Every year around the end of February, Grade 10 International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) students around the world go through the process of choosing their Diploma Programme (DP) courses. The significance and implications of these course choices can have a large impact on students’ futures so it is important that each student chooses carefully. To help this process, The Bite interviewed several DP teachers to get some insight into the courses they teach, some helpful resources and some things you might want to know about each course.

John O’Brien – Math AA SL & AI HL

Bite: What resources are helpful to students taking this course? 

JO’B: A great website is Revision Village. You have to pay for it but it has DP-like questions for Math as well as Science. I bought it for my own son who is now in Grade 12 and he found it very useful. I believe that the more practice on actual DP questions, the better. Therefore, I also give all of my students access to old DP exams. I also make review packets based on those past exams for my students to review. 

I tell my students that they should contact me if they need any help. I’m available by email, during lunch, and after school if they need any support.

Bite: What is something you’d like students who plan on taking this course to know?

JO’B: Both Math AA SL and Math AI HL are DP courses so the pace is much faster than grade 10 and the material is more in-depth. Both have an internal assessment consisting of a 12-20 page ‘exploration’ into a math topic of their choice. The math expectations of this internal assessment are much higher in the HL course. 

Math AA SL is algebra-heavy and students must enjoy and be comfortable solving equations, factoring, manipulating algebraic expressions, etc. Students must LOVE algebra. Note that there are 2 exam papers. In paper 1 you do not get a calculator and in paper 2 you do. Each paper is an hour and a half.

In Math AI HL, you must also know algebra. Some students think that since you have a calculator for both exams, it’s not so important to know algebra; IT IS. The pace is incredibly fast and you must be prepared to go home and struggle with math problems and figure out how to do them on your own. You must LOVE math to do this course. There are 3 exam papers. The first two are 2 hours each and the third is 1 hour.

Bite: What do students typically struggle with in this course?

JO’B: In both courses, students struggle with workload. There is so much work in the DP in all subjects. Students tend to get behind on homework and then really struggle to catch up. If they can keep up with the homework, and ask questions right away about things they don’t understand, it is easier to succeed.

Peter Killham – ESS 

Bite: What resources are helpful to students taking this course? 

PK: Teachers are always happy to meet with students who need extra help. I share a Google Drive folder with all of my students which includes all material from the course so that they can look over it any time. I also provide different website links in relation to different units. Currently, we use an online textbook which has many useful revision activities. I also encourage students to use past exams which are provided for review.

Bite: What is something you’d like students who plan on taking this course to know?

PK: ESS is a very interesting and diverse course dealing with important environmental issues and with very strong links to other subjects like economics, business management and biology. If you are interested in pursuing a business career, ESS is a great preparation for the growing “green” or sustainable economy.

Bite: What do students typically struggle with in this course?

PK: The science components in the course are often less challenging than straight science courses like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Due to this, students sometimes mistakenly assume ESS is an “easy” course. However, the course has a very large amount of content including many scientific concepts that are new to students. On top of this, the Humanities side of the course means that you must also be skilled at writing essays. A wide range of skills and knowledge are required to succeed in the course.

Margritha Hofman – Physics SL/HL

Bite: What resources are helpful to students taking this course? 

MH: There are thousands of resources. Textbooks, websites, videos, all sorts of things. I post a lot of lessons on Education Perfect and encourage students to do those lessons as they will help them understand the material.

Bite: What is something you’d like students who plan on taking this course to know?

MH: It is not as difficult as people say. It is the unknown that scares people. Students tell me “It’s so difficult.” How do you know? You’ve never done it. I want them to realize there is a lot of practical stuff. Physics is about understanding why things are the way they are. I want them to understand that physics is fluent. It’s not just a box that you study physics in. It connects to everything else.

Bite: What do students typically struggle with in this course?

MH: Sometimes I encounter students who don’t want to be there but are required to take the course. I find that most students who struggle are the ones who don’t do the work. Just like all subjects, you need to practice to be good at it. Otherwise, I find very few students who do the work still struggle.

Justin Clouden – Business Management SL/HL & Economics SL/HL

Bite: What resources are helpful to students taking this course? 

JC: If a student is struggling, the first step is to talk to the teacher and we can help point them in the right direction depending on their challenge. Outside of resources that we offer as part of the course (InThinking, Level7), YouTube has many experts who share free videos that can teach much of the same content, but perhaps in a way that clicks more with a particular student.

For economics, some examples are Dal or Jacob Clifford (although he focuses on AP Econ, there is a lot of overlap on specific topics), amongst many others. 

For business management, there is less material specific to the IB, especially as the syllabus changes this year; however, some students have found lewwinski helpful.

JC: For Business Management, know that it can be much more complicated than you think. While much of it can be intuitive, there is a great deal of concrete theory and analytical skills that need to be developed. Students will struggle without strong study habits and dedication to the course. With that said, it is a very hands-on course and I try to mimic what business looks like in the real world in the classroom as much as I can. 

Bite: What is something you’d like students who plan on taking this course to know?

For Economics, it’s not just about diagrams, theory and math. It’s more about understanding how the world works and how individuals, companies and governments make decisions. I took this course as a high school IB student many years ago and since then it has evolved to be much more based in the real world and understanding the challenges that we face as a society and the policies that can be put into place to solve them. I look at it almost more as a global studies class than anything else. 

Bite: What do students typically struggle with in this course?

JC: Evaluation and high-level thinking/analysis. Both courses require students to think critically and evaluate situations in the real world rather than simply reciting theory. Students are not typically accustomed to thinking critically and evaluatively on the spot in a testing environment. Memorizing material is important, but will only scratch the surface of what is required. 

Claudia Romeo – Spanish B SL/HL

Bite: What resources are helpful to students taking this course? 

CR: I am always available after school for the students to chat with me. I strongly recommend students who want to prepare in advance for this subject use the InThinking Spanish B IBDP Blog. It is a website developed by two IB Examiners with tons of experience in the subject.

Bite: What is something you’d like students who plan on taking this course to know?

CR: Students are expected to have excellent levels in all four areas of the language: speaking, writing, listening and reading. Each of these skills will be put to the test in the final assessments, where students have to produce a writing piece, show their reading comprehension using three different texts, listen to and comprehend three different audio tracks and exhibit their communication skills by either describing an image or analyzing a short excerpt from a literary text.

Bite: What do students typically struggle with in this course?

CR: Speaking is usually the skill they struggle with the most. However, after two years of enhancing their vocabulary and putting their communication to work, they always have excellent results in their Individual Oral exams.