What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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

Ultimate Guide to the IB Business Management SL Exam

What’s Covered:


While most students may think about Advanced Placement classes (APs) when it comes to a valuable high school curriculum, for those abroad and perhaps most of the world, they’d think of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). IBDP can be considered as a more academically rigorous alternative to APs, but additionally more holistic due to it being less focused on examinations and scores, and more about research papers and different approaches to studying.


That being said, IBDP does still implement examinations for its subjects. Exam formatting and details can vary for each subject’s exam, so this blog is going to make it easier by focusing on one of IB’s most popular subjects, business management.


IB HL vs SL: What’s the Difference?


In order to understand exam formats, we first need to know about the key differences between the two variations of classes offered in IB, higher level (SL) and standard level (SL)


The key differences can be summed into the following:


  • HL classes are more academically rigorous/demanding than SL classes, with more recommended hours per week for studying.
  • HL classes usually have lengthier exams and for certain subjects, an extra examination in the set of exams.
  • HL classes are usually scored differently as they expect students to use more specific jargon and vernacular in the answers for their exam questions, since they are held to a higher degree of academic expectations.


How Do IB Business Management SL Papers/Exams Work?


The exam for business management SL is divided into two separate examinations, paper 1 and paper 2. The formatting for the papers are as follows: 


  • Paper 1: 1 hour and 15 minutes long / 35% of total grade
  • Paper 2: 1 hour and 45 minutes long / 40% of total grade


Paper 1


Paper 1 is a case-study based part of the exam, which is a hypothetical situation involving a business/company. These case studies are released 6 months prior to the exam itself and require students to get familiar with them before the exam rolls around. This is to allow students to prepare for how to best approach certain business issues and use this time to prepare the best possible solutions.


The total number of available points for paper 1 is 50 marks, and the questions are usually response-based. The business provided in the case study will be riddled with performance issues and operational problems, and it is the responsibility of the student to take on the form of an “advisor” and create solutions and plans that best benefit the business. Such case studies can involve changing the leadership styles of the business, or providing methods in which they can better market their products or services. 


Since each case for the exams are different every year, it’s best to familiarize yourself with general business methods and techniques and learn how to best apply them for different situations.


Paper 2


Paper 2 uses unseen case studies, meaning the student can’t prepare for the specifics of the case beforehand like paper 1. These questions are going to require more essay-based responses to issues behind an imaginary company’s operations and shortcomings. The total number of marks available is 80 marks here, so the paper is definitely lengthy and a bit more time consuming.


Paper 2 requires a more analytical approach to the exam, as there are usually questions that will require you to read balance sheets and logs of a company to crunch statistics to find out where a business is falling short. You are also required to use provided information to create a business plan that allows a company to forecast their future success or failure in the form of cash flow.


Considering there’s no case study to specifically prepare for, your best bet for this exam is to be thoroughly comfortable with all the topics covered in class, and flexibly apply that knowledge in the different situations in paper 2. Perhaps creating a mental plan of breaking down the questions into manageable chunks would be a great place to start!


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


All IB exams are scored with a mark scheme, which is essentially a rubric that details not only what a correct answer for a question is, but the best way to arrive at that answer and the steps required to be shown. Therefore, when studying for exams using past papers, it’s also suggested to study with mark schemes as well as they provide you with more realistic expectations of what graders like to see from students. 


Along with mark schemes, IB releases grade boundaries to help determine where your exam scores fall, to help find out your overarching grade for the class within their grading system. The grade boundaries are as detailed below: 



The “internal assessment” or IA column essentially refers to work done via the school, such as homework and in-house midterms. Paper 1 and 2 scores are totalled along with your IA, and this number divided by the total number of available points provides you a fraction. Multiply this fraction by 100 to determine your grade in the class (from 1 to 7, 4 being a pass) based on the “final” column. This process is done with all your classes to get a total grade out of 45.


Final Tips


Exams are especially difficult when it comes to IB, given the academic rigor and intensity behind them. However, with a few of these tips maybe the exams become a bit more manageable and stress-free!


Read Cases Early

Given that you’re provided with a case study earlier for paper 1, try and get a head start by reading it as early as you can. These release about 6 months prior to the exam, so start early and use that time to get as comfortable as possible with the case study and what it requires you to understand for the examination. 


Practice Your Quick Maths


A lot of paper 2 questions involve the use of finances and cash flow calculations; therefore, it’s useful to be really proficient in mental math. This helps cut down on time used during calculations, which could instead be put toward the writing portion of the essay-based responses, or drafting a proper response to begin with. The best way to prepare for this is by practicing with past papers and familiarizing yourself to working under a time constraint and other realistic exam-like settings. 


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


In short, it doesn’t! While colleges and universities don’t care too much about your specific exam scores when they consider you for admissions, they do care about you showing determination through sticking with harder classes. This level of academic rigor and commitment as seen in IB is something admissions officers love to see!


It can be difficult to keep track of what your college admissions chances look like, but CollegeVine’s intuitive admissions calculator tool makes this so much easier. The tool uses numerous factors ranging from GPA to extracurriculars to calculate your unique chances of admission into a school of your choosing.

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!