The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) uses both internally and externally assessed components to assess student performance.
For most courses, written examinations at the end of the DP form the basis of the assessment. This is because these examinations have high levels of objectivity and reliability.
Externally assessed coursework, completed by students over an extended period under authenticated teacher supervision, forms part of the assessment for several programme areas, including the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay and the extended essay (EE).
In most subjects, students also complete in-school assessment tasks. These are either externally assessed or marked by teachers and then moderated by the IB.
How DP assessment is scored
In the DP, students receive grades ranging from 7 to 1, with 7 being highest. Students receive a grade for each DP course attempted.
A student’s final Diploma result score is made up of the combined scores for each subject. The diploma is awarded to students who gain at least 24 points, subject to certain minimum levels of performance including successful completion of the three essential elements of the DP core.
The DP core
The theory of knowledge (TOK) and extended essay (EE) components are awarded individual grades and, collectively, can contribute up to 3 additional points towards the overall Diploma score.
Creativity, Action, Service – the remaining element in the DP core – does not contribute to the points total but authenticated participation is a requirement for the award of the diploma.
Higher level and standard level courses
The IB awards the same number of points for higher level (HL) and standard level (SL) courses, reflecting the IB’s belief in the importance of achievement across a broad range of academic disciplines.
HL and SL courses differ in scope but are assessed against the same grade descriptors, with HL candidates expected to demonstrate the various elements of the grade descriptors across a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skills.
Receiving a bilingual diploma
A bilingual diploma is awarded to candidates who complete and receive a grade 3 or higher in two languages selected from the DP course studies in language and literature.
Students who gain a grade 3 or higher in studies in language and literature and a grade 3 or higher in an individuals and societies or science subject, completed in a different language, will also receive the bilingual diploma.
Further information on assessment
For information on other aspects of assessment in the DP, such as how the IB ensures reliability of results, see our detailed guide on the principles of assessment.
Learn more about assessment in a workshop for DP teachers.
The extended essay (EE) is a mandatory core component of the IB Diploma Programme. It is a research paper of up to 4000 words, giving students an opportunity to conduct independent research or investigation on a topic that interests them. Like the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay, TOK presentation, and participation in creativity, action, service activities, submitting an extended essay is a prerequisite for the award of the Diploma.
It is mandatory that the extended essay be taken from the field of one of the IB subjects being studied (e.g. the essay may be about a book that has not been studied as part of IB English). However, the topic must not be too broad or too narrow as to make it difficult to write 4,000 words, and the general subject must be taught under the IB diploma program by one of the members of staff at the high school (so that there is someone with expertise able to help). The subject (not topic) on which the extended essay is written is recommended to be one that the candidate has formally studied, but this is not required. Also, the EE may not be written across different subjects – it must concentrate on one subject only, unless the student is writing under the World Studies topic. However, some subjects include several disciplines, with an emphasis towards one. An example is the subject Societies, which can include chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. generally with an emphasis toward one discipline.
The supervisor provides the student with assistance in putting together their EE, including guiding them in finding a suitable research question and on how to acquire the necessary resources to complete the research (such as a specific resource material–often hard-to-find documents or books–or laboratory equipment). The supervisor may suggest improvements to a version of the EE, but must not be engaged in writing it. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spend approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.
Extended essays are marked by individuals named external assessors (examiners appointed by the IB) on a scale of 0 to 36. There are "general" and "subject-specific" criteria, at a ratio of 2:1 (24 possible marks for the general criteria and 12 marks for the subject-specific one). The total mark is converted into a grade from A to E. A similar system is used for theory of knowledge and students can gain up to 3 points for the diploma based on the grades achieved for EE and TOK. A scores of E on either the extended essay or TOK essay revoked the eligibility of receiving the IB Diploma (EE Subject Guide p15).
|Theory of Knowledge|
|A||B||C||D||E or N|
|E or N||Failing Condition|
|Source: The diploma points matrix. May 2015 onwards|