The International Baccalaureate DP

at George Mason High School

A Tradition of Excellence and Expanding Opportunity Since 1981

The First IB DP World School in the State of Virginia

Introduction to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at George Mason High School

"The best thing about the IB program was that it turned me into a learner and it challenged me in ways I couldn't even recognize at the time. It made me a strong writer and an analytical thinker, which have been unbelievably helpful skill sin college. I also really enjoyed being part of the IB class environment where we are sympathetic...while still challenging each other to work really hard. IB made me effective at time management as well and it made me well-rounded by challenging me in such a wide variety of subjects." - Mary Ryan, George Mason High School Class of 2004, University of Virginia, Class of 2008

Since 1981, the most rigorous course of studies offered to the students of George Mason High School is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). This program of advanced internationally recognized syllabi and external examinations offers a comprehensive and world-class education during the last two years of high school. The IBDP is designed as an academically challenging and balanced program of education with final examinations that prepares students for success at university and life beyond. The program has gained recognition and respect from the world’s universities. In 2015, 87% of seniors take one or more IBDP courses and exams; thus, our program serves a large majority of students at Mason.

The IBO Mission Statement:

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment. These programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

A Tradition of Excellence and Expanding Opportunity

Currently at George Mason High School:

* 87% of George Mason juniors and seniors participate in the IBDP.

  • 27% of students in the Class of 2015 received the IB Diploma - a 92% success rate.
  • 28% of students in the Class of 2016 are currently pursuing the full IB Diploma.
  • 31% of students in the Class of 2017 are currently pursuing the full IB Diploma.

As our program continues to expand and serve more students we continue to achieve excellence.

The IBDP is the most rigorous course of study offered at George Mason High School. Students who wish to undertake the full IBDP must complete courses in each of the groups shown above and earn a total of 24 points on three higher and three standard level examinations. All six examinations are graded on a scale of 1 to 7 so the maximum examination total is 42 points. Diploma candidates also take Theory of Knowledge, write an extended essay, and must complete at least 150 hours in the areas of creativity, action, and community service. Students who complete all of the above IB courses and requirements and satisfactorily pass the related IB examinations receive, in addition to their high school diploma, the IB Diploma. Students may also take fewer than six IB courses from the groups listed below. These students fulfill all requirements in their selected IB classes and receive an IB certificate for each of these classes rather than an IB Diploma. IB courses are offered at either the standard or higher level. Standard level courses explore a range of topics within a subject and typically last one year. In higher level courses, students study subjects more in-depth over a two-year period.

The IB program is excellent preparation for college level work. In addition, when making admissions decisions, colleges look very favorably upon the IB program as indication of a student’s level of motivation and ability to perform in a rigorous and challenging program. Studies on the acceptance rates of IB Diploma students show that these students have higher acceptance rates at colleges in the United States. Like the Advanced Placement program, many American colleges give course credit or advanced standing to a student who earns a satisfactory score on an IB examination. General information about university recognition of the IB can be found at http://www.ibo.org/en/university-admission/ and recognition/credit policies for specific colleges and universities can be found at http://www.ibo.org/en/university-admission/recognition-of-the-ib-diploma-by-countries-and-universities/. Students who are interested in the IBDP program should consult the IB Coordinator and their counselor.

The Curriculum

Mason students can seek individual IBDP Course certificates by simply taking an IBDP course and exam. They may also pursue the full IB Diploma. The IB Diploma requires students to study in six core areas: English, a world language, social science, science, mathematics, and the arts or an elective. For the IB Diploma, a candidate must successfully complete the following: earn a minimum of 24 points on six examinations graded on a scale of 1–7; complete a 4000-word extended essay in one of the content areas; complete the Theory of Knowledge course; and reflect upon extra-curricular activities in three areas: Creativity, Action and Service. In May 2015, George Mason seniors posted a 92% success rate in completing the IB Diploma and averaged scores above the international average.

