Marking & Moderation

The Marking Process

This page is intended to offer guidance and advice for the marking and moderation of Internal Assessment projects that should be considered a practical elaboration of information included in IB documentation. This is a time consuming and detailed process that needs careful attention from teachers. It remains a challenge for experienced teachers and as such presents an even bigger challenge to teachers new to the course. The thoughts and ideas offered here are based on the experiences of teachers.

Drafts & Feedback

It is a long standing issue with coursework in any subject for any course that teachers have to tread the fine line between helping their students to make progress and giving them what could be considered unfair advantage. By its very nature the process is always going to open to abuse and still relies heavily on the integrity of the people involved. We all want our students to do well, but most teachers will probably feel that doing well means understanding and responding to the educational experience of this type of task. Receiving and acting upon advice, developing their own ideas and approaches, creating something they own and are proud of. The project provides opportunities for all of the above and the teachers role is to facilitate, advise and guide.

There is no official line on how many drafts are allowed for a project before the final project is submitted. Students must sign the paperwork that confirms all of the work as their own and nothing the teacher does in the drafting process should compromise their ability to sign these forms.

I have made much on this site about the need for sound planning in this process from both teachers and students and my suggestion is that a realistic timetable is drawn up and then adhered to so that both parties know what can be expected of each other. In the possible model suggested in the managing projects section I have included the following opportunities for feeding back

  • Students receive regular informal feedback during the planning phase of the project and this can be done by using the specific planning tasks in the project planner.
  • The teacher arranges a more formal interview of around 10 minutes in length in which students are asked to describe their potential project and their plan for completing it. The teacher will ask the sort of questions that prompt students to be clearer.
  • Informal feedback is given mostly as students request it during the project period thereafter. During this period, it may be useful for students to help each other with some peer assessment or other activities as suggested in the 'reflection' part of the project planner.
  • A first draft date is set at which point students are expected to be handing in something very close to the finished article and only in need of polishing. The teacher will give students written feedback at this point that helps them to recognise the strengths and shortcomings of their projects. At this point, teachers may choose to give students an indication of the mark they might get at that stage.
  • A final due date is given after which no further changes can be made to the project.

The above is just one possible model and is not in anyway intended as definitive. If students are able to stick to their end of the bargain then the above should afford them plenty of opportunity to get feedback from their teachers and teachers can plan for these opportunities and build in the significant extra work it brings.


As a teacher, I think it is very important to allocate marks for the different criteria at the first draft stage of the project. You may or may not choose to share them with your students. Using this opportunity creates a first draft opportunity for marking as well. It may be that many of the marks you award are borderline and this helps the teacher to identify specific aspects of a students work that they would expect to see in order to justify the higher mark. The marking criteria need to be interpreted for each individual project and as such it can take time and reflection to be sure. Please see the related page on 'the criteria' for elaboration on how these can be interpreted.

I recommend making notes as the first draft is marked that record the things you are sure about as well as those you are uncertain about. Under record keeping below, I have suggested a means for doing this and provided a spreadsheet to help. The spreadsheet can be sued throughout the process and helps keep track of the marking process from start to finish.

At each stage of marking, teachers should;

  • choose an appropriate mark for the strand in question
  • write a brief comment to justify why that mark was given that refers specifically to something in the marking criteria
  • where possible, make a note of the page number or section of the project that is relevant and put a corresponding mark on that section of the project as well
  • comments may refer to why the higher mark was not given by pointing out what might have been expected in order to justify the higher mark
  • where there is doubt (at first draft stage) record the doubt along with a suggestion for something you might expect to see that would help persuade you to give the higher mark
  • consult with colleagues where possible to get their opinions
  • refine these marks and comments each time you revisit them, working towards a final decision that comes with sound justification and explanation

At first glance this can seem like a cumbersome process, but it is actually just a systematic one that can be quite satisfying and save time in the long run. If done as outlined, it also takes care of the preparation of a sample as well!


The very subjective nature of coursework assessment and moderation means that this process is always likely to frustrate at some point. Most teachers have experienced differences of opinions from moderators, being marked up, being marked down, even being agreed with! When you factor in that an external moderator who agrees with you may differ in opinion from their moderator who ultimately changes the mark then you begin to realise that there is little a teacher can do other than their best, to affect the outcome.

My view is that if the teacher has given careful consideration to the marks awarded based on the information and experience they have then there is little more that can be asked. If departments allow for colleagues to sit and moderate each others work and reach agreement then the task has been done as best it can be.

