By Hannah Daly and Maggie Kane
During the spring of my junior year, I took a several hour-long exam. It tested the different math topics that the class had taught throughout the year. There was no multiple-choice section; all answers were free response, which made it difficult to make guesses. Despite scoring high, K did not recognize this as a college credit. Why? Because it was a standard level International Baccalaureate test.
According to the International Baccalaureate website, the program aims to promote intercultural understanding through education. With over 3,197 schools in 140 countries and over 920,000 students, the IB program really is at home in the world.
So why doesn’t K recognize the similarities between the College and the world- renowned program? Why do students who take AP exams automatically have a huge advantage over those who choose to take IB?
The IB program has two different kinds of tests. Most colleges accept credit for high scores on higher level (HL) tests, but not on standard level (SL) tests. This is the situation at Kalamazoo College. While the names can be deceiving, standard level does not indicate an easier exam. It simply means that the exam covers a one-year class. Like an Advance Placement test, these exams assess a fairly contained topic matter.
Higher level exams, on the other hand, test two years of work. My IB HL history exam, for example, tested my knowledge on 20th century Europe and America (my junior year class) and the history of Central and South America (my senior year class). It included four document-based essays, two essays chosen from a list of topics and a final set of three essays specific to a studied region. In addition, a 2,000-word research paper on a topic formulated by the student factors into the final grade.
The standard level history exam follows a similar format, but students do not write the three region-specific essays. To compare, the Advanced Placement history exams have a lengthy multiple-choice section, one document based essay and two free response essays.
Daly: With all of this in mind, K College’s IB credit policy seems perplexingly unfair. The IB SL exam seems to equal, if not surpass, the AP test in its depth of assessment. Furthermore, the absence of multiple choice in the exam criteria actually does more to prepare students for college. I don’t think I have ever taken a class during which I have been handed eighty multiple-choice questions as means to gauge my knowledge of a topic. Both K College and the IB program aim to promote intercultural connections and critical thinking.