Around this time of year we – students and teachers – are getting close to maximum stress levels. Syllabi need finishing prior to mocks, revision schedules need polishing, extended essay (EE) covers are being handed out for signing – and Internal Assessment (IA) portfolios are being compiled so that teachers can submit grades and ultimately IA samples for external moderation.

This is 20% of your final grade so it might be worth your while to put a few extra minutes into last-minute preparation! Here are a few points I make sure to bring up and forewarn my students about around this time of year:

1. Help your teacher by being on time! Trust me, the last thing you want is to anger the hand feeding you IA marks. Be on time! Give your teacher ample time to go through all the IA scripts one last time and set correct marks. Your teacher is being graded, just as you are. We always fret and worry about putting in correct grades – and getting them to external moderators on time. Your tardiness will invariably inflict opportunity costs on classmates.

Not late. Early.

2. Tidy up your scripts. If you are allowed to, that is. Many teachers do not allow last-minute re-drafting and this is probably a good rule! The IA scripts you have submitted over a year and a half or NOT supposed to be the result of numerous rounds of feedback and continuous re-drafting. Having said that. many teachers allow a final ‘neatening up’, where you can make sure that you’ve checked cover sheets, spelling, organisation, etc.

The less time it takes for your teacher, and possibly an IB examiner, to read and understand the content of what you have written, the easier it is for them to give you that extra mark when indecisiveness sets in, e.g. ‘…hmmmm, this is 1 or 2 marks…’ Trust me, while we might not think consciously about some form of ‘neatness grade’, it most certainly does register at subliminal level.

Neaten up.

3. The last part is possible the most important at this stage: uniformity. Remember that your teacher is trying to give you an edge, a leg up. You can help by making sure that your scripts are uniform in style; same font, cover…etc. I actually make sure that all portfolios (some 40 students in IB2) are IDENTICAL and my reasoning is simple: I want the external moderator in a good mood when grading the scripts we have sent in. By having identical summary cover sheets, article formats and styles, we are making things just a tiny bit easier for the moderator to go through what you have written. Imagine getting 8 portfolios that are all different and you have to basically ‘start over’ in your initial scan every time you pick up a new portfolio. Basically one should try to lower marginal costs for each successive IA portfolio.

I make sure of getting ‘identikit’ IA portfolios by forcing students to rigorously follow a template and spend a final hour or so in class cutting/gluing scripts into a neat folder. The summary cover sheet is glued on the front of the folder – and the scripts are preceded by the IA form filled in and signed by you.

‘Everybody was out of step except my Johnny!’

It also bears mentioning that the extended essays are given the same treatment. This might entail a bit more cooperation between colleagues, since schools usually spread economics EEs due to their popularity. Yet the benefits of handing in early, being neat and having uniform formats/styles have been quite clear over the years.