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Are you at the beginning of your CAS journey and feeling a little apprehensive about the road ahead? With new terms, timelines, and expectations to process — we understand that CAS can be a bit overwhelming initially. Nevertheless, we know from experience that when students approach CAS with the right mindset and tools, it can be life-changing.

To help onboard you with all things CAS, we have put together this easy-to-navigate student’s guide to CAS. From requirements and evaluation to best practices and insider tips, read on to start your CAS adventure on the right foot!

How CAS fits into the The IB Core 

In addition to the six subjects you study throughout the IB Diploma, you must complete three Core elements that aim to broaden your educational experience and get a chance to apply your knowledge and skills.

The three core elements are:

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is designed to prompt you to reflect on the nature of knowledge and how you are able to cultivate an understanding of what you know.
  • The Extended Essay (EE) is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) is where you complete a series of experiences and one larger project related to the concepts of C, A and S.

CAS should be done alongside your schoolwork and examinations over an 18-month duration. CAS can be a lot of fun, but it does require you to show initiative and skills aside from the ability to complete coursework. Think of CAS as a counterbalance to the academic pressures of the DP. This is your chance to engage in self-determination and collaborative work with your classmates and your community.

A student's guide to CAS 2

The Three Strands of CAS 

CAS was designed to create more well-rounded young adults who have had the opportunity to cultivate interests and skills outside their studies. For the purposes of the IB, these interests and skills fall into three categories: 

Creativity- arts and other experiences that involve creative thinking. 

Examples include designing a website, learning an instrument, or creating artwork for a school campaign. 

Activity- physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle, complementing academic work elsewhere in the DP. 

Examples include completing a pushup challenge, improving performance in a sport by committing to a goal, or additional coaching.

Service- an unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student. Examples include community-based experiences and projects, helping those around you through volunteering, fundraising, or environmental awareness.

We have also put together this inspiration list of CAS Experiences that could prove useful.

CAS is your chance to explore the 7 Learning Outcomes

To fulfill the IB requirements, you need to have a broad range of CAS Experiences for which you can provide evidence for each of the 7 Learning Outcomes. You need to touch on each outcome at least once. Read more about the 7 Learning Outcomes here

The 5 Stages of CAS can help you put it all together

Over the 18 months, you must demonstrate ongoing CAS engagement through a series of CAS Experiences and one CAS project. All requirements should be fulfilled according to the 5 Stages of CAS

Investigation: Identifying interests early on in the course, your skills and talents, and how they can be used for CAS. Investigation also includes how you scout your area for volunteering opportunities. 

Preparation: Creating a plan based on investigations, searching for required resources and opportunities to act on your project plan, and gaining any knowledge and skills needed to move on. 

Action: At this point, a plan should be ready and acted upon. This step demonstrates decision-making and critical thinking, such as having backup plans prepared in case your CAS project ends up going differently than you hoped. Accounting for mishaps and situations out of your control is something IB actively searches for when looking at CAS submissions. 

Reflection: After completing the projects, you will reflect upon your work, what you could have done better, how you could have improved the overall CAS experience, and how fulfilled you felt from your project.

Demonstration: Recording logs and documents are submitted to a CAS portfolio, which can be something as simple as a folder with all the proof of work obtained throughout your CAS experience. This portfolio should contain your reflections and notes from your supervisor. 

Continuous CAS involvement and 1 CAS Project

CAS Experiences are short engagements that cover one or more of the CAS strands and achieve at least one or two learning outcomes. CAS Experiences should last for about an hour and require one reflection.

The CAS Project, meanwhile, needs to be at least a month long, involve collaboration, and have several reflections. This CAS Project can be an individual concept or something you work on with other students. Usually, most students pull inspiration and ideas from one or more of the three components and work on projects that might constitute all three. 

Questions to answer while you are completing CAS Experience and Project descriptions: 

– What am I going to do?

– When and where will this experience take place?

– What is my role?

– Who am I working with?

– What outcomes and learning objectives are being met?

– What personal background do I bring to this project or experience that makes it authentic and meaningful?

A student's guide to CAS 1

Soaking up the best of CAS: Reflections

For each CAS Experience, you will also reflect on your experience and its impact on your and your community. The CAS Project requires several reflections at different stages of progress. Reflections should include an overview of the actions taken, how they made you feel, and what you learned. And no, they do not have to be written.

You can learn more about reflections here

Building your CAS portfolio

The CAS portfolio is where you bring together all your experiences and projects so that you can show you have achieved balanced CAS engagement. This is where you highlight connections between the 7 Learning Outcomes and complete project descriptions and reflections. Remember that you also need to include evidence of the experience, such as a photo, the project itself, or a video. The final step is a supervision review. Your school might have ready-made software for creating your CAS portfolio, or some students prefer to make a CAS website

Managing expectations: How is CAS Scored?

Success in CAS will be determined by your supervision and according to whether or not you were able to demonstrate engagement with each of those 7 Learning Outcomes. While CAS is not given a numerical grade like anything else in IB, passing CAS is required to earn the Diploma. 

Scoring well in IB does not necessarily require an exceptional performance in CAS, but performing well in CAS not only ensures your chance of getting the Diploma but also goes a long way to arming you with the necessary experience for strong college applications. 

Ready to dive into CAS?

We hope this breakdown has helped make CAS more approachable and has gotten you excited about all that awaits you on this journey. Remember, CAS has been developed to provide maximum opportunity for discovering new passions and cultivating applicable skills. CAS also gives you an important opportunity to build the attributes described in the IB Learner Profile and experience their benefits first-hand. 
One of the most important ways to get the most out of the experience is to plan ahead and get started as early as possible! Executing a successful CAS Project and graduating with a balanced CAS portfolio takes time and, if left to the last minute, could get in the way of exams and other final-year requirements. So, apply your time management skills wisely, and aim to get the most out of this exciting element of the IB DP!