Current NLCS Students answer your questions about their experience of the programme.
Eve on CAS
What exactly is CAS, and what has it made you consider doing that you may not otherwise have done?
CAS- Creative Action Service, is the programme within the IB which prompts you to take part in many extra-curricular activities ( a bit like the Duke of Edinburgh awards where you do Volunteering, Physical and Skill). You'll find when you start the IB that so much of what you already do counts already for CAS, for example, I sing in the school choir which counts for Creative, and help out in the first school which counts for Service, etc. You get a one period lesson every week for CAS, in which you write short reflections on how your activities are going and upload photos. This is actually a really enjoyable part of the week because it's one of the few times when everyone doing the IB is together. CAS has encouraged me to take part in more active things, for example, going to the school gym which sixth formers can use. It's easy when you go into the sixth form to cut down on the activities you take part in because you think you won't be able to balance them with work, but CAS encourages you to maintain these, and they ensure you spend enough time on things which take your mind of your academic work.
Why did you choose the IB?
I chose the IB because I knew I wanted to focus on languages and English (which are my Higher Levels) but I didn't want to give up subjects like science and maths. I really enjoy having chemistry and maths on my time table because it makes it really varied and gives you a balance with the more writing-based subjects.
Sabrina on Physics and Engineering
The maths department was very good in aiding me with learning about moments and complicated problems with Forces for my engineering application, and I completed my Higher Level Mathematics exploration on the Mechanics of Spiderman. I was also given textbooks to help and the teachers were always on hand if I needed anything explained, and I thought the Wednesday afternoon activity slots where we did engineering maths were particularly helpful, especially with interview preparation as we went over concepts and practiced questions, which was useful for confidence as well as the skills themselves.
I do think that the HL maths and physics courses are incredibly interesting, and although they are challenging, it made it all the more rewarding, especially when learning about exciting stuff like electromagnetism and astrophysics.
Cara on TOK
What is TOK?
TOK is compulsory in the IB syllabus and consists of two periods a week: a lecture by a teacher and a discussion in small groups. In essence, the point of TOK is to question how we know things, which entails many different sub-topics such as ways of knowing in the arts or sciences or the reliability of a way of knowing. Although I was slightly hesitant about this at first, it is actually really stimulating to spend time in your busy week contemplating more metaphysical themes and having an interesting debate.
Why did you chose the IB?
I chose IB because I enjoyed all my subjects and didn’t want to narrow my choices in the future, as I don’t know what I want to do. The IB allows me to learn a wide variety of different subjects so all the things I learn are varied and interesting. One benefit of the IB is that if you like a subject that you did at GCSE and don’t want to drop it, but don’t feel like you are that strong in it, you can do it at standard level, which allows you to pursue all your interests.
Berenika on History
Is there something which you think that distinguishes the way in which you study a specific subject from the alternative Pre-U/A Level pathway?
I study history Higher level and I have found that there are many things vastly different from the parallel A-level course that my friends study. The most obvious and crucial difference is the syllabus – the IB focuses on international history. The course includes the French revolution, dictatorships in Europe in the XXth century (Stalin, Hitler, Mao), the tsars of Russia, Japan in the lead-up to WW2 Napoleon and more. In addition to exploring these events we try to look at what impact they might have on international relations with other countries and not just Britain. The IB history course is an opportunity to learn what was happening a little bit further from home (my friends in A-level study Queen Elizabeth – why repeat something you learnt in year 9?) in a very new way and is quite an eye opener that Britain is, in fact, not the centre of the universe.
Shivani on Organisation
The IB has allowed me to be encouraged to think independently and drive my own learning; skills like self-discipline and time management are so beneficial and learning becomes so much easier when you know how to 'be on top of things', so to speak. I've probably become about ten times more organised than I was half a year ago, and once that's under control it's definitely manageable.
Why did you chose the IB?
