IB students begin oral exams


Teacher Jennifer Caldwell conducts a seminar class with her IB English seniors. All students will be taking oral exams next month.

Maya Brown

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization offers challenging educational opportunities for people all around the world. 

IB is different from other challenging courses like AP and CCP because of the oral exams seniors are required to take, consisting of the initial student-spoken section followed by questions asked by the teacher. 

Both internal and external assessments are conducted within the two-year period. Internal assessments are spoken evaluations graded by the teacher, and external assessments are written exams graded by different IB examiners all over the world. 

Preparations for the exam begin early in the year and students develop enough practice for their oral exams. IB assessments happen over a two-year period. 

Language exams differ from English orals, as foreign language orals are based around the presentation of a photo from one of the five IB themes (identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organization, and sharing the planet), but English oral exams are based on 40 lines of fictional text and imagery of some kind, centered around a global issue. 

IB French Language teacher Julie Filliez has conducted many internal assessments and works with her students individually to better prepare them. 

“As we get closer, I like to call it ‘oral bootcamp’, where students come in individually and do mock exams to get real practice,” Filliez said. 

IB teachers go out of their way to provide as many resources as possible for students to pass their spoken exams. Senior Jazel Issa feels confident after Spanish teacher Pamela Dentler spent two years providing a comfortable environment for students to practice in.

“Dentler prepares us immensely with the amount of class discussions and opportunities to speak Spanish in a comforting and welcoming environment within her classroom and during Sobre Mesa,” Issa said. “Although it seems like a daunting task, especially for a new speaker like myself, Senora goes above and beyond to prepare us.”

Dentler teaches IB Spanish and is fascinated by her students’ ability to comprehend the imposed subject. 

“These exams make the students see what they are capable of and give them the realization that they’re pretty awesome,” Dentler said. “It’s awesome, because their depth of thought is just mind-boggling and they impress me so much,”

Along with the immense preparation for these exams comes a great deal of stress for students.

“I think it’s the most difficult part of their exam and sadly it’s the first one of the four exams. It’s the most stressful because it’s timed and speaking can be very stressful,” Filliez said. 

Senior Abbey Smrdel struggled to compile solid ground and think on the spot during her oral presentation. 

“When speaking, you have to think fast and just say what you know, and I struggled a lot with this. It’s definitely a stressful process because you don’t know what to expect, but I feel like I did the best I could’ve done and I’m glad it’s over with,” Smrdel said. 

As the spoken exam is the most anticipated and nerve-wracking part of IB, completing it relieves students of the major stress.

“Students are amazed by what they’ve just done and the feeling afterward is almost euphoric,” IB English teacher Jennifer Caldwell said. 

The stressful internal oral aspect of IB classes can deter many students from going down the IB route, but the International Baccalaureate Organization is great for developing strong academic characteristics.