Eighth graders apply to the IB program


Graphic by Kisha Yan

Applicants receive their decisions in the month of February.

Victoria Koretsky, Features Writer

Every fall, eighth-graders flood Main Street for Richard Montgomery International Baccalaureate (IB)’s annual open house, interested to learn more about the magnet program. From transportation to clubs, parents and students alike are eager to learn more about the popular program. To apply for the IB program, eighth-graders must fill out application questions, complete a resume, request teacher recommendations and take a long standardized test. To be accepted into IB, these applications go through a lengthy process that spans from winter to spring.

This year, students could submit their applications to an online program run by the MCPS Division of Consortia Choice and Application Program Services (DCCAPS) from late September to November 1. Applications asked for basic information, like a student’s name, current middle school and home high school. They also had space for two hobbies, two extracurricular activities and two recent awards. “For the most part the answers were simple and the questions weren’t hard to fill out,” an anonymous eighth grader said.

Then, in early December, students took the CogAT test, which tests a student’s reasoning and adaptive learning abilities. Although it is often compared to an IQ test, the CogAT tests a student’s adaptive learning skills, or how they react to unfamiliar questions, rather than their intelligence. 

Previously, the county used a test designed to test a student’s ability, which covered topics learned in school, like algebra and English grammar. In contrast, the CogAT tests skills like recognizing patterns, analogies and paper folding with three major multiple-choice sections: verbal, quantitative and non-verbal. Many applicants struggled with the non-verbal section, since they could not prepare or study for it ahead of time. IB freshman Shairee Arora said, “Personally, the hardest part for me was the raven and non-verbal. It was the part I got the most stuck on.” Both the old and current test formats include an essay portion at the end of testing. The county switched to the CogAT test in an effort to determine a student’s potential instead of their achievements, which could be affected by factors like their quality of primary education or their home life. This is the second year the CogAT test has been used for IB testing.

After students took the test, the IB program began to sort through their applications. “A selection committee made up of RM teachers and MCPS specialists reviews all applicants,” Magnet Coordinator Joseph Jelen said. This committee looks through students’ applications, test scores, test essay, teacher recommendations and seventh- and eighth-grade report cards. 

To review an application, the committee looks at all the various parts before deciding to further consider the student or not. Two committee members review each application, but when they disagree on one, the entire committee discusses it as a group before coming to a consensus. They do not know the name, student ID, race or middle school of the applicant. While they consider several things in a student’s application, nothing makes or breaks the committee’s decision. “There is no single data point that puts a student in or out,” Mr. Jelen said.

The committee goes through several rounds of review before accepting about 200 students. Since some accepted students opt to attend other high schools, about 125 eighth-graders actually come to RM’s IB program each year. This year, RM received over 1,000 applications, typical of years past. Mr. Jelen said, “Last year we had 1078.  In 2018 we had 1066.” Letters of acceptance will be mailed on February 1 for the IB class of 2024, and responses are due in the spring.