International Baccalaureate

IB Open House Presentation (pdf) - January 26, 2021


Group 1: Studies in Language & Literature

Courses: English A Literature (HL)

Internal Assessments

The IB Written Assignment

The IB Written Assignment is a 1200-1500 word essay that analyzes one of the works in translation studied in 20IB. The essay itself is based a supervised writing done in class in 20IB, on one of the given prompts. The candidate will also need a Reflective Statement before the Written Assignment, which discusses how an IOP has helped further the candidate’s understanding of the text. It is worth 20% of the final IB grade.

Individual Oral Presentation

The Individual Oral Presentation (IOP) is an individual or group (2-3 people) presentation based on a self-chosen topic in relation to a poem or short story studied in grade 12 (certain works from grade 11 can be used as well). This presentation involves critical discussion of the text and can take any form (e.g. creative). A candidate is expected to speak for 10-15 minutes, so a group of two or three will be expected to speak for a maximum of 30 and 45 minutes respectively. It is worth 15% of the final IB grade. This project is done during the English 30IB HL course.

Individual Oral Commentary

The Individual Oral Commentary (IOC) is a recorded oral analysis of a passage from a prose a poem. Candidates receive a random passage they have studied and 20 minutes to prepare for the commentary. During the oral commentary, candidates will critically analyse the passage for 8 minutes, and the teacher will ask the student questions about the passage for 2 minutes. It is worth 15% of the final IB grade. This assessment is done during the English 35IB HL course.

Final Exams

Paper 1: Literary Commentary (2 hours)

Candidates are given two unseen texts; one will be a prose, and one will be a poem. They will write an essay outlining the textual details of ONE of the given texts and will critically analyze the resulting effect and meaning of devices. It is worth 25% of the final IB grade.

Paper 2: Comparative Essay (2 hours)

Candidates are given three guiding questions, to which they will respond to ONE of them and compare and contrast the elements of two plays they have studied in class. It is worth 25% of the final IB grade.

Group 2: Language Acquisition

Courses: French (ab initio, SL, HL), Spanish (ab initio, SL, HL), Mandarin (ab initio, SL)*, Cantonese (SL)*

*Mandarin and Cantonese courses are not offered at WCHS; students must take them outside of their timetable at the Chinese Academy. See for more details.

**Students taking FLA IB write the French B HL exam, whereas those taking FSL B write the French B SL exam.
There is no FLA 35IB HL course at Western.

Ab Initio Courses

Internal Assessments

The IB Written Task

The written assignment is an essay in which candidates will perform an “investigation” into a cultural aspect of a country that speaks the target language (i.e. the language that is being taught in the course). They will describe the cultural feature, contrast it with their own culture, and reflect on what they have learned. They also must use and reference at least two sources in the target language. The maximum word count is 300 words for Spanish, 350 words for French, and 400 characters for Mandarin.

The Oral Interview

Candidates will have a 10-minute interview with their teacher in the target language. They will be given a picture prompt with 15 minutes to observe the image and prepare a discussion. During the interview, the candidate will speak about the image for 1-2 minutes, after which the teacher will ask them questions about it for 2-3 minutes. For the next 4-5 minutes, the teacher will ask questions about their written task, and their lives in general.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (1 hour and 30 minutes)

A reading comprehensions test based on 4 texts. Consists of 40 multiple choice and short answer questions. It tests the candidate’s comprehension of the language.

Paper 2 (1 hour) 

Candidates are required to write two responses. The paper 2 consists of two sections: A and B. Section A has two prompts, while section B has 3. The candidate is required to choose one prompt from each section and respond to it in the target language. In French and Spanish, Section A is approximately 50 words and Section B is approximately 100 words; in Mandarin, Section A is approximately 60 characters and Section B is approximately 120 characters.

SL Courses

Internal Assessments

The IB Written Task

The IB Written Task is a written production about a specific topic of the candidate’s choice. The topic must fit into one of the core themes of the course: communication and media, global issues, and/or social relationships. Candidates must use and cite at least three works in the target language. In Spanish and French, the written production is 300-400 words, while in Chinese, it is 360-480 characters. An 150 to 200-word (French and Spanish) or 180-240 character (Chinese) introduction or abstract is also required.

The Oral Interview

Candidates will have an 8 to 10-minute interview with their teacher in the target language. They will be given a previously unseen picture prompts, with a title/caption relating to an option studied in class. They will be given 15 minutes to observe the image and prepare a discussion. During the interview, the candidate will speak about the image for 5 minutes and relate it to the option and the target cultures, after which the teacher will ask them questions about it for 5 minutes. The discussion may lead to a topic from another option if that contributes to the interaction.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (1 hour and 30 minutes)

A reading comprehension test consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions based on 4 texts. It tests the candidate’s comprehension of the language.

