CAS can be daunting for students who are just at the beginning of their IB Diploma Program journey. With new terms, timelines, and expectations to process — we understand why the introduction of CAS is not always met with 100% enthusiasm. That said, we believe that CAS does have the power to be one of the most rewarding, enriching, and enjoyable parts of the IB DP!
To help clear away some of the clutter so students can jump right in and get the most from their CAS adventure, we have developed this handy guide that breaks it all down.
Diving into the world of CAS for the first time or looking for a resource to help support your students? Then, this guide is for you!
The IB Core
In addition to the six subjects studied throughout the IB Diploma, IBDP students are required to complete three Core elements that aim to broaden students’ educational experience and give them the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills.
The three core elements are:
- Theory of Knowledge (TOK), which is designed to prompt students to reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we cultivate an understanding of what we know.
- The Extended Essay (EE), which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
- Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), in which students complete a series of experiences and one larger project related to those three concepts.
The three components of CAS are done alongside schoolwork and examinations over the 18-month duration of the course. CAS requires students to show initiative and skills aside from the ability to complete coursework, proving they are holistic students. CAS also provides a vital counterbalance to the academic pressures of the DP, allowing students to foster a sense of accomplishment through self-determination and collaborative work with their peers and community.
The Three Strands of CAS
CAS was designed to create more well-rounded students who have had the opportunity to cultivate interests and skills outside of 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.
The 7 Learning Outcomes
Incorporating all three strands, CAS also aims to achieve seven primary outcomes. In fulfilling the IB requirements, you need to have a broad range of CAS Experiences that have engaged in all of the following outcomes.
1. Strength & growth
Students are able to see themselves as individuals with various skills and abilities, some more developed than others, and understand that they can make choices about how they wish to move forward.
2. Challenge & skills
A new challenge may be an unfamiliar experience or an extension of an existing one. The newly acquired or developed skills may be shown through experiences that the student has not previously undertaken or through increased expertise in an established area.
3. Initiative & planning
Students articulate the stages from conceiving an idea to executing a plan for a CAS experience or series of CAS experiences. This may be accomplished in collaboration with other participants. Students may show their knowledge and awareness by building on a previous experience, or by launching a new idea or process.
4. Working collaboratively with others
Collaboration can be shown in many different activities, such as team sports, playing music in a band, or helping in a kindergarten. At least one project involving collaboration and integrating at least two of creativity, action, and service is required.
5. Showing perseverance and commitment
Students demonstrate regular involvement and active engagement in CAS activities, and accept a share of the responsibility for dealing with problems that arise in the course of activities.
6. Global engagement
Students are able to identify and demonstrate their understanding of global issues, make
responsible decisions, and take appropriate action in response to the issue either locally,
nationally, or internationally. (for example, environmental concerns, caring for the elderly).
7. Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions
Students show awareness of the consequences of choices and actions in planning and carrying out CAS experiences. Ethical decisions arise in almost any CAS activity (for example, on the sports field, in musical composition, in relationships with others involved in service activities).*
*Taken from the IBO CAS Guide
You can learn more about providing evidence of the 7 Learning Outcomes here.
Putting It All Together
Over the 18 months, students 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 required 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 ready in case your CAS project does not end up going the way you hoped. Accounting for mishaps and situations out of your control is something IB actively searches for when looking at CAS submissions.
Reflection: After the completion of 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 projects 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 project can be an individual concept or something worked on as a group, with other students, including up to a whole classroom. 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 when 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?
For each CAS experience, a corresponding reflection should be completed. The CAS Project requires several reflections documented at different stages of progress. Reflections include an overview of the actions taken, how the student felt throughout, and what was learned. And no, they don’t have to be written.
You can learn more about reflections here.
The CAS portfolio is a central repository for all experiences and projects, demonstrating that the student has completed a balanced CAS engagement. Students need to correlate all strands of CAS with all learning outcomes, but there can certainly be some crossover.
In addition to the description of the project and a reflection, students need to include evidence of their experience, such as a photo, the project itself, or a video. The final step is a supervision review.
The Three CAS Interviews
Over the course of the 18-month period, 3 CAS interviews will be held. Rather than a means of evaluation, their primary purpose is to allow students to reap the program’s rewards and serve as a means of checking in, so no one gets left behind. CAS interviews are approached differently by each supervision, but in general they unfold according to a loosely structured framework will help guide the process and ensure students are maximizing the opportunities and possibilities of CAS.
First CAS interview
The first CAS interview will take place once a student has completed a CAS orientation and is familiar with the elements of CAS. The purpose of this interview is to gauge the student’s understanding of CAS, discuss relevant interests, get the student prepared for their very first CAS experience, and review the learning outcomes of CAS—while outlining possible ways that they might be achieved.
Second CAS interview
The second interview is intended to assess whether or not the student’s engagement with CAS is on track and determine the student’s progress towards fulfilling CAS requirements and what evidence has been collected thus far. This interview should also act as an opportunity for the student to reflect verbally on CAS and to be reminded that CAS is meant to be enjoyable and beneficial to themselves and others with whom they are engaging.
Third CAS interview
The final and summative CAS interview should focus on achievements and the realization of the CAS learning outcomes. Students need to examine their thoughts and feelings about the overall program and reflect on the growth that they have experienced. Now is the time to dig into personal awareness and development, more robust understandings of the world, and how the CAS experience might impact future choices and actions.
Managing expectations: How is CAS Scored?
CAS submissions require analysis and supervision from an appointed supervisor. This supervisor is responsible for double-checking consistent CAS experiences, completed projects and to confirm engagement with each of the 7 Learning Outcomes. Usually, this supervisor is a teacher, but can be a non-staff member if volunteering outside of school.
Success in CAS will be determined according to whether or not the criteria of the five stages of CAS mentioned above were met. 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 a chance of getting the diploma but also goes a long way to arming students with the necessary experience for strong college applications.
Final Thoughts on CAS
CAS has been developed to allow students to foster their natural strengths and interests, and get hands-on experience practicing the skills they will need to excel in their personal and professional lives at university and beyond. The CAS framework serves to cultivate the flexibility and ingenuity that young people need to question their assumptions on an ongoing basis and to make responsive decisions guided by thoughtful reflection.
CAS also delivers one of the main opportunities to develop many of the attributes described in the IB Learner Profile and to 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.
If approached with a positive attitude and good time management skills however, CAS is a central part of what makes the IB DP such a unique, inspiring, and meaningful undertaking.