How the IB Assesses
IB courses culminate in comprehensive examinations but how those examinations are structured and assessed differs from other programs, which by extension drives what’s done in the classroom. IB examinations are designed to assess students in multiple ways, resulting in a broader profile of student talent and ability.
IB exams are scored on a scale of 1-7. IB considers 4 a passing score.
There are two aspects of an IB examination: the comprehensive, standardized examination in each subject in May, and the Internal Assessment (IA) completed during the course. These two aspects are combined to arrive at the student’s exam score for that subject.
IB examinations are given over two days rather than a one day, four hour time period (with the exception of Foreign Language which is given on one day).
IB exams are broken up into sections called “Papers.” Each exam has two or three Papers. For instance, IB History has three papers. Paper One and Paper Two are given on day one. Paper Three is given on day two. This allows the student to focus on specific aspects of which they are being assessed, rather than being responsible for the whole in a single sitting.
Students have a degree of choice on what they answer on the examinations. For example, the History exam, Paper Three, has 36 essay questions. The student will choose three essay prompts of the 36 offered. In English, Paper One, a student chooses to write a commentary on either a poem or an excerpt of prose. In the sciences, Paper Three, a student chooses two topics out of seven offered to answer. This allows a student to offer answers of great depth rather than answering to a broad swath of questions. Also, by being afforded a choice in what they choose to answer, students are able to show what they know rather than being penalized for what they don’t.
With the exception of Paper One in the sciences, there are no multiple choice questions in IB examinations. This allows a student to articulate their knowledge through the written word rather than having to choose from a range of pre-determined answer selections.
May examinations constitute roughly 70% to 80% of the overall exam score (percentage weight differs by course).
Internal Assessments (IA) are associated with each IB examination. IAs constitutes 20% - 30% of the overall exam grade.
IAs differs from course to course. For instance, in IB History, the IA is a historical investigation research paper. In IB English Literature, there are two: an untimed written paper, and an oral commentary. In the IB Sciences, it is a science investigation and write-up (lab).
Combining IAs with May examinations allows a student to be assessed in both timed and untimed scenarios, in skill areas that cannot be accounted for with traditional standardized exams, such as research skills, lab design, etc. This results in offering a more complete picture of a student’s ability.