Students not wishing to fulfill all of the requirements of the IB Diploma are strongly encouraged to take individual courses in the IB curriculum to help them prepare for future education. These students thus earn IB certificates.

The Methods of Assessment

The IBDP is widely praised because of its goal of developing twenty-first century skills in our students. The skills are reflected in the IB Learner Profile and in George Mason High School’s vision. Assessing twenty-first century skills such as critical and creative thinking, inquiry, research, conceptual understanding, cross-cultural communication etc, requires dynamic and complex forms of assessment. Thus, “a variety of different methods are used to measure student achievement against the objectives for each [IB] course.”

An IB exam “score” is the result of both external assessments and internal assessments. Internal assessments are initially assessed by classroom teachers and moderated by IBO examiners. External assessments are wholly assessed by IB examiners and include:

  • essays
  • structured problems
  • short-response questions
  • data-response questions
  • text-response questions
  • case-study questions
  • multiple-choice questions [limited to a small portion of Group 4 (Science) assessments]

(“Diploma Program Assessment Methods,” n.d.)

Groups of study:

At George Mason High School, we offer the following IBDP courses (please see the program of studies for further details on courses):

Group 1: Studies in language and literature (Learn More)

- IB Language A: Literature HL

- IB Language A: Language and Literature SL

- IB Literature Self Taught SL (for a student with an advanced native fluency in a language other than English, generally we only offer this program to transfer students)

Group 2: Second Languages (Learn More)

- IB Language B (for students who studied a language for four to six years) – Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese and/or English B (for advanced ESOL students) HL/SL

- IB ab initio (for students after two or three years of study) – this examination is only offered to students who did not have an opportunity to successfully study a second language for four to six years

Group 3: Individual and Societies (Social Studies) (Learn More)

- IB History HL/SL

- IB Psychology HL/SL

- IB Business and Management SL

- IB Economics SL

- IB Global Politics SL

- IB Environmental Systems SL (an inter-disciplinary science course)

Group 4: Experimental Sciences (Learn More)

- IB Biology HL

- IB Chemistry HL/SL

- IB Environmental Systems SL (an inter-disciplinary science course)

- IB Physics SL

- IB Design Technology SL

- IB Computer Science HL/SL (this course counts as a science class for the IB Diploma, but not Virginia graduation requirements).

Group 5: Mathematics (Learn More)

- IB Mathematics HL/SL

- IB Math Studies SL

Group 6: Arts or Electives (Learn More)

- IB Visual Arts HL/SL

- IB Theatre Arts HL/SL

- IB Music HL/SL

- IB Film HL/SL

- Or a second course from groups 2, 3 or 4


CAS, TOK, and the Extended Essay -- required components of the IB Diploma -- stem from the Learner Profile. Students pursuing IB Certificates in individual classes do not have to complete CAS, TOK, or the Extended Essay, but may do so if they choose.

  • "CAS" stands for Creativity + Activity + Service. Across junior and senior years, diploma candidates participate in planned and supervised activities in each category. Such participation is meant to encourage the appreciation of attitudes and values other than one's own, and to enable the student to communicate readily on both a philosophical and practical level. Learn more about CAS.
  • "TOK" is the Theory of Knowledge course. This course is offered during the spring semester of the junior year and the fall semester of the senior year. It stimulates critical reflection on the knowledge and experiences acquired both inside and outside the classroom; evaluates the bases of knowledge and experience; and develops a personal mode of thought based on critical examination of evidence and argument. Learn more about TOK.
  • The Extended Essay is a 3,000- to 4,000-word research paper on a topic of the Diploma candidate's choice. Development of this essay is guided by a faculty supervisor. Learn more

Circle with varying layers. Outside layer says "IB Diploma Programme. International-Mindedness". Second level circle has pie pieces that say "Language acquisition. Studied in language and literature. Individuals and societies. Mathematics. The arts. Sciences." Third level circle says "Theory of knowledge. Extended essay. Creativity, action, service." Fourth level circle says "Approaches to teaching. Approaches to learning." In the middle is the IB Learner Profile logo.