Paper 2 (1 hour and 30 minutes)

Consists of one written essay. The candidate will receive 5 essay prompts, which each fall under a different major theme: cultural diversity, cultural traditions, health, entertainment, and/or science & technology. The prompts will also have a specific written format that is required, for example: a letter, diary entry, debate speech, etc. The candidate picks one prompt to write on. The essay is 250-400 words in Spanish and French or 360 - 480 characters for Chinese

HL Courses

Internal Assessments

The IB Written Task

The IB Written Task is a creative piece, based on one of the texts studied in class. It must be between 600-700 words, with a preamble of 300 words.

The Oral Interview

Candidates will have a 10-minute interview with their teacher discussing the culture of a country speaking the target language, or other matters of global significance. Candidates are given a photo prompt and 15 minutes to prepare a discussion. The candidate shares their preparation of the photo in the first 5 minutes, and the teacher asks the candidate questions in the last 5 minutes.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (1 hour and 30 minutes)

A reading comprehension test consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions based on 5 texts. It tests the candidate’s comprehension of the language.

Paper 2 (2 hours)

Candidates are required to write two responses, in 2 of 13 formats that were taught in class about given topics. Paper 2 consists of 2 parts: section A and section B. Section A has 5 questions, while section B only has 1. The candidate must answer one out of the 5 questions in section A, as well as the question in section B.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

Courses: History (HL), Philosophy (HL, SL), Business Management (SL)

History HL

Internal Assessment

The Historical Investigation (HI) The historical investigation is a research paper. Candidates will pick a research question based on the History IB curriculum, and then write a research paper answering that question. The paper must include an evaluation of the two main sources used in the investigation, as well as a reflection, in addition to the investigation. Candidates will write two HIs, one in History 20IB and one in History 30IB. The maximum word limit is 2200 words.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (1 hour)

Paper 1 is also known as the Document Analysis. Candidates will receive four sources, either pictures or excerpts, and will answer questions based on these sources. At WCHS, history candidates write on the topic “The Move to Global War,” which will be on either German Expansionism, Italian Expansionism, Japanese Expansionism, or a combination of them.

Paper 2 (1 hour and 30 minutes)

Candidates must write two essays, answering two questions from two different topics. The topics studied at WCHS are the Origins and Development of Authoritarian and Single Party States, the Cold War, Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars, and Democratic States (mainly the first two).

Paper 3 (2 hours and 30 minutes)

Candidates must write three essays, responding to any three question prompts. The topics studied at WCHS are the European First World War 1871-1918, Versailles to Berlin 1918-1945, the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia 1924-2000, and part of Imperial Russia, Revolutions, and the Emergence the of Soviet State 1853-1924.

Philosophy SL/HL

The Internal Assessment

The Internal Assessment is a philosophical response to a non-philosophical source. A text excerpt or an image, which is not explicitly related to philosophy, is chosen as a “stimulus” for philosophical discussion. Candidates will then formulate a philosophical question based on the stimulus. From there, candidates will answer the question by presenting, analyzing, and evaluating two different philosophical perspectives. Objections to each view and responses from each view must be considered. The maximum word count is 2000 words.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (SL: 1 hour and 45 minutes) (HL: 2 hours and 30 minutes)

Candidates will write an essay discussing one of two stimuli in relation to the core theme, Being Human. Additionally, the candidate must write additional essays, based on optional themes. SL requires the candidate to write 1 optional theme essay, and HL requires 2 optional theme essays.

Paper 2 (1 hour)

Candidates will describe and evaluate an aspect of a text studied in class by responding to a prompt.

Paper 3 (HL only) (1 hour and 15 minutes)

Candidates must discuss a previously-unseen philosophical text, which is done by comparing and contrasting the candidate’s personal philosophical views with those in the text.

Business Management SL

The Internal Assessment

Candidates will write a 1500-word commentary about a real problem that an organization is facing, based on three to five supporting documents.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (1 hour and 15 minutes)

Paper 1 consists of 2 sections, A and B. Candidates will answer 3 questions, two from section A and one from section B. In section A, candidates will answer one of three questions, which are based on a case study that is studied in advance. In section B, candidates answer one question, which is based on additional stimulus material related to the case study.

