Students, educators, and administrators all agree, this is an extraordinary year, the likes of which none have experienced in our lifetimes. A historic decision made to cancel May 2020 session exams prioritized student and teacher health and well-being above all else.
Following the decision to cancel the May session, we began working with schools, universities, and regulators to provide a valid and recognized awarding model during this unprecedented time, building on the IB’s trusted methodologies and experience in assessment.
Each session after results are released, we hear the voices of those who are elated by their accomplishments, but also those who are disappointed with their results. We always review the feedback from students and schools with respect, care, and consideration.
We hear the anxiety around the May 2020 results. The emotional well-being of our students and our community is paramount in our decision making and remains the highest priority. Grades were awarded for the May 2020 session through an IB awarding model, not a computer-based algorithm. The awarding model has three components:
- Student coursework: Unlike other assessment bodies, the IB has student coursework as part of the normal awarding system. This is because the IB advocates that some course learning objectives are best assessed through extended tasks undertaken at the student’s own pace, and ideally marked by the teacher who observes them during this time.
For this session, to assure universities and regulators that our awarding methodology is robust, the IB has carried out examiner marking for all the coursework, which included teacher comments uploaded by IB World Schools. This was instead of taking samples of teacher-marked work and applying moderation factors, as is the IB’s usual model. It is important to note that moderation in normal circumstances always involves examiners marking samples of teacher-marked coursework.
All examiners marking the coursework are provided training to support them in their role. The training ensures that they understand their role and most importantly, how to assess candidate work accurately.
To support examiners through the May 2020 session, all examiner training underwent a review by Subject Managers and additional materials were added to training courses to ensure that examiners were prepared to mark coursework.
Following this training, as with all examination sessions, examiners were required to demonstrate their ability to assess candidate work accurately prior to being able to assess any candidates. As with all sessions, the IB also checked that examiners were marking to the standard throughout the session by spot checking IA’s.
Examining all student work, rather than only moderating, aims to maximize the confidence that every student will receive a fair mark overall.
- School grades: The May 2020 session model relied on the teacher-delivered predicted grades for each student in each subject and weighting. All students received the same weighting for the predicted grade.
The IB knows that school predicted grades are close to, but sometimes different from, the final grade. In a normal session, 55% of students achieve at least a grade different to what was predicted by their teacher. The IB’s obligation to students in these exceptional circumstances is that their grades can be fairly considered alongside previous and future grades issued by the IB, so these students have a qualification that is equal to past and future years.
- School context: For each subject in each school, a unique factor was applied based on historical prediction data, and the same school factor was applied to every student in that school for that subject and level. This factor used historical data to model the predicted grade accuracy, as well as the record of the school to do better or worse on examinations compared with coursework. This ensured that the school’s own record was built into the model to ensure fairness across the cohort.
Prior to the attribution of final grades, this process was subjected to rigorous testing by educational statistical specialists, to ensure that the IB’s methods were robust.
For the May 2020 session, the IB continues to develop support options for IB World Schools and students and cares deeply about the outcomes of its students. In addition to this, the IB continues to communicate directly with universities, encouraging them to remain compassionate at this unprecedented time.
The IB has introduced a new process to review extraordinary cases. We will prioritize cases that are linked to progression to support with university admissions and dates of admissions. The IB is committed to a rigorous review of all these cases but cannot guarantee higher grades as a result of the review; results that are deemed reasonable will not go down as a result of this process.
It has identified three priority areas for this review:
- Candidate level discrepancy
- Subject level discrepancy
- Whole cohort discrepancy
We ask students to work directly with their school coordinators to address concerns.
We will all work through this together. We are committed to you. We have earned your trust for 50 years and in this unprecedented year we continue to serve our community. We look forward to constructive dialogue with our heads of schools and coordinators. We all want the same thing: to ensure a bright future for all our students across the globe.