How are IB Exams Scored?

From college credit to sharper higher-order thinking skills, the benefits of earning an IB diploma are undeniable. The IB Diploma Programme culminates in various types of IB exams whose grading criteria can seem mystifying upon first review. To avoid surprises come test day, it’s key to be aware of how IB courses are evaluated.   

When understanding IB exam scoring, it’s important to explore the various types of assessments, scoring scales, and passing requirements. Keep reading to learn how individual IB exams are scored.

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External vs. internal IB assessments

IB assessments are classified as external or internal. External assessments include exams, and are touted for their objective nature. IB external assessments generally involve a combination of the following formats:

  • Case study questions

  • Data response questions

  • Essays

  • Multiple-choice questions (rare)

  • Short-response questions

  • Structured problems

  • Text-response questions.

Internal assessments, on the other hand, are evaluated and supervised by teachers. The student and the teacher work closely together throughout the year, and the teacher acts as a mentor while the student develops his or her unique project related to the IB course. Internal assessments may involve the following:

  • Artistic performances

  • Geographical fieldwork

  • Laboratory work

  • Mathematical research.

IB exam scoring scales

IB exams are graded on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest), with only seven percent of IB students earning a perfect score. Accounting for the six IB subject groups, and up to three additional points for Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and the Extended Essay (EE), the maximum score a student can achieve in the Diploma Programme is 45 total points. (Note, however, that you can often complete an IB course without enrolling in the Diploma Programme.)

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IB exam score requirements for earning a diploma

Students must accumulate a minimum of 24 total points to earn an IB diploma. Despite the program’s demanding nature, most IB students exceed the minimum score requirements. The average score in the IB Diploma Programme is 30 points, and the pass rate has remained close to 80 percent.    

Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the IB grade descriptors, an extensive overview that describes exactly what the test graders look for. Each score is accompanied by a detailed description to help students gauge their performance.  

In addition, to earn the IB diploma, students must also pass the “core,” which includes the EE, TOK, and an element called “Creativity, Action, Service.” Though “Creativity, Action, Service” does not contribute to the points total of the IB diploma, students are required to demonstrate “authenticated participation.”

The scoring of IB exams is not as complicated a process as it may seem. If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with the IB exam types and scoring guidelines to prepare for your IB exams.

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