How to get 45 points on the IB

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Mike

Partner - CTO

January 4th, 2016

108 students scored the maximum 45 points on their IB Diploma in June 2014, out of almost 100,000 worldwide. In other words, only one in a thousand students achieved maximum grades last year. With these kind of odds against you, you need a bit of help, so the purpose of this (moderately tongue-in-cheek) article is to give this to you. Want to get the magic 45 points on your IB? Read on!


How to score 45 points on the IB

The IBO publish detailed stats every year, breaking down performance in each subject group by level awarded and number of students sitting the paper. These are freely available from their website.

The IBO statistics may make for some surprising reading…

The biggest thing to be aware of are that there are large variations between subjects in terms of average grades. By breaking down these statistics, you can select subjects which will give you a higher chance of getting a Level 7 in that subject. Get this right in all 6 subjects areas, and (CAS and ToK permitting) you’re on for 45 points.

In this blog I’m going to break down the statistics for you, working out the most likely subjects in each group to gain 7 points. Read on!

Group 1: Native language

Now, you may (correctly) question what you can do about this one, but official stats show that Higher Level French language students scored an astonishing 14.49% Level 7s, with a mean grade of 5.5. (This was out of an admittedly small sample size of 284). This compares well against the equivalent stats for English Lit, with a mean grade of 4.8 and measly 2.86% Level 7 grades. Spanish-speaking students were perhaps hardest done by, with their Lit students being only having a 1.76% chance of a Level 7, whilst German sitting either language or literature at both Higher and Standard Level consistently earned around 10% of grades at Level 7. However, these languages fade into comparison when compared to less commonly chosen subjects in group 1. Want to really boost your chances of a Level 7? Then try Hebrew Literature SL (55.56% in 2013), Persian Literature SL (56.41%) or Macedonian HL (a whopping 97.14% of an admittedly small data set of 24 got top marks last summer). The lesson here? Get familiar with the charms of the Former Yugoslav Republic, and go Macedonian with Higher Level.

Group 2: Foreign Language

Again, your choices here will be limited by your school. Interestingly, there are large discrepancies between subjects that should be considered equivalent. 64.29% of HL Classical Greek students achieved Level 7 in 2013, compared to only 34.55% of Latin students. Compare these grades to the 7% of Spanish B students getting top grades, and you may be rushing to dust off those Classics text books. However, to improve your odds even more we recommend heading further east, and looking at Russian HL- its Level 7 rate was over 65% last summer. Don’t want to do a Higher in a language? Then go with Finnish; 60.53% of Finnish B SL students got a 7 last summer.

Group 3: Humanities

Things get harder in the Humanities, with no subject awarding over 40% level 7 grades. Psychology HL seems pretty hard with 3.75% at Level 7, whilst only 0.44% got top marks on ITGS HL. Again, the lesson seems to be to go for a niche subject. Why not do an SL in Political Theory (22.22% of students hit top marks)? Or you could try the ambiguously named “History 1”, where 27.5% of HL students get top grades, compared to just 2.04% of students on “History” HL. However, those looking for maximum grades shouldn’t look further than “World Art Culture” at SL (admittedly sat by just 44 students in 2013), with a great 36% level 7 rate.

Group 3: Humanities

Things get harder in the Humanities, with no subject awarding over 40% level 7 grades. Psychology HL seems pretty hard with 3.75% at Level 7, whilst only 0.44% got top marks on ITGS HL. Again, the lesson seems to be to go for a niche subject. Why not do an SL in Political Theory (22.22% of students hit top marks)? Or you could try the ambiguously named “History 1”, where 27.5% of HL students get top grades, compared to just 2.04% of students on “History” HL. However, those looking for maximum grades shouldn’t look further than “World Art Culture” at SL (admittedly sat by just 44 students in 2013), with a great 36% level 7 rate.

Group 4: Sciences

Things get a bit trickier still here, with less choice of subjects and a seemingly harder set of level 7 pass rates. That being said, there are excellent opportunities for those who know where to look. Firstly, be sure to avoid Design Tech, with a low 1.41% and 0.14% level 7 rate at HL and SL respectively. Biology seems like one to skip as well- HL has only 4.7% level 7, opposed to 10.13% in Chemistry HL and 12.65% in Physics HL. (Interestingly, all the main sciences have a higher Level 7 rate at HL than SL). If you can find it (and with only 41 students worldwide that is one big “if”), go for Marine Science SL- this had a 25.64% Level 7 rate last year.

Group 5: Maths and Computing

Very few subjects in this group means there isn’t much to say but if you can hack it, Further Maths SL is the winner with 19.02% Level 7. Want to do a higher in this group? Go for Computer Science, with 13.96% at level 7.

Group 6

Again, there is a relatively poor selection of top grades here. Avoid Film at SL- only 0.67% got top grades. Music is also worth leaving: 1.22% and 2.08% at HL and SL respectively. If you can find it, go for Dance HL- 15.23% got a Level 7 last year. Want to do a Standard Level? Go for Art History SL- 10.61% of students got top grades last year.

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What subjects should I choose to get 45 points on the IB?

Drum roll please… According to the 2013 results, the most likely combination of subjects to achieve the maximum 45 points is as follows: Group 1: Macedonian HL (97.14%) Group 2: Russian HL (65.43%) Group 3: World Art Culture SL (36.36%) Group 4: Marine Science SL (25.64%) Group 5: Further Maths SL (19.02%) Group 6: Dance HL (15.23%)

You may be scratching your head at this list, and you’d be right to do so. Whilst there is some merit to picking one or two IB subjects to maximise marks, the above combination seems unsuitable for people not aiming to become circus performers or aquarium workers in Eastern Europe. Do use the stats to choose between the subjects that you do want to do. If you can’t decide between Physics and Biology in group 4, then this should help you significantly. Most importantly, you will probably not want to do all of the above subjects! There will be students out there who want to study Macedonian or Marine Science, and power to them. That being said, this is about you, and if you are not interested in something, you aren’t going to put the extra work in and won’t hit those top grades. If you want more help with the IB, check our advice here. We have an excellent range of IB tutors in London and online as well, covering all major subjects. Just please don’t ask us to dance… Good luck choosing your subjects!



Mike's picture

About Mike, Partner - CTO

Mike is resident geek at Owl Tutors. He is passionate about education, technology and can usually be found reading about the latest developments in teaching. He runs the in-house training for our tutors, and is our resident nerd, spending ever-more time building and coding our various websites.