IB Diploma and IB Exams

Wondering what the International Baccalaureate (IB) is?

Well, it’s a program where high school students attend college-level classes and take examinations, too, for them to receive a special diploma and even college credit.

You can take IB exams only after attending IB classes. To earn credit for certain introductory-level college courses, you need to get high scores in related IB exam subjects. An IB diploma, which you can get after taking and passing the necessary IB exams, can help boost your college application or be used for internship or career purposes.

Keep reading this post if you are thinking about taking some IB examinations anytime soon.

Is IB Important for College Admissions?

IB exams are not college entrance exams.

Still, in many instances, they can be used to increase an applicant’s chances of getting admitted, especially to a selective college given that they are preceded by IB classes, which increase academic rigor level.

IB exams, similarly, allow a student to earn credit, depending on the scores and the college’s IB credit policy.

Do You Have to Take IB?

It’s not mandatory for college-bound students to take IB tests. As a matter of fact, it’s completely up to them whether they will take IB exams or AP exams, except in some instances where a high school makes taking AP courses and exams a requirement.

Those who like to get into selective colleges, however, could benefit from sitting for IB tests.

Taking IB tests means the high schooler took IB classes, which increases the rigor of their secondary school record — at many colleges, academic rigor is an important admissions factor.

It also allows students to earn college credit, depending on their score and a college’s IB credit policy.

Can Colleges See How Many Times You Took IB?

Admissions officers at colleges and universities can see how many times an applicant took the same IB exam through the official IB transcript of the individual.

Similarly, it’s through the same official IB transcript that an institution of higher education can see an applicant’s IB exam score, upon which the school will base whether or not to award college credit.

High school students may retake the same IB exam up to 3 times. He or she is allowed to do so by sitting in 3 different exam sections, which may or may not take place consecutively.

What is on IB Exam?

IB exams come in the form of internal assessments and external assessments. Internal assessments consist of evaluative activities such as oral reporting, fieldwork, laboratory work, investigation and artistic performances.

Meanwhile, external assessments are more traditional measurements such as multiple-choice questions, structured problems and essays.

How Many Sections are on IB?

IB exams are administered in 2 sections, and they are internal assessment and external assessment. The internal assessment is carried out by the high school student’s IB teacher.

On the other hand, the external assessment comes in a traditional approach where the test-taker sits for examinations covering 6 core academic areas.

Another key difference between an IB exam’s internal assessment and external assessment is that the former is graded by the IB teacher and the latter, meanwhile, is graded by IB itself.

IB exams are also separated into papers. For instance, the higher-level IB Chemistry exam has 3 papers.

How Many Questions is IB?

The number of questions IB test-takers need to answer can vary from exam to exam, depending on a number of factors such as the academic area involved, whether the test is higher-level or standard-level as well as how many papers there are.

However, it’s not uncommon for 1 paper from an IB exam to have anywhere from 30 to 40 questions.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to quantify the internal assessment part of an IB exam as it’s composed of various evaluative activities such as oral exams and laboratory work.

What Kind of Math is on IB?

The kinds of math on IB exams are found in a common core curriculum, which means that some of them include algebra, calculus, trigonometry and statistics.

As far as IB Mathematics is concerned, there are applications and interpretations (application of mathematical concepts) and analysis and approaches (emphasis on abstract and theoretical concepts).

Is There Science on IB?

IB exams cover various subjects in science, and they are biology, computer science, chemistry, design technology, physics and sports, exercise and health science.

Among the various IB science tests, the general consensus is that biology, chemistry and physics are some of the most challenging, mainly because of the memorization and application components.

The passing rate for the standard-level IB Chemistry test in 2019, for instance, was only 59%.

Is There Writing on IB?

The IB Writing examination requires test-takers to choose 1 of the 3 given writing prompts, each one having a variety of purposes, contexts and audiences. After selecting a writing prompt, high school students sitting for IB then need to select a text type, and their choices include personal text, professional text and mass media text.

Let’s take a look at some examples of each text:

  • Personal text – blog, diary, social media posting
  • Professional text – email, essay, formal letter, report, survey
  • Mass media text – advertisement, article, interview, leaflet, speech

How Does IB Work?

