The IB confirms dual route for May 2021 Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme examination session

The IB has confirmed that it will offer a dual route for the May 2021 Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme examination session. 

This follows a January survey of over 3,000 schools in 152 countries indicating that many schools and students continue to face huge challenges nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the successful roll-out of a similar model in our November 2020 exam series.  

The IB understands the impact of this crisis on education and is dedicated to providing the best possible assessments for all students in these incredibly difficult circumstances.  

The IB is working with schools to determine which of the two pathways is best for their region: written examinations, where they can be administered safely, or an alternative route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades, where they can’t.

Further details will be released in the coming days. Schools can also consider deferring to the November 2021 or May 2022 session with no additional cost or withdrawing from the IB May session with full refund from the IB.  

As of today, roughly 71% schools (61% of students) have indicated that they will be able to administer the exams. 

During grade-awarding, appropriate grade boundaries will be set for each route, building in generosity that reflects the disruption experienced in teaching and learning around the world and considering how grades are likely to be distributed in other large-scale qualifications.  

IB grades will be distributed between schools and students to ensure each individual qualification is an accurate reflection of achievement and that they can be fairly compared with one another. Unlike some other systems, the IB's extensive use of coursework allows for this. 

Reflecting the fact that May 2020 predicted grades were higher than in previous years, the IB will recommend generous guidelines within which teachers will be asked to submit their predictions. Where teachers feel these predicted grade distributions are not aligned with student performance, the IB is developing a process that will allow schools to request a different grade distribution and provide evidence that supports their claim. This will form part of the predicted grade process in February and March.   

We will be updating universities and colleges on our plans for May 2021 shortly. Results from the dual route model in November 2020 were treated with equal validity. We have confidence that the same will be true for May 2021 results. 

For each assessment session, the IB works with government regulators across the world regarding local context, restrictions and the impact of COVID-19 on students. With regard to the United Kingdom, last week the IB submitted a response to a DfE/Ofqual consultation. We expect the DfE/Ofqual response to the consultation to be published on 22 February. Once we have reviewed the outcomes of the consultation, the IB will write promptly to all UK schools (and those in the Crown Dependencies) confirming whether IB examinations will be held in the UK.  

"As school administrators, we are keenly aware of the extraordinary challenges our teachers and students face due to the COVID-19 crisis – we also understand that circumstances vary a great deal between regions", said the Heads Council.  

"We believe that IB’s approach to the May 2021 examination session – in which schools that can sit the exams will do so – is the fairest possible solution.  We also believe the non-exam route for allocating results to students who are unable to take exams is fair, clear and will allow for grades to be distributed that will reflect their achievements and abilities. This dual-route system was used in the November 2020 series which we found to be equitable and transparent", the advisory body added. 

For more details on the May 2021 session, students and teachers are encouraged to talk to their school’s IB coordinator.