IB Exam Information


Q: What is the difference between IB and AP?

A: There are two large differences between the two programs and the preparation for the exams.

For IB:
Students MUST be enrolled in the course for two complete years (in most cases) at an authorized IB World School for junior and senior year. The two-year period allows for depth and breadth of understanding of the content.
Assessments in the IB courses, both internal and external, challenge students to analyze and evaluate issues in unfamiliar contexts, therefore requiring higher level thinking skills. Except for one multiple-choice assessment in science, all IB exams are written.
For AP:
Students are NOT required to take an AP course in order to take an AP exam
AP assessments are multiple choice in general with minimal written work

Q; What is the IB Diploma?

A: The IB diploma is earned when students pass exams in six different subject areas and successful complete the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge course and Creativity, Action and Service requirements. The subject areas are listed with the IA offerings below.

Group 1: Language and Literature

  • English: Literature (HL or SL)

Group 2: Language Acquisition

  • French B (HL, SL, or ab initio SL)
  • German B (Okma campus only) (HL, SL, or ab initio SL)
  • Spanish B (HL, SL, or ab initio SL)

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

  • History Route 2: Europe and the Middle East with emphasis on Arab/Israeli Conflict (HL or SL)
  • Economics (HL or SL)
  • Environmental Systems and Societies (SL only)

Group 4: Sciences

  • Biology (HL or SL)
  • Chemistry (HL or SL)
  • Physics (HL or SL)
  • Environmental Systems and Societies (SL only)

Group 5: Mathematics

  • Mathematics Studies (SL)
  • Mathematics SL
  • Mathematics HL: Calculus
  • further Mathematics (HL)

Group 6: The Arts

  • Visual Arts (HL or SL)
  • Music (HL or SL)

Options to Group 6 (for those students not in the courses above):

  • Another Group 2 course (not the same language)
  • Economics
  • Another Group 6 course

Q: What does HL and SL mean?

A: HL indicates “higher level” and SL indicates “standard level” for the exams. All courses, with the exception of Math, Environmental Systems and Societies and ab initio language, are taught at the HL level. HL indicates at least 240 hours of study and SL indicates at least 150 hours of study. Students decide at the end of junior year (and confirm at the beginning of senior year) the level for each exam. In general, HL exams are more rigorous than SL exams. The content is the same in most cases, however the expectation of a student’s ability to apply knowledge is on a higher level.

IB requires students to take three exams at the HL level and three at the SL level to be considered for an IB diploma. Students may opt to take four HL exams with the approval of administration.

Q: What are the points needed for the IB Diploma?

A: How to interpret IB grades and transcripts from www.ibo.org A student's examination performance in individual subjects is scored on a scale of 1–7 points with a further 3 points available based on a matrix of performance in the theory of knowledge (TOK) and the extended essay components. Students who display satisfactory levels of performance across all subject areas and achieve a minimum of 24 points (out of a possible 45) are awarded the IB diploma. All others receive a certificate of results for the subjects examined. Subjects are marked according to the following scale.

7 Excellent
6 Very good
5 Good
4 Satisfactory
3 Mediocre
2 Poor
1 Very poor
N No grade

The TOK course and the extended essay are graded according to the following scale.
A Excellent
B Good
C Satisfactory
D Mediocre
E Elementary
N No grade


When are the IB assessments?

A: Once student enters junior year, IB assessments will happen over the two-year period. Internal assessments begin in January of junior year and conclude in February of senior year. The external assessment (the IB exams) take place in May of senior year.

What is an internal IB assessment?

A: Each subject area has internal assessments. These are assessments that are required by the IB and administered and assessed by the IA teachers.

An example is the History internal assessment. Juniors will complete a historical investigation for the History internal assessment. Below is the statement about this internal assessment: Internal assessment is an integral part of the course and is compulsory for both SL and HL students. It enables students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge, and to pursue their personal interests, without the time limitations and other constraints that are associated with written examinations. The internal assessment should, as far as possible, be woven into normal classroom teaching and not be a separate activity conducted after a course has been taught. The internal assessment requirements at SL and at HL are the same. - Diploma Programme History Subject Guide, 2010

For History, the internal assessment is due in May of junior year. Teachers will mark these assessments according to the IB criteria. These scores are then reported to IB in March of senior year. At that time, IB will randomly select 10 students (three high, four middle and three low) to serve as the moderated samples. The written work for the selected students and the marks by the teachers are sent to a moderator. The moderator checks to see how closely the TEACHERS are marking according to the standard, not remarking the students work. Depending upon the degree of “hard” grading or “easy” grading, the teachers’ internal assessment marks may be moderated up or down. The results of this sample are then applied to all students in that subject area.