Paper 2 (1 hour and 45 minutes)

Candidates will answer questions in written form. There are 3 sections: A, B, and C. Sections A and B provide stimulus materials that candidates must base their answers upon. Section A requires candidates to answer 1 of 2 questions, and section B requires candidates to answer 1 of 3. In section C, candidates must answer 1 of 3 essay questions, using a case study of their choice (excluding the ones in Paper 1 or in sections A and B).

Group 4: Sciences

Courses: Chemistry (HL), Biology (HL, SL), Physics (HL, SL)

Internal Assessments

The IA

One science IA is written per course. Candidates will choose an concept from the course, and further investigate that topics. They must design and carry out an entire lab. The lab can be experimental, research-based, or done using simulations.

The Group 4 Project

The Group 4 Project is unique to Group 4 subjects. It is a collaborative project that involves candidates from two or more of the Group 4 subjects. At WCHS, it is the Riverwatch trip that takes place in either Biology 20IB or Physics 20IB (depending on which one the student is taking). Candidates will raft down the Bow River and monitor the water quality, and write a 50-word reflection about the experience afterwards, as well as a project that applies the knowledge that they learned in the trip.

Final Exams

Paper 1 (SL: 45 minutes) (HL: 1 hour)

Paper 1 is a multiple-choice test. At the SL level, it is 30 questions; at the HL level, it is 40 questions. In biology and chemistry, calculators are not permitted. The chemistry paper 1 also does not permit the usage of the data booklet.

Paper 2 (SL: 1 hour and 15 minutes) (HL: 2 hours and 15 minutes)

Paper 2 is all written response. It contains both short answer and extended response questions.

Paper 3 (1 hour)

Paper 3 consists of two parts: section A and section B. Section A contains data-based questions relating to all parts of the course, as well as questions related to laboratory techniques relevant to the science course (e.g. potometers for biology or finding chemical formulas for hydrates in chemistry). Section B contains short answer questions and extended response questions for the option that taught in class, although they can connect concepts in the option to other parts of the curriculum. The options taught at WCHS are human physiology (biology), imaging (physics), and either biochemistry or energy (chemistry).

Group 5: Mathematics

Courses: Mathematics (HL, SL), Mathematical Studies (SL)****

****Typically, most universities will not accept Mathematical Studies as an IB-level course.

The Internal Assessment

Math IAs are primarily research-based. Candidates can choose any aspects of mathematics that are sophisticated, at an appropriate difficulty for the grade level, and which the candidates find interesting. They explain the concept in detail and input mathematical knowledge within the essay.

Final Exams

Paper 1 ( Studies and SL: 1 hour and 30 minutes) (HL: 2 hours)

Paper 1 consists of short answer and long answer questions. Calculators are permitted for candidates taking Mathematical Studies, but are not permitted for candidates taking the course at SL or HL. There are 15 questions on the Studies exam, 10 questions on the SL exam, and approximately 12-13 questions on the HL exam.

Paper 2 (Studies and SL: 1 hour and 30 minutes) (HL: 2 hours)

Paper 2 also consists of short answer and long answer questions from the entire curriculum. However, calculators are permitted. There are 5 questions on the Studies exam, 10 questions on the SL exam, and approximately 12 questions on the HL exam.

Paper 3 (HL only) (1 hour)

Paper 3 is the option paper. At WCHS, the option taught in class is Further Calculus. Calculators are permitted. There are approximately 5 questions on this exam.

Group 6: The Arts

Courses: Visual Arts (SL)

The Internal Assessment

The IA is a final exhibition featuring the candidate’s artworks. 4-6 works are required for the exhibition, as well as rationales for each of them. This assessment is worth 40% of the IB grade.

Final Assessments

The other major tasks for IB is Comparative Study and the Process Portfolio. 

For the Comparative Study the candidate will choose at least 3 different artworks by at least 2 different artists and compare and contrast them. Although it is not purely a written assignment, there is a written portion. This task is worth 20% of the final IB grade.

For the Process Portfolio the candidate will show their development as an artist over the course of study in IB Visual Arts.  This project is worth 40% of the final IB grade.

TOK, the EE, and CAS

These are subjects/tasks that only IB Diploma students have to do. However, IB Certificate students and even regular students can choose to take them if they so wish.

A failure to complete any of these will result in the student not receiving their IB Diploma.

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

Theory of Knowledge is a component of the IB diploma in which students study and learn to question the nature of knowledge and the ways in which knowledge is acquired. At WCHS, TOK is taken in grade 11, in tandem with Chemistry 25IB. Both courses only run for 1 term, so either TOK or Chemistry 25IB will be taken for half of the semester, and then the other course will be taken for the other half.


