Northwestern should allot more credits for IB classes


Meredith Goodman, Columnist

Everyone at Northwestern is a nerd, but when I meet fellow Wildcats who completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, I nerd out especially hard. We discuss our extended essays topics, our Theory of Knowledge class, and how much harder our classes and tests were than those of Advanced Placement.

Most readers will probably not understand the first paragraph without explanation because the IB program is only available in select high schools throughout the country and the world. IB is a rigorous academic program which seeks to build “international-mindedness.” For example, in my IB English classes, we read books that focused on international cultures, including India and Mexico. On our IB History exam, we could choose between questions about a number of other countries’ histories, including Canada and China.

I enjoyed the IB experience at my school not only because it offered me a peek of education and cultures beyond America, but also because it challenged me to my full potential. And I emphasize the word “challenge,” because the IB program is hard and requires a lot of dedication and commitment. Yes, I sympathize with all my AP friends who had to cram and memorize information for their AP tests, but us IB-ers had nowhere to hide on our tests – there were almost no multiple choice questions. If you did not write a convincing essay, you receive little to no credit. We also had assignments that we did before our tests, called internal assessments, and spent a good amount of time researching and writing our extended essay, a 4,000 word research paper.

With all of these challenging components of IB, I find myself ranting angrily about why AP students at NU receive school credit so much more readily and easily than IB students. One legitimate reason is that because there is a wider variety of AP tests, AP students can load up on classes for multiple years in order to get tons of credits. For example, AP students can get two separate Weinberg credits requirements from both AP government exams at NU, which are not offered in the IB program. There are three separate AP history exams that can all offer distribution requirements, but only one IB subject test in History. I believe that good scores on IB tests, equal to or higher than a five out of a scale of seven, should warrant more than one distribution credit in order to even out the IB/AP playing field.

Another more irritating problem is that a whole category of IB exams called SL, or Standard or Subsidiary Level, do not receive credit at NU. IB students have to take six exams at the end of high school, and at least two are standard level. These tests, which are easier than Higher Level but are still considerably challenging, should not be taken in vain – students still work hard in these classes and subjects. I argue that if a student makes a 7 on his or her Standard Level Test, the highest possible score, they should be given credit at NU.

An area that is ignored in the allocation of IB credits is the extended essay. One can propose that a 4,000 word research essay would be sufficient to place out of some sort of writing requirement at NU, maybe a freshman seminar in Weinberg or a class for the Literature and Fine Arts distribution area. Perhaps the extended essay could fill a distribution requirement for the topic in which it was written. For example, I wrote my extended essay on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role in the Six-Day War, so I could be given a distribution requirement for history.

My suggestions for earning IB credit might not be the best ways to allocate credits, but I at least hope to spark awareness for the IB program and start a University-wide discussion to get IB students the NU class credits that they deserve.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].