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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)
Varun Srinivasan
4 IB Guides

Ultimate Guide to the IB Business Management HL Exam

What’s Covered:


The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is a rigorous academic alternative to APs, but it is also more holistic because it places less emphasis on tests and grades and more on research papers and alternate study methods. Despite this, IBDP still administers tests to its students. This blog will simplify the examination process by concentrating on one of the most popular IB subjects, business management.


IB HL vs SL: What’s the Difference?


We must first understand the primary distinctions between the two IB class variations, higher level (SL) and standard level, in order to comprehend exam arrangements (SL). The main distinctions can be summed up as follows:


  • Academically, HL lessons are more challenging and rigorous than SL programs, and extra study time is advised each week.
  • As HL students are pushed to higher standards of academic performance, they are typically given a different grade because they are expected to respond to exam questions using more specialized language and vocabulary.


How Do IB Business Management HL Papers/Exams Work?


There are two different exams, paper 1 and paper 2, for the IB business management HL course. The papers should be formatted as follows:


  • Paper 1: 2 hour and 15 minutes long / 35% of total grade
  • Paper 2: 2 hour and 15 minutes long / 40% of total grade 


Paper 1


Paper 1 operates based on a case-study provided to the student at least 6 months prior to the examination day. This case is usually about a struggling business/company and essentially prompts the reader/student to discover ways in which the company can improve its operations and cash flow.


Given the advantage of being able to prepare for this exam by reading the case ahead of time, students should get very comfortable with the case prior to the exam and truly understand what it is asking of them.


The exam itself is divided into three sections, A, B and C. Section A usually consists of four structured questions that will require short essay-based responses. Section B is one question broken down into numerous smaller questions that build off of each other. The answers for these questions can range from written responses to filling-in-the-blanks.


Section C for HL exams will be about HL topics. This usually refers to the extra coursework that is required of HL students to study on top of the base coursework that SL students would review.


Paper 2


Similarly to paper 1, paper 2 is also split into the three sections: A, B and C. Section A focuses on unseen or new case studies and questions that are primarily based on finance topics and creating an income statement (profit and loss account), as well as a balance sheet, or cash flow forecast. Students are frequently asked to calculate ratios and remark on the results.


Section B comprises one larger question with numeros subsections, with the focus being on business operations, management and marketing. This would apply to focus on leadership styles for a business and ask students on how to best improve the operations of a company and increase its chances of success. 


Section C is specifically about globalization of businesses with a focus on business ethics, innovation and business strategies. Cases provided for this section are usually about failing business and require the student to take analytical approaches to determine revised business plans for their “clients.”


How are the IB Business Management HL Papers/Exams Scored?


All IB exams are graded using a mark scheme, or rubric, that specifies not only the right response to a question but also the optimal method to arrive at that response and the processes that must be demonstrated. Because mark schemes provide you with more accurate expectations of what graders want to see from students, it is advised to study with them in addition to prior papers when preparing for exams.


Along with releasing grade boundaries, the IB also publishes mark schemes to help students understand where their exam results lie in relation to their overall class grade. These are the grade boundaries in further detail:



Work completed via the school, such as homework and internal midterms, is generally referred to as the “internal assessment” or IA in the column. Your IA and Paper 1 and 2 scores are added together, and the result is divided by the total number of points available to give you a fraction. Based on the “final” column, multiplying this fraction by 100 will reveal your class grade (from 1 to 7, with 4 being a pass). To receive a final grade out of 45, you must repeat this process for all of your classes and sum all your results.


Final Tips


Given the intellectual rigor and intensity of IB exams, they are very challenging. However, with a couple of these pointers, perhaps the tests can become a little less overwhelming and stressful!


Read Cases Early


Try reviewing the case study you will be given ahead of time for paper 1 as soon as you can to get a jump start. Start early and utilize that time to become as familiar with the case studies and what you must comprehend for the test, given they are released roughly six months before the exam.


Review Business Terminology and Jargon


A lot of the mark schemes for business management exams will assign points based on the usage of certain words in student answers. These words are from coursework and the usage of such words show knowledge of jargon in the subject, so make sure to read those markschemes and really get a feel for what keywords to include in your responses to secure the most points. 


How Does the IB Business Management HL Exam Affect My College Chances?


In a nutshell, it doesn’t! When considering you for admission, colleges and institutions are less concerned with your individual exam results and more concerned with your persistence in taking challenging coursework. Admissions departments like seeing students with this level of dedication and academic rigor as demonstrated by IB!


Keeping track of your odds of getting into college can be challenging, but CollegeVine’s user-friendly admissions calculator makes it so much more simple. The program calculates your individual odds of admission into the institution of your choice using a variety of parameters, ranging from extracurricular activities to GPA.

Short Bio
Varun is a recent graduate from Arizona State University, Tempe, with a degree in Computer Science. He aims to share his knowledge of computer science, the IB Diploma Program, and all things college-related with high school students. In his free time, he can be found performing DJ sets or cooking!