ib diploma assessment and grading criteria with hyc ap and ib tutoring service

Diploma Program grading guidelines

The IB Diploma program spans 2 years, in which all students study a total of 6 subjects, 3 of which are at Higher Level (HL), 3 of which are at Standard Level (SL). With consultation from your teachers and IB coordinator, you have a great deal of say in terms of which subjects you take at which level based on your prior academic record and skills. However, some schools allow students to take a maximum of 4 higher-level subjects. All IB subjects are graded on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being the lowest and 7 being the highest. Thus, the maximum mark that the student can earn (before the bonus points described below are awarded) is 42. To be awarded a diploma, a student must receive a minimum of 24 points, with at least 9 points from standard-level courses and 12 points from higher-level courses.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), Theory of Knowledge (ToK), and The Extended Essay (EE)

These three components constitute the DP Core; earning the diploma depends on completing and passing all three of these components. You can also earn 1, 2, or 3 bonus points based on your ToK and EE grades; these points are added to the aggregate marks you earn from your six subjects. Therefore, the top mark in the DP program is 45 with 42 points from the 6 subjects and a maximum of 3 bonus points from TOK and the EE. IB uses a ‘points matrix’ for determining how these bonus points are calculated—click here to find the points matrix from 2015 onwards.

The Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay grades each range from A-E, with A meaning “Excellent”, B meaning “Good”, C meaning “Satisfactory”, D meaning “Mediocre”, and E meaning “Elementary”. Any student awarded a grade of “E” in either ToK or the EE is a ‘failing condition’, meaning the student will not receive the diploma no matter how well the subject grades are. So…it’s important to take the DP Core seriously if you want to earn a diploma for your two years of hard work.

Predicted Grades in IB Diploma Programme

Normally, teachers will generate a predicted grade to the IB for each student. A predicted grade is a teacher’s estimation of the grade a student is most likely to achieve in a subject based on their internal assessments (IAs) and external assessments (including the May exams). Teachers will use practice/mock exams to gauge how each student will perform on the official exams.

The predicted grade is critical because it is the grade that university admission officers will see and use to determine a student’s acceptance or conditional acceptance. Here is how conditional acceptances typically work: each university will set its own conditions based on a student’s predicted grades (for example, if a student’s predicted grade for English A Literature (HL) was 7, the Princeton University may require the student to achieve at least a 6 or else revoke their conditional offer). High schools typically generate predicted grades in late January to early February. However, because of the significant impact the May exams have on the final subject grades in Groups 1-5, students should still study and review the course content even after knowing their predicted grades.

Grade Descriptors

Grade descriptors are written by senior examiners, and they are usually how examiners and teachers determine a student’s grade or predicted grade. The descriptors for each subject group (broad categories under which each subject is separated under) vary, and they are summarized below.

Group 1 (Studies in Language and Literature)

Includes the following subjects: Language A: Literature, Language A: Language and Literature, and Literature and Performance (SL only)

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Excellent understanding and appreciation of the relationship between form and content in response to the essay question or task
  • Responses that are detailed, convincing, and unique in analysis and evaluation
  • Developed and articulated expressions (both written and oral)
  • A great degree of accuracy and clarity
  • Awareness of context and effects on the audience/readers
  • Effective evidence to support the argument
  • Critical engagement with thoughts, feelings, ideas expressed in the work(s)

Group 2 (Language Acquisition)

*Includes the following subjects: Language ab initio, Language B, and Classical Languages

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Fluency and clarity when speaking
  • Varied and idiomatic usage of language
  • Skillful expression of complex ideas
  • Thorough understanding of the meaning and purpose of written texts
  • Excellent command of vocabulary and high level of grammatical accuracy
  • Clarity of thought in the organization of work
  • Write detailed and expressive texts

Group 3 (Individuals and Societies)

*Includes the following subjects: Business Management, Economics, Geography, History, Philosophy, Psychology, World Religions, etc.

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Awareness, insight, and knowledge which are evident in critical thinking
  • Ability to provide answers that are fully developed and structured in a logical and coherent manner
  • Precise use of terminology specific to the subject
  • Familiarity with the literature of the subject
  • Ability to evaluate evidence, synthesize knowledge and concepts
  • Awareness of alternative points of view and potential biases
  • Proficiency in analyzing and evaluating data

Group 4 (Sciences)

*Includes the following subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Design and Technology,Computer Science, Sports, exercise and health science, Environmental systems and societies (ESS) (SL Only)

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Comprehensive subject knowledge
  • Selection and application of relevant information, concepts, and principles
  • Effective analysis of quantitative and qualitative data
  • Construction of detailed explanations of complex phenomena and can make predictions
  • Proficiency in problem-solving
  • Awareness of environmental impact and safety where applicable (usually in labs/design of internal assessment procedures)
  • Ability to design innovative labs and use analytical techniques to reach an effective conclusion