IB exams are standardized tests usually administered during the first 3 weeks of May. Students who attend IB classes may take and pass all tests required for an IB diploma or sit for certain IB examinations only.

Different IB tests focus on certain subjects, and each of them is made up of different sections or pages.

What Does IB Exam Measure?

An IB exam is designed to measure how much high school students have mastered subject content as well as how ready they are to use their acquired knowledge and skills for further advancement, such as in the pursuit of a college degree.

A test-taker’s proficiency is evaluated through both internal assessments and external assessments.

According to the IB website itself, academic skills measured by IB exams are the following:

  • Analysis and presentation of information
  • Evaluation and construction of arguments
  • Creative solving of problems

Is IB Multiple Choice Exam?

Some of the questions on an IB exam are multiple-choice questions, although they are usually accompanied by short-answer or free-response and/or essay portions on another section or paper. The number of answer options for each multiple-choice question can be either 4 or 5, depending on which particular IB exam a test-taker is answering.

Based on many firsthand experiences, some answer options on IB exams tend to be partially correct, and students who pick the entirely correct answer get higher scores.

Is IB Exam a Standardized Test?

IB exams are standardized tests in that the same questions are answered by all test-takers no matter whether they are in their junior or senior year of high school or where on the planet their high schools are.

In addition, the similar examinations they take are also graded in a similar fashion, thus directly comparing their proficiencies with those of other test-takers.

Even though the internal assessments are administered by individual IB teachers from various institutions, there are appointed IB moderators that evaluate the conduction of internal assessments.

When Do You Take the IB Test?

IB tests are taken by students during the junior and senior years of high school. Higher-level IB examinations are only available to 12th grade students because of a particular eligibility requirement.

Generally, IB exams are administered in May, during its first 3 weeks. Meanwhile, internal assessments are usually conducted at an earlier time of the academic year.

There’s a reason why higher-level IB exams can only be taken by senior high school students.

For eligibility for higher-level IB exams, having a minimum of 240 classroom hours is a must. On the other hand, having a minimum of 150 hours is necessary for students to be able to sit for standard-level IB exams.

How to Guess on IB

Similar to guessing on other standardized tests with multiple-choice questions, students taking IB exams may guess through the process of elimination where they try to remove as many wrong answers as they could confidently. Eliminating more incorrect answers means higher chances of guessing the correct answer.

For instance, in a multiple-choice question with 4 answer options, removing 2 wrong answers allows the IB test-taker to boost the odds of his or her guessing the correct answer by 50%.

Because there is no penalty for getting a question incorrectly, students should guess if they don’t know the answer.

How Long is IB?

The time test-takers are given to complete an IB exam depends on the test’s length and difficulty level. Some standard-level IB exams can be as short as only 45 minutes. On the other hand, some higher-level IB exams can be as long as 2 to 3 hours.

Students are not allowed to have more than a total of 6 hours of exams per day to keep them from being overburdened.

IB exams are administered for around 3 weeks so that test-takers can schedule their exams well.

How Does IB Scoring Work?

Each IB exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the lowest possible score and 7 being the highest possible score. High school students must earn a minimum of 24 points in total for them to earn an IB diploma — most students exceed the minimum requirement. Meanwhile, the maximum number of points they can get is 45.

An IB exam score a student obtains is calculated by IB based on the individual grades that he receives on the internal assessment and on the external assessment.

What is a Good IB Score?

A good score on an IB exam is 4, which is considered the passing score. On the other hand, in terms of the IB diploma, a score of 38 or higher is considered good. However, if a college-bound high school teen is eyeing admission to a competitive college or university that accepts an IB diploma, he or she should aim for a 40 at least.

The following is the IB grade scale used for the IB exams:

  • 7 – Excellent
  • 6 – Very Good
  • 5 – Good
  • 4 – Satisfactory
  • 3 – Mediocre
  • 2 – Poor
  • 1 – Very poor

Facts About IB

To sit for IB exams, high school students must attend IB classes. Taking and passing all 6 required exams is key to earning an IB diploma, although test-takers may choose to undergo individual IB exams, which will still allow them to earn college credit, depending on whether or not the institution accepts IB scores as well as its IB credit policy.