My main driving force for choosing the IB was the scope and the options. Being able to do six subjects spanning the entire spectrum of the curriculum, combined with the core components meant that I am able to be exposed to all the main academic streams, and for me this was the most important factor, being someone who didn't want to let go of, or sacrifice, any of my subjects. For me, it's too early to solely focus on what I want to do career-wise. I enjoy a well-rounded day and the ability to experience various academic possibilities in more depth than just GCSE level, and the IB gives me just that. The way I see it, there is always time in university to specialise and streamline options. I love the multi-facetedness of the program: just like the six subject groups allow for academic diversity, the inclusion of ToK (a real eye-opener at times), and CAS, means that you essentially have to become a well-rounded person by doing all this volunteering and sports, which is what I aim to achieve. All in all, it's stimulating, and challenge, but it helps you stay in touch with your subjects a little while longer; if you can be organised, it's all good (even for disorderly people like me)!
Aditi on her time, and on her free time!
What does a typical IB timetable look like? Do you have free time in the school day?
Here's a quick breakdown per week: 7 lessons per higher level subject, 4 lessons per standard level subject, 3 CAS and TOK periods, 6-7 free periods . You still have the same Wednesday afternoon activities slot as A Level/Pre-U students.
The distribution of frees is always very different for each person depending on their subject combination. For example, I have most of my free periods on Monday afternoon, during which I often work for an hour and then go to the gym to take a break from work, or even go home early. However, lots of people have their frees spread out over the week and often dedicate some to working and others to relaxing in the Athenian Café or Common Room with friends. I find that the free periods compensate very usefully for the sometimes hectic lunchtimes when doing extra-curricular activities.
Why did you choose the IB?
I have known from a young age that the sciences are my favourite subjects, but at the same time I had grown to love other subjects too and didn't want to stop learning English and German. I loved the variety the IB offered, so I knew that I would never feel bored and find it very well-balanced, as you have the chance to think and learn in a different way for each subject. I also found it reassuring that despite doing six subjects, you can still specialise in your higher level subjects and have the freedom to choose and explore the aspect of a topic which you find particularly interesting.
Zofia on Life outside school
Do you have time to see people outside?
Yes. I see a lot of my out-of-school friends every Saturday during and after I finish Polish school, and essentially I spend a lot of time on Saturdays just socialising with them. It’s important to get a break from doing work all week, and none of my teachers set too much homework because they know and understand that sometimes you just need time not to worry about your studies but to be with your friends. Sometimes I also go out with my friends after school on a Friday when everyone is excited about the weekend. Either way, there will definitely always be some time to see people outside of school during the week if you decide to do IB, as long as you plan your week well!
Kanak on English, English in Maths, and Essays...
The highlight of the IB for me has been my Higher Level English course, in shaping my passions, honing my skill and widening my horizons. What seems to be the striking difference between the IB course and the Pre U option is the breadth of literature I’ve been exposed to. I entered year 12 not too sure of what I wanted to pursue, with the feeling that it would be literature and languages but wanting to really figure it out. The IB english course has let me read and study utterly beautiful modernism such as Eliot, Faulkner and Joyce, then Russian literature in translation, then heavyweight novels such as The Portrait of a Lady.
Perhaps this is explained by the IB’s internationalism; whatever it is, such a diverse course both in material, and in the way it's examined, has really given me room to find what I love. A large part of the examination is oral, which has meant that literary discussion is a crucial part of our learning. Having so many different voices in our class has made it such a rich experience, and gave me a lot of confidence during my university application.
The IB is full of bizarre, quirky and often incredibly interesting eureka moments; another highlight for me was being able to incorporate literature into my maths coursework. I was encouraged to find a way to personally engage with something that, on paper, had the potential to be quite straightforward and uncaptivating. At the time I was reading a Tom Stoppard play, Arcadia, with my English class, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could use the mathematical ideas which the play happens to explore as a launchpad for my coursework. This is an example of how you become immersed in every subject you do, be it higher or standard level, because of how personal you can make your diploma.
A final and lasting memory of the IB will be my extended essay project. I chose to do mine in French, about a Senegalese poet called Senghor, and I spent about two months utterly captivated and immersed in the project. There were so few boxes to tick outside of creating a piece of work that displayed a thoroughly researched argument and exploration of any topic. I really understood why this is so crucial to the IB when I came out of the essay writing process completely inspired and wanting to talk to anyone who would listen about my essay. The IB diploma is, in the end, a completely personal process and I know it's helped me find what I truly love.