Group 5 (Mathematics)

*Includes all math subjects: Math AA SL, Math AI SL, Math AA HL and Math AI HL

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Comprehensive understanding of content and syllabus
  • Advanced problem-solving skills in challenging questions
  • Recognition of patterns and structures
  • Ability to make generalizations and justify conclusions
  • Understand and explain the significance and validity of results
  • Communicates mathematics in a clear, effective, concise manner
  • Uses correct techniques, notation, and terminology
  • Effective use of technology where applicable (referring to the use of a calculator on exams)

Group 6 (Arts)

*Includes the following subjects: Dance, Music, Film, Theatre, Visual Arts

A student who receives a Grade 7 demonstrates:

  • Highly effective research and inquiry
  • Effective use of subject-specific terminology
  • Creativity in work
  • Processes demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of artistic ideas and innovation
  • Practical/performance work demonstrates effective skills, techniques, and competencies
  • Critical reflection on both works created or those in progress

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Extended Essay

To read our complete guide of Extended Essay please refer to this page. A student who receives a Grade A demonstrates:

  • Effective research skills resulting in a well-focused and appropriate research question
  • Effective engagement with research, methods, and sources
  • Understanding of topic in a wider context of the relevant discipline
  • Effective application of source material
  • A wide-ranging and diverse bibliography
  • Correct use of subject-specific terminology and concepts
  • Accurate and precise use of citation techniques for all primary and secondary sources
  • Reasonable conclusions and sustained arguments justified by evidence
  • Excellent presentation of essay (coherent and clear with titles and subtitles where appropriate)
  • Engagement with the research and writing process is independent
  • Key decision-makings during research and writing are documented
  • Thorough and reflective completion of the RPPF

Theory of Knowledge

*Includes the Exhibition and Essay. To read our complete guide for TOK please refer to this page.
A student who receives a Grade A demonstrates:

  1. An Exhibition document that “successfully shows how TOK manifests in the world around us.” The document “clearly identifies three objects and their specific real-world contexts. Links between each of the three objects and the selected IA prompt are clearly made and well-explained. There is a strong justification of the particular contribution that each individual object makes to the exhibition. All, or nearly all, of the points are well-supported by appropriate evidence and explicit references to the selected IA prompt” (TOK 2020 Subject Guide, p47). The qualities associated with a top-ranking Exhibition document are: convincing, lucid, and precise.
  2. A TOK Essay that provides “a clear, coherent, and critical exploration of the essay title”. The Essay offers “a sustained focus on the title and is linked effectively to areas of knowledge. Arguments are clear, coherent, and effectively supported by specific examples. The implications of arguments are considered. There is clear awareness and evaluation of different points of view” (TOK 2020 Subject Guide, p48). The qualities associated with a top-ranking Exhibition document are: insightful, convincing, accomplished, and lucid. The PPF offers a thorough and reflective account of each stage of the Essay’s completion with written feedback from the teacher.

Grade procedures

IBDP uses both external and internal assessments to determine a student’s mark. Internal assessments (IAs) are those that are marked by teachers but are moderated by examiners appointed by IBO. In normal years (2021 being an exception since everyone’s Internal Assessments were externally assessed by IBO), IBO will request and externally moderate samples of the internal assessments that are marked by teachers. This is to ensure that the students’ grades are not too high or too low: if a moderator determines that the IA marks are too lenient or too stringent, the moderator will apply an adjusting standard on every students’ assessment in the class. This explains why many IB World Schools practice grade “deflation” to ensure that the school’s reputation will not be damaged when students’ papers are moderated. External assessments are those components that are marked exclusively by examiners appointed by IB (Final exams, TOK and EE).

Grade boundaries

Every year, assessment grade boundaries corresponding to the 1-7 scale are determined and scaled every year by the IB, usually based on examiners’ judgment, statistical evidence (how candidates performed on average), and grade descriptors. For example, if examiners determine that the May exams in a given subject were relatively more difficult this year compared to past years, and candidates performed poorly on average, then a loss of 50 marks, instead of 30 marks, may still result in an overall grade 6 for the subject depending on how students performed on the other external and internal assessments.

Here is an example of Chemistry HL Paper 1 grade boundaries for May 2018 (Time zones 1 and 2) and May 2019 (Time zones 1 and 2). As you can see, in 2018 a score of 34-40 would have led to a 7 in Time zones 1 and 2, whereas in 2019 a score of 37-40 would have led to a 7 on that paper in Time zone 1, and 36-39* would have achieved the same result in Time zone 2.

*The score of 39 is most likely a typo and should be 40 marks.


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