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Retaking IB exams – Improving your IB score


November 2016 IB results will be released on 5th January, 2017. However, already, students have registered with us to retake the IB exams in May 2017. Whether you want to retake because you were unable to get enough points to qualify for the diploma, got lower than expected points in a specific subject, or are otherwise unhappy with your IB results, retaking IB can be a good option.

Why retake?


Firstly, data collected by IB suggests that remarking doesn’t lead to a significant increase in score. On average, there is a greater than 50% chance that there will be no change in your results. If you are 4% below the upper boundary of your grade, you might as well not remark your papers because the likelihood of your grade improving is very low (less than 10%). A student who got a raw score of 55 when the upper boundary for his grade is 60, has an approximate chance of less than 10% of improving his grade due to remarking. Worse, this is only the average of all subjects and for some subjects, like Mathematics, the probability of score improving is even lower. Hence, overall, it might be a better idea to just retake the exams.

Secondly, retaking is likely to be effective if there were special circumstances behind your low grades. For example, if you got low grades because of incompetent school teachers, family problems, or some other external factor, retaking can help you improve your score. One thing we have noted from students coming for IB tuition with us, students from lower rated IB schools tend to have highest improvement in IB scores as compared to students from better ranked IB schools.

Many online websites claim that IB retakes is a waste of time and most students who retake their exams do not improve their grade. Admittedly, IB’s own internal research does suggest retaking doesn’t result in score improvement for majority of students. However, according to IB, one exception is students who can afford to arrange tuition. IB’s own internal research suggests that just retaking without external help is unlikely to improve results since removal of pressure to perform in school lowers motivation to study and it is difficult to cover the material using self-help alone. However, students who have external help from qualified teachers who are willing to mentor and motivate them, score improvement is certainly possible. According to our research, 96% of students who took recommended hours of tuition for three or more months, ended up improving their score, with 85% of them reaching or exceeding their target points. So, don’t be discouraged by online hearsay and do give us a call to discuss your options.

Factors to consider when retaking IB Exams 


If you do decide to retake the IB exams, you need to consider three very important factors.

Retaking Internal Assessments 


Your school is obligated by IB to let you register for external exams but not for internally assessed work. For example, your school has to let you register for Mathematics SL Papers (both 1 and 2, one paper at a time is not allowed) but they don’t have to let you register for Mathematics IA again. If you do decide to retake the IA also, you will be required by IB to attend at least some classes in school.

For students taking tuition with us, we strongly recommend you redo all your internally assessed work whenever possible, including the Extended essays and TOK essays. This is because we can help you score very high marks in internal assessments, reducing pressure on you to perform well in external IB exams.

Number of Subjects to take 


You are allowed to register for as many subjects as you want. Taking too many subjects will obviously reduce the advantage of re-sitting for IB exams since you will be distracted. On the other hand, taking too few subjects will result in wasted time since you will not be able to improve your overall score by too much. As a rule of thumb, we recommend retaking 2 subjects per 6 months. So, if you decide to retake May exams in November, it is best to focus on just two subjects. On the other hand, if you want to wait till next year may, you can most probably handle four subjects.

This is assuming you are getting tuition at Student’s Inn. If you want to prepare by yourself, you are likely to need longer to prepare and hence should aim for fewer subjects. Choose the subjects you did worse in, barring some exceptions. Generally speaking, it is easier to improve from a 3 to a 5 than to improve from a 5 to a 7. Of course, exceptions apply. For example, languages are generally harder to improve in.

Number of IB re-sits to aim for


IB allows you to sit for three exams in total. If you exceed this number, you are required to retake the whole diploma over two years. Since you already sat for exam once, you only have two more tries left. The higher the number of re-sits, the worse impression you send to the universities. It is much easier to explain away one bad result being due to external factors than two or three bad performances.

That’s about it. Retaking the IB exams is not a factor you should take lightly. If you have decided to retake, inform your school as soon as possible and register early. The deadline to register is usually 2-3 weeks after the release of IB results. If you have relocated to a different country, start approaching IB schools in the local area to see who is willing to accept a retake candidate.

Remember, we are here to help. Student’s Inn can make it much easier to improve your score by providing professional coaching with notes, worksheets, and structured programs managed by well-trained teachers. If you are not in Singapore, we do offer Skype classes. For students who want to come over on visit visa to Singapore for a few months, we can help arrange accommodation and provide other forms of assistance. If you have any more questions, feel free to give us a call and ask.

  • Calendar icon December 27, 2016
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