Each IB exam costs $125. An entire IB diploma program, meanwhile, costs $12,233 for authorized schools, according to IBO.org.

Students can request to have their IB transcripts sent to 6 different colleges and universities free of charge. However, any additional transcript request costs $17.

The following are some other things you might want to know about IB:

History of IB

Even before the IB, which is the organization behind the program, came into being, IB’s philosophy, structure, and content were already being developed by numerous educators.

In the year that the IB was founded, a pilot IB program was introduced to 12 academic institutions located in 12 different countries.

Some of the classes included were Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), both of which are still important components of the IB curriculum these days.

After 6 years, the success of the program led to the establishment of the official IB diploma.

Throughout the 1970s, the IB program spread not only to various European and American schools but also to those in other parts of the globe. The IB program became available in Spanish in the early 1980s.

Who Created IB program?

IB was created by an organization with the same name, the International Baccalaureate (IB). Alec Peterson, who was the very first Director General of the IB, was instrumental in the formation of the non-profit as well as in the design of the IB curriculum. IB assessment materials, on the other hand, are created and modified by IB Assessment Content Developers.

What is the IB organization?

The IB, which is registered in Switzerland, is a non-profit organization that’s administered by an elected Board of Governors. The members of the said board are tasked with appointing the Director General, making policies, managing the IB’s finances and maintaining the integrity of IB program and examinations, among many other things.

It was founded in 1968 when a group of educators realized the need for an international approach to education that would equip students with the knowledge, skills and values for a brighter future.

Below are just some of the primary sources of income of the IB:

  • Evaluation fees
  • Examination fees
  • Annual school fees
  • Workshops and conferences
  • Publications
  • Donations

How Many People Get IB Diplomas?

Based on the figures coming from the IB itself, more than 18,170 students all over the planet received their IB diploma in 2022.

This means that the number could be bigger since those who failed to pass all 6 required exams were unaccounted for. Meanwhile, various IB programs are being taken by over 1.95 million students worldwide.

What is IB Designed to Predict?

IB exams, similar to the SAT and ACT, are college entrance exams used by admissions officers to determine whether or not an applicant is college ready. IB courses necessary prior to taking IB exams are college-level classes that are harder than standard high school courses, and their successful completion reflects a student’s readiness to take on college courses.

Other than predicting college readiness, an IB diploma resulting from passing IB exams is also used by certain institutions of higher education as an eligibility requirement for certain institutional scholarships.

Does IB Have an Essay?

Many IB exams have an essay section. As a matter of fact, there is a component of the IB diploma program that requires test-takers to write a 4,000-word composition, and it’s referred to as the extended essay.

It takes approximately 40 hours to write, and the topic to write is a piece of investigation or research that both the student and IB teacher agree upon.

Do They Provide Calculators on IB Exams?

Students are required to bring their own calculators when sitting for IB exams that require or allow the use of calculators. It’s a must for test-takers to note, though, that certain sections of pages of math and hard science IB exams do not permit calculator use.

Here’s a list of calculator models that are not allowed during IB exams:

IB calculators
IB calculators

Changes to IB Program

In 2022, the IB launched the very first IB diploma program online, which allowed students who cannot take IB courses and exams through a more traditional in-person approach the opportunity to earn their IB diplomas.

King’s InterHigh, which is an online British international high school, was the first in the world to offer the IB diploma program completely via the internet.

Students from various parts of the planet participated through live, interactive lessons. IB course teachers also used virtual reality (VR) and other technologies for a more immersive IB class experience.

Being a totally online approach, internal assessments and external assessments were digitally conducted, too.

However, it’s important to point out that the IB launched the online IB diploma program with a small number of select partners only in an attempt to learn how it could improve the approach and to realize the full range of advantages.

Are IB Exams Digital?

Although digital IB exams are already being administered to students who are outside of traditional or mainstream education, many schools participating in IB programs are not yet offering the choice between paper and pencil tests and digital tests.

