Since many of us are returning to school I know that teachers are reviewing IB scores and often have questions about how the process works so I am going to review this.

From the assessment perpsective, this lasts from April 20 to September 15 in the northern hemisphere and October 20 to February 15 in the southern hemisphere.  (March 15 and September 15 if we include the Extended essay.)

Internal Assessment – The Historical Investigation is the IA in history and it composes 20% of the HL grade.  It is marked out of 25 points.  The IB expects classroom teachers to spend 20 hours on the assignment explaining to students how to do the assignment.  We are allowed to read and review one copy of the IA; we then return it with ideas for improvement and students submit a final copy to us.

Teachers grade the IA using the 6 criteria and arrive at a final mark out of 25.  These grades are entered into IBIS and a sample is generated by the computer.  The sample is then sent to a moderator who reads through all the samples to ensure that the criteria are being applied correctly.  The moderator may raise or lower the marks on the samples.  The moderator also writes up a report to go to the schools that is supposed to explain why any changes may have been made and where they saw consistent errors in application of critiera.  For this reason it is best to send annotated copies of the samples that explain your rationalization for the marks awarded to each criterion.

The moderators are also moderated – they send a sample to their Team Leader who ensures that the criteria are applied properly by the moderators.  Team Leaders are moderated by the Principal Examiner.

External Assessment – In HL history, students take 3 exams; in SL they take 2.  In May 2012 Papers 1 and 2 were on Friday afternoon, at which point SL students were done.  HL students had Paper 3 (the regional option) on Monday morning.

The exams are written by the students and the IB coordinator sends them to a scanning center where the exams are scanned.  They are then put into a database by exam.  The database is part of an online marking program called Scoris that examiners can access as long as they have connectivity.  Examiners download exams, grade them and submit the marks.  Before being released to grade, examiners must first grade 3 practice scripts and then pass 5 or 10 standardizations exams.  After they have passed standardization and received feedback from their team leader they begin marking live scripts.  Approximately one in 10 exams is a seed – an exam that has already been graded by the senior examination team – to ensure that they are still conforming to the IB standards in marking.  If they do not give an acceptable grade to a seed, they are temporarily suspended until a senior examiner can read through the seed and give them feedback to get them back on track.   Even senior team members must grade seeds.

Examiners have approximately 30 days from the date of the exam to complete their allocation so that grades are ready by the July 6 release date.

Grade boundaries – Grade boundaries are a mix of art and science.  The senior team gives their best guess of what constitutes a 7 and 4 response on each component.  These are checked by a statistician at IBCA who is supposed to ensure that the numbers fall in line with an elaborate algorithm I can’t even pretend to understand.  IB is not norm referenced but criterion-referenced.  Yes, it’s true that History has one of the smallest percentages of 6s and 7s but that’s another conversation that probably has more to do with us as historians than the IB.

Appealing grades – We all occasionally have students who, in our opinion, have underperformed.  If the school is willing, results can be appealed.  If one candidate underperforms we can request a remark of their work but it is of their exams – not the IA.  Examiners are supposed to remark without paying attention to previous marks and are given 5 days to do so.

If the IAs were moderated harshly in your opionion, the school can request a Category 3 remark in which the samples are sent to another moderator (probably part of the senior team) who will re-moderate they IAs.  This is the first year for this and I have not done this myself so I’m not sure how much time moderators are given; IAs have to be sent from one moderator to another so 5 days is probably unreasonable.

After all re-marks are completed, a revised IB grade is sent to the school – grades can stand, be raised or be lowered, so remarks should not be requested unless there seems to be a good chance that the grade will go up or remain the same.  Analyzing the component scores is an important part of this so teachers should work with IB coordinators.