Of course, I’m not against optimism.  And just to show what a positive blog this is I’m kicking off with a couple of happy songs, courtesy of YouTube (“Happy” and “Happy Talk”). Enjoy!



But to be honest, this blog is not so much the curse of optimism as the curse of optimistic marking.


November IA

“November schools” (mostly schools in the Southern Hemisphere) have been uploading their files and marks for the November session.

Unless you only have five students, the examiner only looks at a “sample” (i.e. a selection of some but not all your students’ work).

A few teachers feel this is unfair, but this is the sampling process that IB use for ALL internal assessment.

The students are selected through IBIS, the old, familiar but all knowing “International Baccalaureate Information System”.




  • I have been comparing internal assessment marks (i.e. the marks awarded by the teacher) for the exhibition files with the reality of the work itself.
  • I have to say, some of the adjustments I have made to teacher marks are quite big, but all moderation reflects careful scrutiny of the assessment criteria and study of the files.
  • Sometimes the marks are raised, because the teacher marks seem to be a little harsh.
  • Sometimes the marks are lowered, when they appeared to be optimistic rather than realistic.



  • Don’t get me wrong. In life in general, it’s good to be positive and optimistic. I’m known as Mr Happy (OK, not really).
  • But when submitting marks for IA, realism is a better approach.
  • If the examiner raises or lowers marks for the work in the sample, of course this affects the marks for that student.
  • But remember, this is also likely to have an impact on the students/marks for work that the examiner has NOT seen.


For example, suppose a teacher has a class of 12 and a sample of 5.

Further, suppose that he/she has consistently marked the sampled students with 9/9 for technical competence.

But on studying the uploaded files the examiner decides that 6/9 is actually more accurate.

There are seven students whose work is not seen by the examiner, but because the teacher has demonstrated consistently generous marking for criterion B, his/her marks for those ‘unseen’ seven are likely to be equally generous.

So in all likelihood the marks for these seven unseen exhibitions will also be moderated downwards.


So DO NOT put a “positive spin” or an “optimistic interpretation” of your IA marks, because that could have disastrous results for all your students, including those whose work has not been seen by the examiner. When marking, do your best to be realistic, accurate and fair.





Yes, I know it sounds mad, but it is important for the integrity of the moderation process that you see and consider the same evidence as that available to the examiner/moderator.

When marking the exhibition only refer to the digital, on-screen version of the work. Not the real thing.



IA assessment is about BEST FIT

The guide says “The aim is to find, for each criterion, the descriptor that conveys most accurately the level attained by the student, using the best-fit model. A best-fit approach means that compensation should be made when a piece of work matches different aspects of a criterion at different levels. The mark awarded should be one that most fairly reflects the balance of achievement against the criterion. It is not necessary for every single aspect of a level descriptor to be met for that mark to be awarded”.


When you assess work, read the level descriptors for each criterion until you reach the descriptor that most appropriately describes the level of the work. If a piece of work seems to fall between two descriptors, read both descriptors again and select the one that more appropriately describes the work.


When marking the exhibition, be thorough, be careful and be accurate, and ALWAYS refer to the assessment criteria!



South Pacific – Happy Talk