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Varun Srinivasan
4 IB Guides

What is the IB Grading Scale?

What’s Covered:

 

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB/IBDP) is an internationally based educational program that offers courses in numerous studies, ranging from mathematics to humanities, aiming to create a wholistic learning experience. Students embark on a two-year educational journey that spans external examinations, internal assessments, research papers and community service hours, making IB an all-in-one package – especially with IB’s core, which is CAS, TOK, and the extended essay (EE). Acquainting yourself with the basics of IB as a program could be useful to better understanding how it is graded.

 

What is the IB Grading Scale?

 

IB has a grading scale to assess their students, with a total score of 45. To obtain the diploma, a student must earn a minimum of 24 points as well as pass the minimum requirements for the core of the program. Students take six subjects in IB, with each class worth seven points of the total grade. So, the total points you can earn from your classes is 42, with the leftover three points coming from the core mentioned earlier.

 

IB grades students based on a combination of school-based internal submissions such as research papers (IA) and numerous external examinations, with the number of exams per subject differing depending on whether or not the student opted for an HL or SL version of the class. If you don’t submit your IA, you’ll instantly become ineligible to receive the diploma, but receiving a failing score on your IA doesn’t completely ruin your shot at the diploma.

 

Each subject is graded on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the highest grade possible. Each examination is made up of at least two papers per subject, but usually contains more. For the sake of a better explanation, let’s talk about exams using IB Biology as an example. The IB Biology (SL) exam is broken down into the following parts:

 

  • Paper 1 – Multiple Choice Questions
  • Paper 2 – Short Response and Extended Response Questions 
  • Paper 3 – Section A contains data-analysis questions; Section B contains questions regarding one of the extended options topics students must choose from. 
  • Practical Work (IA) – This usually refers to internal assessments, like experiments carried out in school, with the results sent to IB in the form of a research paper for grading.

 

Each paper has a different percentage of weighting, but note these values can and usually will change every year. For IB Biology, the breakdown looks like this:

 

  • Paper 1 – 20%
  • Paper 2 – 40%
  • Paper 3 – 20%
  • Practical Work (IA) – 20%

 

Calculating your final grade after these exams would use a formula like this:

 

Final Grade = (Paper 1 Score) * 20% + (Paper 2 Score) * 40% + (Paper 3 Score) * 20%

+ (Practical Work Score) * 20%

 

Next, take the percentage scored and use an IB grade boundary set to see where it falls on a scale of 1 to 7. These boundaries are usually shared with your school from IB themselves for each examination season. This process is repeated for every subject IB has to offer, but the number of paper and their weighting differs, but you can expect nearly all science subjects to be similar or the same as the biology example. 

 

Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, and CAS

 

Scoring that perfect 45 is definitely a challenge: IB reports that less than 1% of candidates actually get a full score. But, understanding how IB works as a curriculum and its purpose can help you get as close as possible, and it starts with understanding the core of IB. 

 

As mentioned earlier, Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) and the extended essay (EE) all play a major role in passing and earning the diploma. It is essential to earn the minimum required points from the core to get the diploma, as having a great score but failing to earn the three core points will fail you entirely. 

 

The scoring table for the core looks like this (note that CAS is recorded internally):

 

 

Theory of Knowledge

Extended Essay

 

Excellent (A)

Good (B)

Satisfactory (C)

Mediocre 

(D)

Elementary (E)

Not Submitted

Excellent (A)

3

3

2

2

1 + Failing Condition

N

Good (B)

3

2

1

1

Failing Condition

N

Satisfactory (C)

2

1

1

0

Failing Condition

N

Mediocre (D)

2

1

0

0

Failing Condition

N

Elementary (E)

1 + Failing Condition

Failing Condition

Failing Condition

Failing Condition

Failing Condition

N

Not Submitted

N

N

N

N

N

N

 

Doing well on your core to earn the extra three points means understanding TOK and the extended essay. CAS usually is organized by your school via school excursions and activities. Theory of knowledge can be a little tricky to new IB students, but learning to enjoy the class and find application of its contents in life is a game-changer. 

 

As for the extended essay, you’ll need to learn how to choose the subject, find a supervisor and outline your essay. These can be difficult tasks, but they become much more easily manageable if you start early enough in your two-year study. Starting early gives you more time to improve each draft, but also frees up time for other work, like exams and internal assessments. 

 

The core is what sets apart IB students from the rest of the world, making them attractive applicants for colleges and universities, as it shows capability of a wholistic academic lifestyle, as opposed to just cramming for exams and typical learning. 

 

How to Get A Perfect 45

 

While it’s important to remember only a small fraction of IB students achieve a 45, aiming for it will lead in getting a high score regardless. Success lies in passing and excelling in the core, but also properly practicing for examinations. IB has a vast amount of past examinations, which make excellent resources to prepare and study for the format of the exam and its contents (as past content can be repeated). 

 

Aside from practicing past papers, subject selection is also just as important. Choosing your higher-level (HL) and standard-level (SL) classes so that you enjoy them is important; only taking rigorous classes and overloading on the hardest HL subjects isn’t recommended. That isn’t to say don’t take difficult HL classes (such as Mathematics HL), but instead split your workload evenly and find classes that you can genuinely find interest studying in! This will make exam prep, IAs, and even the extended essay all enjoyable processes, hence making getting a high score easier!

 

While your score doesn’t affect college admissions chances, showing proof of course rigor and hard work in IB is more important in your college applications. For more information on what your college chances might look like, check out CollegeVine’s Admissions Calculator, which considers your courses, GPA, and test scores to calculate your unique chances at top schools!

 


Short Bio
Varun is a junior at Arizona State University, Tempe. He aims to share his knowledge of college admissions and the IB Diploma Program with high school students. In his free time, he can be found making music or trying a new recipe!