Leila on English
What is literature and performance and how similar is it to year 11 English?
Lit&Performance is an English SL course that combines English and drama. In year 12 you study a play with a drama teacher, which you write a piece of coursework on, and a novel with an English teacher, which is one of the papers you sit in year 13. In year 13, in drama you do lots of performance and a presentation and poetry in English. It's really fun if you love drama and acting, but also if you are afraid of taking complete English. Most elements are with a view to a performance (except the poetry paper) so drama GCSE is useful but not essential.
You also don't have to be amazing at English!
Literature and performance is one of my favourite lessons in the week, because I can really relax and it's a nice contrast. In terms of similarity to year 11 English, it is very different! Although you study plays and novels, it is much more about performing/writing about performing so as to convey a message to an audience. I would really encourage everyone to give literature and performance a try!!
Why did you chose the IB?
I chose the IB because in year 11 I really enjoyed all of my subjects and didn't want to drop any of them. I really liked the format of having 3 higher levels and 3 standard, but I thought it would be a lot more work than it actually is!
Iris on the Social Life of IB students
What is the IB like socially, in terms of relationships amongst IB girls, and also with those not doing the programme?
One of the common beliefs that seem to be shared about the IB is that the IB girls NEVER see those not doing the programme. This is not true, there are plenty of opportunities to see your A-level or Pre-U friends. First off, I play in senior sports squads which means I see my non-IB friends several times weekly. There are also the common room meets, many clubs, Ath-Caf and lunchtime opportunities to see all your non-IB friends. So the idea that the IB and non-IB girls rarely see each other is completely untrue.
To be doing the IB is great: whilst continuing to build relationships with A-level girls, you also get the chance to really bond with a small cohort of other IB students. You get to know the other girls super well, which is awesome as you find out how easily preconceptions are scrapped. Within a week or two the IB clique has formed!
Sian on Flexibility
What flexibility is there should issues arise?
There is a lot of flexibility if you should encounter any issues when studying the IB, for example, if you wanted to switch your subjects from Higher to Standard level (or vice versa). It involves speaking to the heads of the departments; as it is important to voice your issue early, so possible solutions can be discussed. Obviously it is better to do this earlier in the term, to avoid a lot of catch-up work in your subjects, but either way the teachers will do their best to make the transition as easy as it can be for you.
If you are having doubts in whether to change to IB from A-level/Pre U, there is an equal amount of flexibility. There is lots of support from your teachers, as their main intention is to help you study what you are passionate about. If you let them know why you wish to change, and the new subjects you wish to study, they will make the process as simple and efficient as possible. On your end, if you do end up switching quite late in the term, there will be more work to catch up on - but there is an overlap with A-level and Pre U subject material, which can help considerably. The earlier you switch, the easier the move will be.
Whatever issue you have, resolving it just involves talking to your subjects teachers and working towards a suitable solution from there. The teachers want to help you make the most of your Sixth Form life, and will do all they can to ensure you enjoy your subjects.
Why did you choose the IB?
The main reason why I chose to study the IB is because I could not narrow down my subject choices for A-level. Going into the sixth form, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do in university, or what specific subject area I was interested in. Loving both Sciences and Maths, and English and Classics, it was hard to decide what path I wanted to go down. I wanted to keep my options open for university, which is why IB was the perfect choice.
Currently studying the IB, I love having the variety of subjects, and getting involved in other areas such as CAS and Theory of Knowledge. I really like the IB ethic, as all your subjects interlink, while linking to Theory of Knowledge as well. I also find the smaller classes really beneficial for more tailored learning, and one-to-one attention. You also get a chance to contribute more in lessons, and explore different areas of the subject.
Jaline on Opportunities
What excites you most about your upcoming studies?
What excites me most about my upcoming studies is the wide variety of activities which lay ahead. Doing the IB means that you are always occupied, not just with homework, but also going on educational trips exclusive to IB. In the next few months I will be looking forward to two plays, a trip to Ireland and more. I think that no one should be put of doing the IB by the amount of subjects you do, but the many opportunities that come with it.