Welcome to the fourth post in our series on IB grade boundaries!
Please read the first post for an introduction to IB grade boundaries. This post is on Group 4 subjects: sciences at SL and HL. Note that Sport & Exercise Science and Environmental Systems & Societies are only available at SL.
Little Geniuses have compiled data from May 2014 to Nov 2016 to analyse trends in grade boundaries for the wide range of group 4 subjects available.
This graph illustrates the average cut-off for a band 7 in a variety of commonly-taken sciences subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Sport & Exercise Science and Environmental Systems & Societies. Sciences subjects tend to have lower cut-off marks than group 1 and 2 subjects due to the volume of content set out in the syllabus and the difficulty of scoring highly in science IA’s.
The cut-off is highest for biology over the two-year period, at 80 for HL and SL. The cut-off is lowest for computer science at 70 for SL and 65 for HL. Aside from biology, all cut-offs are below 80. The average cut-off for group 4 (science subjects) is similar, at 73.7, compared to the average cut-off for group 3 (humanities) subjects, at 71.6. Moreover, the average cut-off in these group 3 (sciences) subjects is much lower than the 82.9 average cut-off needed for group 2 (languages) subjects.
Despite the higher cut-offs for biology and chemistry, these remain the most popular science subjects. Studying biology and/or chemistry leaves students with scientific knowledge that is valuable for future studies in medicine, medical science, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, and many others. This is because the IB syllabuses stipulate the teaching of advanced material that HSC students do not learn until their first or second year of university.
With determination and the right support, achieving a band 7 in biology and chemistry is possible! Work on IA’s needs to be commenced early as these assessments are colossal tasks that require many hours of work and several drafts. As for the syllabus content, revision needs to be regular and consistent. During your final exams, you’re assessed on all content learnt in the last 2 years, and so topics 1 and 2 will seem very distant unless you’ve revised them throughout your diploma.
The graph above displays the trends in the band 7 cut-off mark over time. As in the previous posts, exam number 1 is May 2014 TZ1, exam 2 is May 2014 TZ2, exam 3 is Nov 2014 TZ1 etc. Note that there are three exams every calendar year - there is only one time zone in November. There don’t appear to any long-term trends, however, it is interesting to note which subjects tend to fluctuate and which tend to be stable. For example, design technology SL remains at either 75 or 76 for the 3-year period, whereas chemistry HL fluctuates between 77 and 81 and environmental systems and societies SL fluctuates but 68 and 76. So, if you’re wondering which band you would have achieved in any environmental systems and societies past paper, be sure to check out the grade boundaries for that particular session! Physics SL also fluctuates between 65 and 72 over the 3-year period.
Overall, we can observe slightly less variation in the cut-off for a band 7 in group 4 (sciences) subjects compared to group 3 (humanities) subjects, but there is more variation in the sciences subjects than in the group 1 (English) and group 2 (languages subjects).
Please contact Little Geniuses if you need help choosing the group 4 subject that is ideal for you.