It can be time consuming but creating time with other colleagues to moderate each others work is what, in the ned, gives me the most confidence in the marks I have awarded. If colleagues disagree then you either concede or discuss the point. Your ability to persuade colleagues makes the decision. Here is an outline of how a good internal moderation can run, that obviously varies according to numbers of students and classes. It is an ideal and I believe that any attempt to internally moderate, within the confines that exist, will be of benefit.

  • Each teacher chooses two or three projects to bring to internal moderation having marked them and prepared justifications for those marks.
  • There are various ways to choose projects to be included, but the group should include an example from each of the top, bottom and middle and could include an example that a teacher is confident about and another about which they are less so.
  • The projects are given to participating teachers two or three days in advance of the meeting without the marks awarded but with the criteria. The teacher responsible might point out that 'calculations are correct' or not fo example to help save time. They are then marked by the participating teachers.
  • If the above is done then the meeting is simply about comparing marks awarded and no one is trying to speed read projects and make snap judgments during the meeting.
  • The different marks are put on the table and the areas of difference are discussed. At this point the teacher responsible for the project may make arguments for their grades or change on the strength of observations from colleagues
  • A record is kept of the different marks awarded and the debated points.

Teachers will then mark the rest of their projects on the strength of the discussions that occurred during this meeting. This really is an important and useful exercises. Departmental meetings should be used for this type of activity and it is not unreasonable to request that time be made available to do it as well.

Record Keeping

I have already mentioned a record keeping system for marking projects. We are all individual and so this may not appeal to all teachers, but I increasingly find myself looking for ways to centralise tasks and keep work that I have done so that it can be built on. Below is a description of the 'Project Spreadsheet' provided along with the potential advantages of using it. Here is a blank copy of such a spreadsheet. Moderation Spreadsheet.

The Spreadsheet contains;

A summary page that automatically reads the names of the pupils, titles of projects and total score awarded so the summary can be seen at a glance. As changes are made to other pages the summary updates automatically.

An individual page for each student that has a spaces to award marks in each of the criteria along with a space in which to justify those marks. The marks are totalled and the totals are sent to the summary page. The advantage of such a page is that it can be updated and changed at any point.

  • During the first draft stage gut feeling marks can be awarded with the first comments attempting to justify them
  • At the final stage you are instantly reminded of what was written at the first draft stage, these marks are refined and comments become more detailed
  • After moderation, further refinement may be made
  • When preparing a sample a print out of the students page can simply be made and added containing all of the justification needed.

Paperwork & Sample

Having marked projects and submitted the marks to the IB coordinator, a random sample of students will be generated and the work of these students will have to be sent to the external moderator with the associated paperwork. To mark and moderate these projects properly is a difficult and time consuming task and I think that at this stage it is important to give the external moderator every chance to understand the work that has been done to carry out this task effectively and diligently. The following are suggestions about what should and could be included with a sample sent to a moderator.

.....need to add specific references to IB documents

Cover sheet - this is an official IB document that students and teachers are required to sign that states that the work is the students and also contains the necessary details of the students project and the marks that they have been awarded

Sample marks justification - this too is an official IB document on which teachers are invited to include some justification of why they have awarded the marks they have. In practice I will generally write on this form that I have included a separate print out of my marks and justifications because this way it is possible to include more detail

Teacher marks and justifications - its my preference to include the print out I mentioned above here as evidence of the work done to give the moderator the best chance of understanding the thinking in the award of the marks.

Sample summary - there is an official IB document to go with the sample that is a summary of the sample included.

Covering letter - I like to add a covering letter that explains a little about how the marking and moderating process works again, in attempt to convince the moderator that the process has been diligently handled.

Evidence of Moderation - If any evidence exists from the moderation process then this is good to include.

Marking Examples

If you are new to teaching this course or looking to broaden your understanding of how markschemes can be interpreted then it can be very useful to spend some time looking at some example projects and the way in which they have been marked. Here there are links to some example projects and the marks they were awarded with the related justifications.

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Comments 4

Elizabeth Heudebourg 2 January 2017 - 09:16

Hi Jim:
Thank you for the spreadsheet! It is very helpful to keep all of my documentation in one place.

Jim Noble 19 January 2017 - 08:32

Great - always good to hear. I do use it every year!

Edward Downes 17 May 2017 - 21:44

Hi Jim,
Probably more of a question for a ManageBac question for an IB coordinator but thought I would ask it just in case.

Is there a separate section for math IAs on ManageBac? Or is it normal to just create a regular assignment?

Jim Noble 19 May 2017 - 14:20

Hi Edward,
Good question, but I think the answer is no. We are quite new to MB here, but I have used it this year to upload ToK stuff. Looking around, I think you are right about the regular assignment.

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