provide a uniform measure of student achievement worldwide. Nearly 30,000 students at more than 1,000 schools in more than 100 countries take the same examinations.

Only schools approved by the IB are authorized to teach the curriculum and to give the examinations. Atherton is the only Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) District high school to offer IB. There are only four  IB schools in Kentucky.

10 Reasons for IB


The IB Diploma
Students who seek the IB Diploma at Atherton study six subjects: English, Spanish, French, German or Japanese, History of the Americas, Biology, Calculus, and an elective-- Physics. Three of these subjects must be studied intensively (at a higher level--240 hours of instruction) and three less rigorously (at standard level--150 hours of instruction). Diploma candidates also take a course called Theory of Knowledge, which is unique to IB. This course is intended to stimulate critical reflection on knowledge and experience gained inside and outside the classroom. The course challenges students to question the bases of knowledge, to be aware of subjective and ideological bases, and to develop the ability to analyze evidence.

In addition, IB Diploma candidates are required to engage in extracurricular community-service activities and to complete an extended essay, a research paper of approximately 4,000 words.

Examinations are given each May and last for more than 25 hours over a two-week period. Tests are designed to emphasize process rather than content and consist of essays; short-answer questions; document- and data-based questions; and objective, multiple-choice questions. Tests focus on the student's ability to pull together information into a meaningful form.

Tests are sent to some 3,200 examiners around the world and are scored on a scale of 1 (poor) to 7 (excellent). The grading system is criterion-referenced: each student's performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement. Part of this score is based on the teacher's internal assessment of oral and written work over the two years. This teacher's evaluation is subject to external moderation. To obtain an IB diploma, candidates must score at least 24 points and have no failing conditions.

Students wishing to do so may prepare in single subjects, for which they receive a certificate. Advance Program credit is given for all IB courses.

Internationally, students are attracted to the program because it allows them access to colleges in about 70 countries. But, in the United States, students are more motivated by a desire for college credit, and Atherton students have received their share of college credit for IB courses. For example, one student received 24 hours of credit at Indiana University (IU) and finished her undergraduate work in two years. Many students finish undergraduate programs in three years with the help of IB credits and go on to graduate school. A Harvard Ph.D. graduate recalls that all the credits he earned for IB courses gave him "the freedom to explore higher-level courses" instead of taking freshman requirements.

Colleges and universities in the United States grant recognition in three ways:

Because credits often translate into savings on college tuition, this is the type of recognition students seek first, failing to realize that one of the first two types of recognition were given upon admission. Our UIB students have been accepted at the country's most prestigious colleges and universities, including Yale, Vassar, Smith, Dartmouth, Stanford, Notre Dame, M.I.T., Fisk, Cornell, The Juilliard School, and the U.S. Military Academy.

More important than hours and credits is a fine education, and that is what many of the graduates of Atherton's IB Program value. "Through IB, I got a heady taste of scholarship as I read Russian novels, took a Theory of Knowledge seminar, wrote a 20-page independent thesis, and studied for comprehensive year-end exams," said one girl.

Graduates appreciate the reading, writing, and thinking skills they develop in the IB Program. "The program's commitment to essay exams and long papers is important," one student noted. "I am better-read than most of my peers, and my writing skills are superior to those of my classmates," said another. "I am grateful to the IB Program for preparing me for life by teaching me how to write, how to analyze, and how to think."

The IB Diploma has become a symbol of academic integrity and intellectual promise. The student who satisfies its demands demonstrates a strong commitment to learning, mastery of subject content, and the development of skills and discipline necessary for success in a competitive world.


IB Courses

English (Higher Level) is designed to develop students' powers of expression in oral and written communication and to lead to the appreciation of literature through critical analysis of selected literary works by authors worldwide. Included is a detailed study of a Shakespearean play, a selection of poetry, a novel, and a work of nonfiction prose; a comparative study of four novels; the study of three world literature texts with a similar social content; written exercise, including the essay, the summary, literary criticism, written commentary, notes, and journals; and oral expression and commentary.

Mathematics (Standard Level) is designed to provide a background for mathematical thought and a reasonable level of technical ability. The course provides a sound mathematical basis for those students intending to pursue college-level work in economics, geography, business studies, etc. Topics covered include trigonometry, algebra, coordinate geometry, functions, vectors, matrices, probability, and calculus.

History of the Americas
History of the Americas (Higher Level) includes the history of Western and Eastern European countries and Russia from the French Revolution (1789) to the present. The course provides students with a dual perspective: a chronological, in-depth study of one region of the world and a broad, comparative analysis of many countries' responses to the forces and personalities of the twentieth century. Since the emphasis is on how to learn, students are expected to acquire historical skills, to show an understanding of history as a distinctive form of inquiry, to develop independent research skills, to analyze events, and to present ideas clearly and logically in both written and oral forms.

IB Physics (Standard Level) covers such topics as measurement; mechanics; thermal physics and properties of matter, waves, electricity, and magnetism; and atomic and nuclear physics. The course approaches physics as a combination of complementary activities--the understanding of the laws of physics, experimental skills, and the social and historical aspects of physics as an evolving body of knowledge about nature.

Biology (Higher Level) seeks to meet the objectives of the typical college introductory biology course: to accomplish a knowledge of facts, principles, and processes of molecular and cellular biology, organic biology, and ecology; to achieve an understanding of the means by which biological information is collected, how it is interpreted, and how to formulate hypotheses and make predictions; and to understand that science is a human endeavor with social consequences. Major emphasis is placed on laboratory work and the development of higher-level thinking skills.

Spanish/French/German/Japanese (Standard Level) is designed to develop foreign-language competency in oral and written expression. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are taught through the study of a wide range of oral and written tests. Authentic materials and realia are used whenever possible. For Atherton students, the study of language begins in middle school with Advance Program Spanish or French.


Prerequisites for the IB Program
Students must meet specific requirements for admission to IB classes. A student must have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and the following prerequisites: