The guidance, advice or opinions expressed below are those of the IBPA. For official WHS IBDP or RRISD guidance, advice or opinions, please visit their website,  or contact your counselor or Stephanie Childress, IB Coordinator.

Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that the officers of the IBPA  receive. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact an IBPA Ambassador by clicking the button below.

What is the IBO?

The International Baccalaureate Organization, or IBO, is the global governing body that administers and certifies the IBDP. Since many of us are familiar with Advanced Placement, an analogy we could make is that the IBO is to IBDP as the College Board is to Advanced Placement.

Since its founding in 1968, the IBO’s mission has been to create a better world through education. The manner in which this manifests is captured in the IB Model. You can learn a bit more about the IB Model and its various components here.

How does IB differ from Advanced Placement?

This is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many differences between the two. That said, the major clear differences are:

  1. Holistic Diploma Program versus AP Classes: At WHS, the IBDP is a holistic diploma program that includes academics, arts, athletics, service, research, and community. A student can replicate these components in a non-IB pathway, but it would take individual, unsupported effort on the student's part to accomplish this, and that effort would likely not include the reflection and personal development aspects supported by the IBDP.

  2. Internationally calibrated versus National focus: While AP is offered globally, the vast majority of test takers are from the US. IB test takers are from all over the world, and test scoring is done both locally and internationally. Therefore, colleges have a better gauge of how an IBDP student stands against the global student body.

  3. Broad-based college prep versus subject-level college prep: The IBDP requires college-prep work in six subject areas, where AP allows a student to pick and choose which subjects they wish to prepare for at that level; an AP student can decide to take English and French at the AP level, and everything else on-level.

  4. Approaches to Learning and Teaching: This is a generalization, but IB tends to emphasize reading, writing, public speaking / classroom dialogue, and depth of material while Advanced Placement tends to focus on reading, individualized homework and volume of material.

  5. Global versus national recognition: If your student wishes to attend college outside of the US, the IBDP is the better option. International universities are much more familiar with the IBDP and value American students who have prepared for college using this curriculum.

Ultimately, a student needs to decide how broad they want their college preparation and whether they value the IB Core (TOK, EE, CAS).

In addition to our answer, you can Google "Difference between AP and IB" and you will find dozens of links and videos that may provide you with additional helpful information.

Why should my family choose the IBDP?

As fellow parents, we encourage other parents to consider fit. That is, does the IBDP fit my student's needs given the goals we have? It is important to make sure that the manner in which the program is delivered matches your students style and temperament, that the preparation it provides for college is in line with what they will need for college, and that these align with the goals you have for your student. To provide a stark example, IB may be a great program for a college-bound student who is looking for a cohort (i.e., feels smaller) high school experience and who has strength in reading but needs to develop critical thinking and research skills for a career in biomedical ethics. It might not be a great fit for a student who is not planning to attend college and prefers a more career-oriented education.

To evaluate your student's personal attributes vis-à-vis the IBDP, since it is such a central part of the IB experience, we recommend reviewing the IB Learner Profile. Keep in mind that the IB Learner Profile is both an inventory and an aspirational statement of the skills the IBDP strives to develop in students. That is, your student need not possess all of these attributes, but should be open to developing them. The fact there is development and growth involved means that certain aspects of the IBDP may be challenging and difficult for your student. But as the old adage goes, nothing worth having is ever easy to attain.

To evaluate how the IBDP fits your student's goals for college, please call the Admissions Office at their target universities, attend our IBPA Young Alumni panel discussion and IBPA College Admissions panel discussions in the Spring semester, and visit the IBO's YouTube channel to view videos featuring college admissions officers. There are many perspectives on this issue, but we believe that the IBDP is a superior path to college preparation and lifelong learning.

Is the IBDP intended only for liberal arts students?

Not at all. In fact, many of the students in the IBDP are STEM-focused. One of the strong positive aspects of an IB education for STEM students is the fact that it provides a humanities and ethics context for scientific study.

Starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, all students entering the IBDP will have full flexibility in selecting their HL and SL subject groups. So, a student who wishes to HL in 3 STEM areas can now do so. For example, a student could HL in Math, Computer Science, and Physics. If you are interested in seeing some sample 4-year plans of options like this, please click here.

Finally, it is important to note that, when compared to the global IB student population, WHS IBDP students performed very well in several STEM subjects. For example, in the 2017 testing, six of the seven largest positive variances to the global mean for WHS IBDP students were as follows (out of 7 points):

  1. Computer Science SL (+2.22 points > global mean)

  2. Math HL (+1.95 points > global mean)

  3. Chemistry SL (+1.88 points > global mean)

  4. Math SL (+1.44 points > global mean)

  5. Biology HL (+1.28 points > global mean)

  6. Physics SL (+1.11 points > global mean)

Where can I find some help on my student's four year academic plan?

In addition to the resources available through you student's counselor and Stephanie Childress, IB Coordinator, we would direct you to the following:

  • Chart Your Path Instructions: The WHS IB site has a very helpful process overview. Pay particular attention to the IB Course Sequencing Chart. This lays out the 4 year course sequences for each of the six IB subject groups. An important note here. If you do not see a sequence that does not meet your family's needs, please do not conclude that the WHS IBDP cannot work for your family. The program is very flexible, and the IB Coordinator will make every attempt to make the program work for your family's unique circumstances. On occasion, she cannot make this happen, but please make sure to ask the question before assuming the answer is "no".

  • IBPA Ambassador: Finally, if you have questions that haven't been answered through these referrals, please reach out to an IBPA Ambassador. Sometimes, it simply takes another parent to walk you through something before it is understood. It's also a great way to get another informed perspective from someone who has gone through the process before. We are here to help!

Can my student do [Insert Your Time Consuming Extracurricular] and the IBDP?

The short answer is "yes", assuming there are no course load conflicts. On occasion, there are literally not enough course blocks in a day to allow a student to do everything they wish to. In these instances, it is important to discuss this with your counselor or Stephanie Childress, IB Coordinator. With proper lead times and communications, conflicts between academics and activities can be managed. It is vital to have a long lens on time commitments, so please encourage your student to adopt a calendar system that works for them.

Going further, one thing you will learn very quickly is that WHS requires making choices and prioritizing. There is so much going on all the time - from small to large athletic programs like soccer, volleyball, tennis and football; fine arts like band and theater; clubs and service organizations like Student Council and Outreach; and academic extracurriculars like journalism or debate - that your student may feel like they want to do everything. Your student will have to make choices, and possibly sacrifice one activity for another. Help them think through this process so they are making the best choice for them. Keep in mind that summer is a great time to explore interests that were not nurtured during the school year.

Will the IBDP hurt my student's GPA or class rank?

We have not seen any data one way or the other, so we have to say "maybe."

Intuitively, if the subject material is more engaging to your student because of a better classroom dynamic (teacher, material, fellow students, etc.), one could argue that your student's grades would be higher than in other pathways. Conversely, if your student doesn't like the material or the manner in which it is taught, their grades might suffer compared to the course alternatives.

So that you can make an informed decision, we encourage you to learn about how IB courses differ from their other college prep alternatives (e.g., AP, dual credit, etc.) by speaking to faculty members at Open Houses or by sending them e-mails. Every year at the beginning of the Spring semester, there is an IB Student and Parent Night (aka "IB Open House") that is a perfect opportunity to learn about every subject area and hear about the courses and how they are taught.

Anecdotally, many young alumni say that the IBDP is worth it from a college preparation perspective, even if their GPA suffered slightly. Also, we have noted over the last few years since the IBPA was formed (we did not go back in time), IBDP students are well represented in the top 10% and the top 10 (Valedictorian, Salutatorian, etc.) students every year. We are not saying this is causal, but do see this as evidence that the IBDP is not a prohibitive barrier to a strong GPA or class rank.

A note about grade points and class rank. IB Prep and IBDP courses are given an additional grade point because RRISD considers them advanced courses. Also, starting in academic year 2018-2019, WHS became a non-ranking high school. By state law, the top 10% of a class must be numerically ranked. However, this is only for purposes of admissions to in-state public institutions. Class rank is no longer provided on official academic records for students outside of the state mandated top 10%. Students within the top 10% have the option of including said numeric rank from transcripts sent to scholarships, in-state private institutions and/or any out-of-state institution.

What do colleges think about the IBDP? Does the IBDP provide an advantage in college admissions?

Over the last 50 years, the IBDP has become a globally recognized program for college preparedness.

In terms of recognition, there are multiple levels of recognition. First, every college in the world has heard of the IBDP so you should not run into any admissions department not understanding the IBDP or knowing how to evaluate its curriculum or your student's exam scores. Second, every college views the IBDP to be at least on par with AP in terms of academic rigor and college preparedness (assuming a comparable AP course load). Finally, there are some universities that view IBDP students as superior candidates for admissions. This video from Debra Von Bergen, an admissions officer at Stanford University, highlights this point. Additionally, there are some universities that provide tuition free admission for IBDP graduates.

Regarding an IBDP admissions advantage, several years ago, the IBO commissioned a study on admission rates for IBDP students versus non-IBDP students. In short, the report (page 19) shows that for certain highly selective colleges and large state universities, there exists an IBDP admissions advantage (a few examples):

  • Stanford University +8%

  • University of Miami +42%

  • University of Michigan +20%

  • UC Berkeley +32%

  • UC Los Angeles +25%

(WHS has not done a similar survey of its student body or alumni.)​

Do colleges accept IB exams for credit and/or placement?

The general rule of thumb is that the more selective the university the less likely they are to offer credit for IB (or AP) exams and the more likely they are to offer placement. Using exams for credit simply means that the college will use the student's exam score (assuming it passes the score threshold they set) and give the student credit for taking the college equivalent course, thus reducing the number of credits that the student needs to graduate (can save money and time because they are closer to graduation). Placement means that the college will assume that the student has satisfied the subject material for a given exam / course, but the student needs to complete that requirement at the college level, allowing the student to take a more advanced course or an elective. This option means that no time or money is saved, but the student does not have to repeat coursework that they have already mastered in IB (or AP) course.

With all of that said, the general rule is that colleges that provide credit or placement for AP exams will provide the same for the equivalent IB exam. Generally, a passing score for an AP exam is 3 (out of 5) and a passing score for an IB exam is 4 (out of 7). The more selective a school, the higher the credit or placement score will need to be (typically a 4 or 5 for AP and a 6 or 7 for IB).  For specific IB exam acceptance policies, we recommend you visit the universities website or call their admissions office.

What kinds of colleges do WHS IBDP students get into?

WHS IBDP students are very successful when it comes to college admissions. Virtually every student receives offers to attend multiple universities, ranging from smaller liberal arts colleges to large public research universities to elite and Ivy colleges.

As is expected given our location in Austin, a large percentage of our students are admitted to the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. However, WHS IBDP students also receive offers to attend college out of state, and we have an occasional student who chooses to study internationally.

The data that has been compiled by WHS indicates that IBDP student have a higher than average acceptance to highly selective colleges, but many choose not to attend. There is no data indicating why this is the case, but based on discussions with alumni parents, we believe that the cost differential between highly selective schools (where financial aid is awarded on need only) versus other state or private colleges (where Honors colleges and merit financial aid are offered) is too high for many families to justify attendance at the highly selective college.

How is an IB Diploma earned?

The IB Diploma is earned by the accumulation of points over the two year period it takes to earn the IBDP, plus completion of the Core requirements of Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and Creativity, Activity and Service. There are a maximum of 45 points that can be earned, with a minimum of 25 required to earn the IB Diploma.

The points are earned as follows:

Six subject group Higher Level and Standard Level exams at 7 points per exam for a maximum score of 42 points through examination. In addition, students can earn up to three points for their Extended Essay, for a total of 45 points maximum overall. Points alone will not earn the Diploma, though. In addition, the student must satisfactorily complete the Theory of Knowledge course, complete their Extended Essay and provide appropriate written reflections of their chosen learning outcomes for the Creativity, Activity and Service component.

Does the IB Diploma work in conjunction with the State of Texas Diploma?

The diploma requirements for the State of Texas and the IBO differ. The obvious differences are the testing requirements, and the Core for the IB Diploma. However, there are sight differences in academic courses, as well. This is the reason there are different IB specific courses, and certifications for teachers. 

The District ensures that coursework that an IB student takes as part of the WHS IBDP meets or exceeds the curriculum requirements of the State. But the student needs to ensure, in partnership with their counselor and Stephanie Childress, IB Coordinator, that they are meeting all of the State of Texas requirements in addition to those of the IBO.

The major areas to keep focus on are:

  • the IB / Texas social studies sequence,

  • the IB / Texas math sequence, and 

  • the Texas PE and fine arts requirement.

The other course sequences are pretty straight forward in terms of IB / Texas overlap.

Does the IBDP have a graduation?

There is not a formal IB graduation like one would experience as a WHS graduate, with the pomp and circumstance of gowns and speeches. But, the IB Program Office hosts a Diploma Reception in the December-January timeframe following the student's graduation from WHS. So, a student who graduates in May 2019 will have a Diploma Reception during the Winter holiday 2019-2020.

The Diploma Reception is a much anticipated event for IBDP graduates because it is a chance for them to reconnect with their friends and teachers, and is a chance to celebrate their success as WHS IBDP graduates.

The reason the Diploma Reception is scheduled at that time is driven by the grading schedule for IB Exams. Whether a student has earned the IB Diploma (i.e. accumulated the minimum 25 points) is not known until mid- to late summer. Rather than try to squeeze it into the summer when many graduates are traveling, working, or in college already, the program Office holds the event when students return home for Winter holidays following their first semester of college.

My student is interested in a health sciences / medical career. Can the IBDP fit this interest?

Absolutely! In our discussions with college admissions offices, the main thing they look for in terms of academic preparation for students wanting to enter the health sciences is a solid foundation in the STEM subjects. That is, they like to see students take the full experimental science portfolio (biology, chemistry and physics) and advanced math (calculus and/or statistics). Obviously, colleges will also look at the other components of your student’s college preparation, so it is important not to ignore those aspects of your student’s high school life. Also, keep in mind that many universities do not have “pre-med” majors. Rather, the pre-med track is a supplemental advisory and assistance program for students who plan to pursue medical, nursing or pharmacology school.

The Health Sciences or Biomedical Sciences academy pathway courses provided by RRISD are options available to a student to demonstrate or investigate their interest in pursuing a health sciences career. However, in our opinion, a student need not fit the academy pathway courses in their 4-year plan to be well prepared for college. 

Academically speaking, our recommendation for most students, depending on their math preparation, is to take the AP Physics pathway, and then take the IB Chemistry and IB Biology sequences. (For an example of how this can work, please refer to our answer about comparing the AP and IB Physics pathways.) 

Non-academically speaking, our recommendation would be for your student to  demonstrate their interest through meaningful engagement in community service (e.g., organize and lead a campus blood drive, develop an effective student stress and anxiety awareness campaign, etc.), participation in related school clubs (e.g., HOSA), jobs (e.g., volunteering in a hospital, job shadowing a surgeon, etc.), internships, and/or research (e.g., summer college science camps or research programs).

What are the differences between IB Physics and AP Physics?

There are a couple of sequences in the AP Physics pathway: Physics 1 & 2, and Physics C. Each of these courses are one year long (2 semesters). Generally, the subject matter in Physics 1 and 2 are the same as Physics C. So, Physics C is a more accelerated version of the Physics 1 & 2 sequence. In addition, Physics C is higher level math (calculus) compared to the Physics 1 & 2 sequence (algebra).

With that said, IB Physics is algebra-based so if you are looking for a calculus-based physics education, you will need to take the AP Physics C. The course material in IB and AP Physics, however does differ slightly. The AP Physics pathways (1&2 and C) cover the following topics that are excluded from IB: rotational motion, fluid statics & dynamics, optics, capacitors, magnetic fields, and electromagnetism. On the other hand, IB covers the following topics that AP does not: uncertainties & error, thermal physics, electric fields, circular motion, Newtonian gravity, energy production.

WHS has determined that AP Physics 1 can be used as a prerequisite for IB Physics HL; and that IB Physics SL would prepare students for AP Physics C if they choose to do calculus-based AP Physics.

What are the changes in the IB Math pathways?

