NOVA and the IB Diploma Programme students are engaged in a component called the Core, in which students go beyond their regularly scheduled classes to engage in higher levels of thinking and action. 

As part of the Core, Diploma Programme students have Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and CAS (Creativity Activity Service). Each of the three components must successfully be completed in order for students to receive their IB Diploma. 

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is a 3-semester course where students engage in purposeful inquiry into the different ways of knowing and different kinds of knowledge. TOK aims to make students aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases – whether these biases are retained, revised or rejected. TOK also provides coherence for the student, by linking academic subject areas as well as transcending them.

Extended Essay

The Extended Essay is an individual research project undertaken by students over three semesters. By choosing a topic in a subject area they are particularly interested in, students complete a rigorous research project culminating in a 4,000-word essay under guidance of subject mentors.

Creativity Activity Service

CAS is an experiential learning program in which students design projects and engage in experiences related to Creativity, Activity or Service. As part of the CAS program, students are encouraged to set personal goals, develop planning skills and reflect on their out-of-class experiences and impact on the community.

NOVA program and IB course candidates also complete CAS.


The Foundation in Research Course (FIRC) provides an opportunity for students to pursue advanced research on a topic of their choice as a viable project for presentation, and, potentially, for publication and competition. With support from teacher mentors, students develop a research proposal and/or experimental design implemented to gather and evaluate data. The data is used to develop a quantitative or qualitative research paper for presentation to NOVA faculty (defense committee). Students are assessed on oral presentations, research proposals/literature reviews/annotated bibliography, mentor contacts, and written reports. FIRC needs to be completed by NOVA program students and IB course candidates.