With the importance on the internal assessment, the IA teachers moderate all internal assessments together. Each department does grading for internal assessment collectively. More than one teacher may view a student’s paper to assure accuracy in marking.

Q: When are the internal assessments?

A: As each subject area has internal assessments, the IA faculty coordinates an assessment calendar to avoid overlapping of internal assessments. Dates of internal assessments may vary depending upon space availability or other factors. A general calendar of assessments is listed below.

Group 1: Literature

  • Individual Oral Presentation – Fall of junior year (student choice of poetry or novels)
  • Individual Oral Commentary - generally late November/early December of senior year
  • Written assignment (external assessment) - completed in class during May of junior year

Group 2: Language Acquisition

  • Individual Oral Activity - Fall of senior year (student choice)
  • Individual Oral - based on a visual prompt and generally February of senior year
  • Written assignment (external assessment) - second semester of senior year

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

  • Historical investigation (internal assessment) - second semester of junior year
  • Economics: Students produce a portfolio of three commentaries, based on different sections of the syllabus and on published extracts from the news media over the two year course of study

Group 4: Sciences

  • Group IV Project (an interdisciplinary project) - September of senior year
  • Practical Scheme of Work (PSOW) consists of a mixture of short- and long-term investigations such as practicals and subject-specific projects over the course of the two years

Group 5: Mathematics

  • Math Studies - Statistics Investigation - first semester senior year
  • Math SL - Exploration - begins spring of junior year and ends fall of senior year
  • Math HL - Exploration - January of junior year and ends spring of junior year

Group 6: The Arts

  • Visual Arts - developmental workbook and pieces are created throughout the two years
  • Music - Musical Investigation is completed during senior year

Q: What are the IB exams like?

A: There are rigorous requirements for the IB exams including the administration of the tests. The calendar of when an assessment may be administered is dictated by the IB and applies to all IB schools around the world.

Depending upon the subject a student takes, they may sit for upwards of 18 papers (or exams) over the three week testing period. All morning exams begin at 8:00 AM and afternoon exams begin at 2:00 PM. The length of the exam varies from 45 minutes for some SL exams to 3 hours for some HL exams. Please refer to the IB Exam Schedule for more information about times.

To help alleviate some confusion and stress about the IB exams, a simulated History Paper 1 and Paper 2 exam will be administered to all students in late March. The students will experience the full “formal” exam setting including working with the coversheet, exam booklets and invigilator instructions in the actual exam space.

Q: What are the exam questions like? What is the difference between an SL and HL exam?

A: The HL and SL exams are different based upon the subject area. For example, the Chemistry, Physics and Economics HL Paper 3 have more math application than the SL exam for these subjects. For History, Paper 1 and Paper 2 ask the same questions but the weight of the grade is different for HL and SL.

Below is a sample of a History HL Paper 3 exam. Please note that the exam is History of the Americas NOT the subject taught at the IA. This is provided to help parents understand the rigorous questions asked of the students.

INSTRUCTIONS to candidates

Do not open this examination paper until instructed to do so.
Answer three questions. Each question is worth [20 marks].
The maximum mark for this examination paper is [60 marks].
2 hours 30 minutes
Independence movements
1. To what extent was hostility between Spain and Britain the main cause for at least one war of independence in the Americas?
2. Compare and contrast the contribution of two of the following leaders to the process of independence in the Americas: Adams; Jefferson; San Martín; Bolivar.

Nation-building and challenges
3. How important was the Durham Report (1839) in the struggle by Canadians to achieve responsible government? 
4. Analyze the effects of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) on any two countries of the region.

United States Civil War: causes, course and effects 1840-1877
5. In what ways, and to what extent, did the events of the 1850s contribute to the increase of sectionalism and the outbreak of the United States Civil War?
6. Why, and with what results, was there political opposition to the plans for Reconstruction in the United States between 1863 and 1867?