The International Baccalaureate Organization, the governing body for the IB Diploma Program globally, has updated the IB Math guidelines. This video link helps to summarize these changes, and includes many of the individuals who were engaged in the process. The slides used by Stephanie Childress at the IBPA Annual Meeting on May 1, 2019 can be downloaded here. Our assessment is that at the heart of these changes is a desire (i) to better align mathematics education with the philosophy of subject integration that is intrinsic to the IB philosophy, and (ii) to make mathematics more relevant to more students by offering different levels of emphasis on theory and mathematical application depending upon a student's level of interest and need.

Over the last few months, RRISD (because the IBO change also impacts students at Stony Point High School) and WHS have delved into these changes, and have shared the following with parents:

  1. These changes will impact the class of 2021 and beyond (i.e., students who graduate in 2020 will not change their math course selections or graduation plans to reflect these changes).

  2. There will be two math pathways for WHS students: Analysis and Applications. Depending on how far a student goes down either pathway, she will receive instruction in trigonometry / precalculus, single or multi-variable calculus and statistics. The difference in the pathways amounts to the proportion of each of these subjects, and the depth of focus on applications of the concepts versus the mathematical theory (theorems, proofs, etc.) of the topic.

  3. Students will be able to SL and HL in either the Analysis or Applications pathways. Students can SL upon completion of Analysis 2 or Analysis 3 or Applications 2 or Applications 3. Students can HL upon completion of Analysis 3 or Analysis 4 or Applications 3.

  4. The Analysis pathway is geared to students who wish to pursue STEM fields in college and beyond or who wish or to pursue the highest possible level of high school math available regardless of intended future path and the Applications pathway is geared more towards students who wish to pursue medicine/health sciences, humanities or other non-STEM fields.

  5. The more advanced high school math subjects -- those comparable to AP Calculus AB and BC and beyond -- will be covered in the Analysis pathway.

  6. The specific curriculum changes are still being developed so greater details about course content are not currently available.

  7. The first course in the IB math pathway starts in Algebra 2. If your student has taken Algebra 2 (or beyond) prior to arrival at WHS (e.g., transfer student or middle school), they will simply pick up the pathway at which point they would naturally continue; they do not need to re-take course they have already completed. This means that some students will have IB math courses during their IB Prep years (9th & 10th grades), which is different than in years past. Following completion of Algebra 2, your student would select which of the two IB math pathways they wish to pursue (Analysis or Applications).

As always, if you have further questions, please reach out to our President and she will do her best to assist you.

Do you have a glossary for all of the acronyms?

If you've been around IB for even a short time, you'll realize that we love circular graphics and acronyms. :)

Here is a list of the most used acronyms, and their translations:

  • APUSH: AP US History

  • CAS: Creativity, Activity & Service

  • EE: Extended Essay

  • HL: Higher Level

  • HuGS: Human Geography Studies

  • IB: International Baccalaureate

  • IBO: International Baccalaureate Organization

  • IBDP (or DP): International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

  • SL: Standard Level

  • TOK: Theory of Knowledge

  • WAS: World Area Studies

What does HL and SL mean?

HL and SL are acronyms for the terms "Higher Level" and "Standard Level", both of which refer to the type of exam that a student will take at the end of a given course sequence. For example, if your student is taking IB Computer Science 2 HL, then they are preparing to take the Higher Level exam in Computer Science in the Spring of their senior year.

In general, the structure of HL and SL exams are similar. The difference lies in the length of the exam (HL being slightly longer) and the course material covered (HL covering more course material).

For details about each of the courses and exams, please click here.

What is the Extended Essay?

The Extended Essay, or EE, is a college freshman-level research paper on any topic of the student's choosing. Student's have used the EE to further explore areas of existing interest, or to explore intersections between subjects of interest. Some of the most effective research topics are those from outside a student's primary focus area for college.

The EE is supervised by a faculty member, and is completed over two semesters - the Spring semester of the junior year and the Fall semester of the senior year. The majority of the work is done extracurricularly, but is supported on the student's schedule in the Theory of Knowledge class which spans the same two semesters. While there is a prescribed length (4,000 words), the assessment of the research paper is not purely based on the quality of the writing, but rather the quality of the research process that the student has followed.

A great way to learn more about the EE is to attend our INSIGHTS: Extended Essay Showcase event in the Spring. This event will showcase the work done by four WHS IBDP seniors, selected by the IBDP faculty advisor.

How can I get more information?

That's easy! Contact an IBPA Ambassador and we will do our best to help you .