Thousands of students who received the International Baccalaureate diploma this year will have their grades increased, after growing criticism forced the global exam body to recalculate how it marked the qualification in the wake of coronavirus.
The IB Organisation, which oversees the assessments for 170,000 school leavers around the world this year, said on Monday that it was issuing new grades and writing to university admissions officers to inform them about a U-turn in assessments to give greater emphasis to coursework. The IB said 24 per cent of its grades would be changed as a result.
The move will offer fresh hope to many students who had been scored well in coursework and were forecast by their teachers to achieve high grades, but failed to meet their university offers after the IB applied its algorithms to adjust their final results downwards.
That sparked sharp criticism of the IB by some national regulators, as well as students and their families, with nearly a quarter of the 3,020 schools that offer the qualification launching appeals after the grades were announced in early July.
The IB said in a statement: “We listened carefully to the concerns raised by some schools, students and their families . . . Our review and analysis of the detailed information from schools offered invaluable insights, leading the IB to evaluate and recommend grade adjustments, where applicable, that we believe are fair to all students.”
Other exam bodies, notably across the UK, have also been scrambling to consider revising their grades after similar concerns. Scotland last week scrapped its system and agreed to accept predictions by students’ own teachers, while England was considering using mock grades for appeals after growing criticism of its approach.
Qualifications bodies across the world have had to modify their usual grading systems this year after coronavirus drove schools to shut, leading them to cancel exams and seek to develop algorithms to make statistical assessments of how students would have performed.
The IB was criticised by schools for failing to communicate for many days after the grades were issued, but its action this week provides a chance for university admissions officers to reassess students who had missed their offers while discussions in the UK on regrading A-levels continue.
While A-levels have largely scrapped formal intermediate tests and coursework in favour of final exams at the end of school, the IB has long emphasised the importance of coursework, which it calls “internal assessments”. This accounts for a significant proportion of the final grade. A sample of these assessments is normally moderated externally.
The IB system took into account the coursework — all of which it moderated externally this year — as well as teachers’ predicted grades, and then adjusted them based on the accuracy of past predictions in order to achieve an overall distribution of grades similar to previous years.
In the revised system unveiled this week, it will increase the final grade to the mark given in the coursework, and will not reduce any students’ grades where the coursework result was lower.
Ali Zagmout, a student in Sweden who launched an online petition calling for regrading that gathered 25,000 signatories, said his revised IB mark now would allow him to gain a place at university. But he added: “This method of grading is still pretty inaccurate as it still doesn’t take into account the actual capabilities of the students, especially those who score substantially better on their exams. It has definitely, at the least, brought justice to many students around the world . . . but has still left many disappointed and robbed.”
Stephen Jones, warden of St Edward’s School in Oxford in the UK, which appealed its IB results, welcomed the changes but said they did not resolve all his concerns for students whom he believed should have performed better. “In many ways this is pleasing. But it still needs to place a little more weight on predicted grades.”