The development of modern nations 1865-1929
7. Examine the impact of immigration on one country of the region from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century.
8. With reference to at least one country of the region, to what extent were the aims of Progressivism achieved by 1929?

Emergence of the Americas in global affairs 1880-1929
9."The United States" policies of the Big Stick and Moral Diplomacy in Latin America had different motives but similar consequences." To what extent do you agree with his statement?
10. Evaluate the arguments that took place in the United States over ratification of the Versailles Treaty following the First World War.

The Mexican Revolution 1910-1940
11. "The Mexican Constitution of 1917 was more radical in theory than in practice." To what extent do you agree with this statement?
12. Examine the impact of the Mexican Revolution on two of the following: the arts; education; music.

The Great Depression and the Americas 1929-1945
13. With reference to at least one country in the region, to what extent was the Wall Street Crash of 1929 a cause of the Great Depression?
14. How successfully did any one Latin American country deal with the challenges brought about by the Great Depression?

The Second World War and the Americas 1933-1945
15. Assess the social impact of the Second World War on women and ethnic minorities in any one country of the region.
16. "The Second World War greatly transformed inter-American diplomacy and economic interaction in the years 1939-1945." To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Political developments in the Americas after the Second World War 1945-1979
17. Compare and contrast the social policies of two leaders in the Americas from the mid 1940s to the 1970s.
18. Why was there a Silent (or Quiet) Revolution in Canada in the 1960s?

The Cold War and the Americas 1945-1981
19. Explain the changing nature of the United States' involvement in Vietnam between 1963 and 1975.
20. Examine the effects of McCarthyism on society and culture in the United States from the late 1940s to the late 1950s.

Civil rights and social movements in the Americas
21. Evaluate the successes and failures of the feminist movement in one country of the region during the period 1945-1979.
22. How successful were the United States governmental institutions in advancing civil rights for African Americans after 1945?

Into the twenty-first century - from the 1980s to 2000
23. "The presidency of Ronald Regan marked a turning point in United States domestic affairs." With reference to the period 1980-2000, to what extent do you agree with this statement?
24. Analyze the reasons for the transition to democracy in one country of Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s.

Q: How are the IB exams graded?

A: After an exam session, all exams are immediately sent to an IB scanning center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The exams are scanned on a high-speed processor and then sent to examiners around the world. This system of examination allows students to be assessed against the criteria and removes bias from grading. All examiners are trained and their grading is checking by a double-blind system throughout the grading process.

Once all exams are graded, a subject-area team meets in Cardiff, Wales at the IB assessment office to review the results. During this critical meeting, questions are reviewed and input from teachers regarding the exams is examined. This meeting then determines the markbands for the 1-7 scoring.

Q; What about IB and college credit?

A: Every school differs on acceptance of college credit. Parents and students are counseled to look for proper placement in classes over just credit. General “credit” can be added to a college transcript but students are still required to take the same number of courses, often at a higher tuition rate. In general, IB credit is given for HL courses, however more schools are offering credit for SL courses as well. Students are counseled to take a colleges entrance exam for SL subjects for proper placement. For example, if a student took the Physics SL exam, go to the college and ask for the placement exam to place out of the freshman course.

To see how schools treat IB credit, these are some samples:
University of Michigan - https://admissions.umich.edu/apply/freshmen-applicants/ap-ib-credit
Michigan State University - https://admissions.msu.edu/admission/freshmen_ap-ib-clep.asp
University of Pennsylvania - https://admissions.upenn.edu/admissions-and-financial-aid/preparing-for-admission/freshman-admission/external-exam-credit
Alma College – 32 credits if IB diploma is earned - https://www.alma.edu/admissions/index/international-baccalaureate/

Q: What can I do as a parent to help my child?


  • Encourage them to sleep and prepare in advance for all assessments.
  • For an internal assessment, students MAY NOT BE ABSENT. Work with your student and the teacher to insure attendance. Teachers publish the specific dates of internal assessments early and often students sign up for a particular session. KNOW THESE DATES.
  • As parents, work hard to support but not stress out students. This is a delicate balance.