As of this writing, the IB has not published any timeline regarding the switch from in-person to online IB examinations.

How to Study for IB Test

Generally speaking, it takes about 4 to 5 months to prepare for IB exams. The amount of time high schoolers need to spend preparing for their IB tests, however, will depend on how confident they are with their mastery of each subject. Needless to say, they need more preparation for certain exams with which they have low confidence levels.

Since it’s a requirement for IB test-takers to attend IB classes, in most instances, they simply need to refer to their notes and textbooks when reviewing for their IB examinations.

However, they can also use IB’s official subject guides as well as other reliable guidebooks online.

It’s definitely a good idea for high school students to take IB practice exams, especially official ones, to get themselves familiarized with the test format and strategies for answering the questions.

More importantly, it will enable them to determine their strong and weak areas, thus allowing them to determine which subjects or areas they need to study more.

IB Practice Exam Test

Below are a total of 10 IB exam sample questions — 5 for IB English Literature and 5 for IB Math.

IB English Literature

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

1. What is the sonnet’s main idea?

  • A) Love is similar to a burning fire that can’t be extinguished.
  • B) The speaker thinks his lover cares for him more because he will die soon.
  • C) The speaker feels he and his lover are nearing the end of their relationship.
  • D) The speaker believes his lover thinks that the relationship is ending when it’s not.

2. What follows the sunset fading in the west, based on the sonnet?

  • A) Night and darkness.
  • B) Sleep.
  • C) The dawn of a new, young die.
  • D) The burning of a bright fire to ward off the night.

3. What must happen to the speaker and the individual he is addressing?

  • A) The speaker must look for a new lover.
  • B) They must both die.
  • C) The individual must make an effort to stay alive.
  • D) The individual must leave behind his love for the speaker.

4. What does the fire of life eventually consume, based on the sonnet?

  • A) Youth as well as all those who are young.
  • B) That which once kept it alive.
  • C) The deathbed that it lies upon.
  • D) Everything that’s near it.

5. What reasons does the speaker give for the lover to leave him?

  • A) The speaker is getting older and is in the last stage of his life.
  • B) The lover is getting older and is in the last stage of his life.
  • C) The speaker has died.
  • D) The lover has found a new, younger lover.

Answer key:

  • 1. B
  • 2. A
  • 3. D
  • 4. B
  • 5. A

IB Math

Students are arranged for a graduation photo in rows that follow an arithmetic sequence. There are a total of 9 students in the first row and the sum of the first 2 rows is 22.

1. What is the number of students in the second row?

  • A) 13
  • B) 10
  • C) 15
  • D) 12

2. What is the number of students in the fourth row?

  • A) 9
  • B) 17
  • C) 19
  • D) 21

3. If there are 85 students in the graduating class, how many rows of students are there?

  • A) 5
  • B) 4
  • C) 6
  • D) 8

4. A 6-sided biased die is weighted in such a way that the probability of obtaining a “one” is 3/7. If the die is tossed 10 times, what is the probability of obtaining 4 “ones” at most?

  • A) 90.25%
  • B) 91.31%
  • C) 91.53%
  • D) 98.99%

5. A baking container has a cylindrical shape. Its diameter is 6.7 cm and its volume is 80 cm3. What is the container’s height?

  • A) 1.0071 cm
  • B) 0.8220 cm
  • C) 0.5673 cm
  • D) 0.6155 cm

Answer key:

  • 1. A
  • 2. D
  • 3. A
  • 4. B
  • 5. C

The sample questions above are from the following sites:

Should I Take IB Exams or AP Exams?

IB exams and AP exams are similar in that they are both used by many postsecondary institutions in determining whether or not applicants are college ready as well as for awarding college credit.

Despite this, they are also different in a number of ways.

When choosing between IB exams and AP exams, consider the courses, rigor level and curriculum structure. It’s also essential to take into account your budget and your academic goal, too — are you planning on working on an undergraduate degree in the US or abroad?

Also, determine which between IB exams and AP exams you are more comfortable taking via practice tests.

Read Next: What is PSAT?