(i.e. why are the marks awarded by teachers for the visual arts IA component – the Exhibition – sometimes wildly unrealistic?)

A group of IA moderators were chatting about their experiences in the last examination session.

One moderator posed the question: why are some teachers so generous with their marks?

Here are some of the ideas that surfaced relating to the different issues involved.


This is probably the biggest cause of inaccurate teacher marks. Some teachers may not understand what the standards and expectations in the different criteria are.

For example, some teachers mark criterion D with maximum marks (3/3) when it’s no more than an ‘artist’s statement’ with no reference to the arrangement or the relationship with the viewer.

Or work that has conceptual qualities but shows little evidence of competence is given high marks in both criteria. Teachers sometimes award high ‘conceptual qualities’ marks to work that is obvious and predictable.

Or ‘Coherence’ is marked highly because all the work in similar and repetitive, when this is not what moderators are looking for.

Local vs Global

Moderators and examiners see work from all over the world and get an overall ‘Global standards’ and ‘world view’, as opposed to the ‘local’ view of most teachers. Sometimes the teacher perceives his/her cohort as displaying a wide range marks, giving the strongest work 7 and the weakest work 4. But when the moderator sees the work the standards are much closer and all the students in a single school may receive moderated grades of 4 or 5. (Moderators don’t know the school until after submit the marks for each sample).

Some teachers have a subjective rather than objective view of the quality of the work and see it as stronger than it actually is. This is sometimes seen in their marking comments which praise the student and admire the work (“I’ve never known such a brilliant and committed student! All of the art has the wow factor!”)

Linked to this, some cultures/teachers apparently like to praise almost everything with little critical discernment, sometimes apparently praising growth or effort, when neither contributes towards the mark.


There may also be a perception that they can influence the examiner if they award a high mark (?)

If so, this – the idea that the moderator will simply go along with the teacher’s marks – is a mistake.

Yes, it happens, but only after the files have been scrutinised, the work achieves the marks indicated and the teacher mark is seen to be accurate.

Some teachers also assume that inaccurate marks mean that their students’ work will be forwarded to the Principal Examiner, which (they think) will give them the best chance of success…


There may in some cases be an indifference to the final moderated mark. If the college or university accepts a student on the basis of school grades and predicted grades, the actual grade and IA mark is not seen as particularly important.

Some schools with a history of extremely generous marking are given the same IA feedback after every session – that the teacher marks are consistently inaccurate – so they KNOW that their marks are wrong, but just repeat the generous marking process every year regardless.


DP Coordinators sometimes ask for positive or optimistic predicted grades when students apply to colleges and universities, and it’s possible that some teachers may misunderstand the difference between predicted grades for universities and predicted grades (and the teacher’s IA marks) when submitting work to IBIS (?)


Teachers obviously have a relationship with their students that examiners don’t. This can hinder objectivity in assessment.

Teachers may become emotionally invested in the struggles, engagement and learning of their students, but although effort is obviously vital and linked to achievement and  success, it is not directly assessed. 

But, perhaps understandably, it may contribute to a generous IA mark from the teacher.


IMAGE: student artwork by VALENTINA L. Thank you Tina!