IB Exam Cancelation Allows Students to Earn IB Diploma without Paper Examinations

By: Vivian Wang

As the pandemic has entered its second year, International Baccalaureate (IB) students at Valencia High School have wondered how they will earn their IB Diploma. IB is an internationally recognized curriculum that emphasizes the perfect blend of STEM and the liberal arts. International Baccalaureate students must take a total of six IB classes; most students at Valencia elect to take three Standard Level (SL) and three Higher Level (HL) classes. The IB curriculum provides both breadth and depth across a variety of subjects, including studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts.

Many IB students at Valencia High School have dreaded the notoriously rigorous IB exams, which are commonly referred to as “papers”. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Valencia High School was permitted by IB to pursue a non-examination route. According to IB, by pursuing this route, IB students will not have to sit in for any paper exams in order to prioritize the students’ health and safety.

IB students share a wide range of opinions. Fred Jenkins, an economics teacher at Valencia High School, explains in his letter to Valencia High School IB students that in-person IB exams at Valencia will not be held this year. With approximately 90% of Valencia’s IB students learning remotely since March 2020, the administration’s decision is a safer alternative to the traditional route of taking the exams, since the IB exams would have to be administered in-person.

One IB senior (name omitted for privacy) in the graduating class of 2021 was interviewed about her thoughts on not having to take any IB exams this year. She commented, “With the cancellation of IB exams, the IB class of 2021 definitely got lucky in that we have more control over our IB scores. However, IBO has added a stipulation that teachers’ predicted scores will be given significant weight in determining our scores. Our internal assessments will only be 20-25% of our IB scores, depending on the class”. She added, “I feel that the stipulation adds greater subjectivity to the scores which are meant to be objective. But at the end of the day, I’m still happy we don’t have to take a full length test!”.

Since students will not be taking paper exams for this 2021 testing season, students’ IB scores will be primarily determined by other factors such as external assessments, internal assessments, and the teacher’s predicted grades. For example, students who are enrolled in Valencia’s HL English class would receive their IB score based on factors including their HL Essay, Individual Oral, and their instructor’s predicted grade. The predicted grade will be determined primarily based on the IB candidate’s work and the teacher’s understanding of the IB caliber and expectations. Other classes, such as IB HL Computer Science and IB SL Computer Science, will have their predicted scores based primarily on their Internal Assessment.

Similarly, IB senior Tejal Patel commented, “I was very worried about taking in-person exams because I felt that online school had not prepared us enough for these exams. In addition, I was rather excited to hear that IB exams are cancelled. I do not believe they would have been an accurate representation of what we had done over the past year.”

As the IB graduating class of 2021 has now been notified of these changes, the IB class is celebrating their four years of hard work, all while continuing to push through their remaining highschool classes.