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Asessement of IB DP Chemistry for May 2021

Wednesday 3 March 2021

There is some confusion on social media about the arrangements the IB have put in place for the May 2021 assessment process as it very much depends upon which country you are based in. I've made some minor alterations, but essentially this is based on the information that Chris and Emma have put together from official IB documents and posted in their blog on the Physics InThinking site so many thanks to them.

Extended Essay

Schools with more than five students taking the Extended Essay in Chemistry will be allocated a distribution of predicted grades for this component as well. However, the Extended Essay (like Theory of Knowledge) is examined as usual without any consideration of your predictions.

It is therefore less important to employ the Exceptions process for the Extended Essay - especially if your Coordinator is short on time and resources before 20th April!

Which route is better?

There are some benefits for students taking exams:

  • Teaching, learning and exam preparation can continue until the exam (rather than 20th April or, at some schools, before Easter vacations commence)
  • A greater sense of individual justice - their personal exam performance (and coursework) will determine their personal grade
  • The predicted grades don't count. It therefore wouldn't be harmful to the students if a 'weaker' cohort had preceded them in 2017-19 and any Exceptions process had been unsuccessful.

We also understand that some exam-route schools feel it is not fair for their students to take exams. The IB has said that they will be more generous in their marking and grading to ensure that whole cohorts do not fall through the cracks - although we've yet to hear from an examiner who can verify this!

The non-exam route is unpredictable. Some cohorts who have been out of school for most of the last 12 months might be relieved to avoid the pressure of a final exam series, but individual students may be concerned about their predicted grades reflecting their full potential. The predicted grade weighting is generous - students will receive the top end of the exam boundary:

  • This makes it mathematically difficult for a student's grade to be anything below their prediction
  • But if the grades for the whole cohort end up being too high, it could be the students with the weakest coursework who are brought down (rather than those who would have ranked lower in an exam)

While we know that grades improved globally at the top end in May 2020, every school in the world can point to a small handful of students with results that are lower than they deserved. Without exams taking place, who can guess which students might have messed up on the day?

Should I share my predicted grades with my class?

Whether you share your predicted grades with students is up to your school Diploma Coordinator and Administrator. The predictions might help to guide students in making higher education applications or decisions, and give them a sense of trust in your belief in them. On the other hand, there are several reasons why the predicted grades you submit might not land on the certificates in the summer, even for non-exam schools:

  • You might suggest grades that are higher than the permitted distribution. Your Coordinator may not apply through the Exceptions process (e.g. because other subjects are in a worse situation), or an application that they do make may be unsuccessful. Your grades will therefore need to be lowered before 20th April.
  • The IB will review all schools' results to ensure that they are realistic for the school and in line with previous years. If average results are too high, we may therefore expect that some students' grades will come down (and this could be done using coursework, rather than anticipated exam performance).
  • The overall grade inflation (if any) across exam schools will be used as a peg to hold down any possible inflation across non-exam schools.


Comments 4

Matthew Hopkins 15 March 2021 - 07:08

Dear Geoffrey,
I have heard that these adapted assessments have been extended to the May/Nov 2022 sessions. Can you confirm this?

Geoffrey Neuss 15 March 2021 - 10:26

Hi Matthew, In the IB document “Adapted Assessment for 2021 and 2022” dated February 2021 it is confirmed that the changes put in place for the May 2021 assessment will be continued for the 2022 assessment, i.e. there will be no Paper 3 and no Group 4 project. In the examination timetable for May 2022 published on My IB you can see that Papers 1 and 2 for Chemistry will be on May 18th.

Dawn Jackson 30 March 2021 - 01:43

Will any of paper 2 contain lab-based questions like Section A of paper 3?

Geoffrey Neuss 30 March 2021 - 07:07

Hi Dawn, The current version of the Chemistry guide clearly states for Paper 3 that Section A: contains “one data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work.” Separately the IB has said that there will be no Paper 3 so I think it is reasonable to assume that the short-answer questions on experimental work will not be transferred to Paper 2.


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