The TOK essay is an essay that IB diploma students write in grade 12. Students will write on one of six titles, provided by the IBO in their graduating year, regarding the nature of knowledge across all disciplines. Students will answer this question using historical examples and knowledge disciplines in order to answer the prompt. During the process, students must also write three “reflections statements,” two during, and one after the writing of the essay, reflecting on one’s progress. The maximum word count for this essay is 1600 words.

The Extended Essay (EE)

The extended essay is a (maximum) 4000 word essay that students during their time in IB. Students can pick a topic from any IB subject, not just the ones that Western offers. They will create on a research question, and then answer it. Depending on the subject chosen, the format of the EE will be slightly different. If a science is picked, the EE will be a lab report. If history is selected, the EE will be a history paper. If English is selected, the EE will be an essay analyzing a text, etc. This is an in-depth essay that requires students to apply their skills of analysis, critical thinking, and synthesis of information. This essay is written outside of the timetable, and no class time is provided for students to work on it. However, students will have a teacher supervisor who will guide them through the process and facilitate reflections on the process. Students must hold regular reflection sessions with their teachers before, during, and after writing the EE, and discuss the student’s working process of writing it.

Together with the TOK presentation and essay, the EE accounts for 3 points in an IB Diploma student’s total score of 45.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

“Creativity, Activity, Service”, is a mandatory component of IB that requires students to pursue extra-curricular activities related to the arts , physical activity, and community service . Generally, any activities a students would like to be included for CAS should be within the time period of the beginning of their grade 11 year and the end of their grade 12 year. A common misconception is that CAS entails a specific amount of hours for each component that the student must fulfill (that is, a student needs a certain number of “CAS hours). This is not true. CAS requires a student to have extracurriculars in all three of “creativity,” “activity,” and “service.” Additionally, CAS has 7 “outcomes” that a candidate must fulfill. They are:

  • Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
  • Demonstrate the undertaking of challenges, in which new skills are developed in the process
  • Demonstrate initiating and planning a CAS experience
  • Show commitment and perseverance in CAS experiences
  • Demonstrate skill and recognize benefits of working collaboratively
  • Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
  • Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and action

As long as the student fulfills all of these outcomes adequately, they will be able to complete CAS. CAS should be thought of as an overall guide for the candidate’s extracurricular pursuits. Its goal is to allow IB students to attain a balanced life in the IB diploma program amidst the academic rigor. Additionally, full IB students must do a CAS project. CAS projects require a student to actively be involved in leading, planning, and executing a CAS experience. Additionally, the time period of the experience (including both planning and execution) must be at least one month. Some common CAS projects that IB Diploma students do include being an executive of a club, participating in JA, or running fundraisers.

Why Take IB?

Regular vs AP vs IB

To obtain the regular Alberta High School Diploma, students are only required to pass Social Studies and English 30-1 or 30-2, Math and a science of 20-1 or 20-2, Physical Education 10, CALM 20, and any other non-core courses that will provide them with a total of 100 credits. Regular students generally find they have more free time, but are less prepared for the university workload.

In Advanced Placement (AP), high school students are evaluated solely based on AP exams, which are sold by Princeton University to the AP schools. Students can take as many or as little AP courses as they please. Depending on the results students receive, these exams allow students to earn credit in university. Rather than a scale of 1-7, AP grades are based on a scale from 1-5. AP is generally well-received in American universities.

In the IB Diploma Programme, high school students are evaluated in a variety of ways other than by their scheduled classes and the examinations (EAs) set by IB. IAs, CAS, TOK, and the EE are all key components to the IB experience, which provide students a chance to get involved in activities they are passionate about, or research topics by which they are intrigued. As well, the EE and HL courses give students a chance to understand how university papers and courses will be. Overall, the IB Programme is a better-rounded learning experience in high school. The curriculum is updated every five years as well. The IB Diploma is internationally acknowledged.

Enhanced Learning Environment

IB students will be surrounded by like-minded peers who, like themselves, seek challenge in academic studies and have a thirst for knowledge. Unlike many regular courses, IB students in HL classes will develop alongside their peers over all three years of high school, establishing a sense of community among IB students.

In addition, IB students often receive instruction from the best teachers available in the subject area, many of which can make a huge difference in the overall learning experience.

Advice for Incoming IB Students

“Everyone says this, but seriously, don’t procrastinate.”

“Don’t be scared to get involved in other activities you’re passionate about, like band, clubs, or sports. You may be busy, but you’ll learn lots about time management.”

“Ask questions in class if you don’t understand what’s going on!” “Go to tutorials!”

“Do practice questions, especially for math and the sciences—having an idea of what types of problems you’ll see on tests really helps.”

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