What is the IB Diploma Program? What does a DP student’s day look like? Is it really as stressful as people make it out to be? If you’ve ever wondered these questions before or have occasionally worried about how to make it through the “horror” stories circulating throughout the secondary school, don’t worry, because then this is the article to read.

What is the DP?

In a survey conducted here at The Bite, DP student Vlad D. stated that the Diploma Program is “a rigorous high school curriculum where you take classes from six subject groups and TOK, EE, and CAS. It is known for being highly respected by universities and a thorough college preparatory program.” This is true, and it is something that many of us know or have heard about after being in an IB school for a number of years.

However, some things that may not sound as familiar are TOK, EE, and CAS. All three acronyms are components of the mandatory DP Core.

  • According to the IBO website, TOK, or Theory of Knowledge, is a mandatory class that “asks students to reflect on the nature of knowledge” and to reason “how we know what we claim to know.”
  • The Extended Essay (EE), is a chance for students to research on a topic of their interest and to write a research paper of up to 4000 words.
  • The CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) is also a core mandatory component of the DP that consists of many “experiences.” The final project requires a minimum of 18 months participation (starting from 11th grade) and students can choose to incorporate one strand of CAS or one more or all three strands of creativity, action, or service.

In addition, the IBO website states that “Through the DP, schools are able to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge, flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically….” Simply said, the IBDP is a “rigorous” program designed to help students become well-rounded in many areas while preparing for college in order to ultimately receive the internationally-recognized diploma.

What do our students think about it?

All the above information is useful in terms of knowing what is expected of us or how the IB Diploma Program is defined in different ways, but what do students currently enrolled in the program think about it?

The majority of the DP students who took our survey commented that one thing that they enjoy or like about the DP is the freedom to choose classes, their free blocks and the level of the classes (Standard Level or Higher Level). Eleventh grader Sophia O. said in regard to this subject that she finds it great “that you are able to choose your subjects and be able to learn about those subjects in depth, that you’re [able to] build stronger relationships with your teachers, and you’re able to properly build up to what you want to do in the future.”

However, there are some things in the DP that students do NOT enjoy taking a part in or doing. For example, a huge cause of stress is the workload in terms of assessments, CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) requirements, and exams. Many students did not enjoy having to do CAS or having to take classes that they feel will not be necessary for their future careers.

The amount of stress is also greatly enlarged by the lack of sleep, anxiety over the importance of grades, and the sudden change from MYP to DP. Surprisingly, most of the seniors say that they “got used to it” and that the program isn’t as stressful for them if organization can be mastered.

How to stay organized during your DP years

So, if DP is so stressful, and exams and assessments are piled on you especially at the end of the semester, what do I do to organize myself and to survive the year?

Do not procrastinate!

Procrastinating might seem to work in the 9th and 10th grade, but with a sudden overload at the end of semesters in DP, it just doesn’t seem possible. Procrastinating will only lessen the time needed for rest and revision.

Take notes. On everything

According to 11th grader Victor P., “It’ll save your life.”  Senior student Arif A. also says that “You’ll need your notes from the beginning of 11th grade and it’ll help for your final exams if you still have them.”

Schedule your study time

During your DP years, there will be a lot of material that needs to be covered for the exams, but revision and scheduling are key. Prioritize, use planners, don’t be afraid to ask for help from teachers, and revise.

A final word from our juniors & seniors

“Like I said, get enough sleep, make time for your friends, but also don’t be afraid to say ‘hey, I don’t want to do the DP program’ because it really is not for everyone. The truth is a lot of junior and seniors end up dropping TOK or changing from HL to SL, just because it is too much work, too much stress, or just not for them. So keep that in mind when you’re making your choices.” – Caleigh P., Junior

“You should always (always) ask teachers for clarifications if you don’t understand something, and if you want to have an easy time during exam period, make study guides.” – Liana M., Senior

“Make sure to really choose the HL classes you like the most or consider necessary for you, because they really will take up a lot of your time. Secondly, do pay attention now in classes, because it will help you in the IB if you come with a more solid base of knowledge. And try to choose CAS activities which you enjoy, since they will also consume a lot of your time.” – Vlad D., Junior

“Time management, use a personal calendar to see when due dates are but also personal events. Also, the school needs to stop pressuring and assuming every student will do the DP. This program is not for every type of student and there is too much of a stigma against kids who do not do the full diploma. Have a clear idea of what classes you want to do and be realistic about what you can handle.” – Xela S., Senior

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help from teachers, because they’ll help you a lot, you’ll never be the only one. Always look back at work that you have already covered, because it’ll come back. And, although there might be a lot of work to start off, you should know that this is all for the best, because I know that the reason we have to do all of this work is to be able to go to our dream university, our life ahead and just live the best life we can. All I can say right now is that in the future, you’ll know this was worth it ;).” – Sophia O-F., Junior