Marking the exams

This year I am marking SL paper 2. The marking is carried out online and whilst I have marked for the IB previously, this is the first time I have marked online papers for them.

I thought it may be of some use to you to explain how the marking process works ….

Firstly, each school will send the exam papers to the IB (in the past they were sent straight to the examiner). Once the IB has the papers they are scanned.

Examiners are able to access scanned papers to mark online using ‘ticks’ and crosses’ or a variety of stamps, such as ‘ECF’ or ‘BOD’ so in this respect the marking is exactly the same as it is when ‘real’ papers were marked by hand. Examiners can choose to mark the entire script (my preferred way) or question by question.

This is not the end of the process though. In order to be allowed to mark ‘live’ student responses there are two processes that the examiner must go through.

The first process is the ‘familiarisation’ process. Three scripts are available for the examiner to mark. Once a mark is entered, feedback on how the chief examiner scored the question is instantly received. This allows the examiner to check that they have understood the mark-scheme correctly.

After familiarisation there is ‘standardisation’. Here, the examiner marks five scripts and submits their marks. The scripts have been pre-marked and the marks are agreed upon. The examiner cannot see these pre-agreed marks until the end of the process. Immediately after submission, feedback is recieved as to wether the examiner is ‘in’ or ‘outside’ tolerance for the marking of the papers.

If the examiner is in tolerance, they are free to start marking. If they are out of tolerance the need to mark a second standardisation set. If they are out of tolerance again they are not able to mark for this session.

Once marking has started, every 10 or so scripts are ‘seeded’  – this means they are pre-marked. The examiner does not know if a script is seeded or not but a ‘seed’ has an agreed total. If the examiner is out of tolerance for the seed they are stopped marking and contacted by a more senior examiner to explain where they have gone wrong.

The process does seem good and is geared to minimising marking mistakes, mistakes that were maybe not identified when marking by hand.

Plus, it is much better for the environment as hundreds of exam papers are not being sent around the globe (as much! :mrgreen: )

  • Emma
    May 13, 2016

    Hi I was wondering if the same procedure applies to typed exams for learning support kids or does the whole document get marked by someone? Thanks.

    • triplea_da
      June 2, 2016

      Hi Emma,

      I the exam written on the exam paper? If so, I would imagine it was subject to the same procedure.

      All the best,


  • Marc
    May 2, 2017


    I did one of my IB exams yesterday and by mistake wrote some of my answer out of the box provided due to lack of space.

    Will I get penalised for this? Will the examiner be able to see my answer?

    Thank you

    • Mike Meads
      May 2, 2017

      Hi Marc,

      They scan each answer box with a bit of a margin, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Good luck with your exams!

  • Marc
    May 2, 2017

    Hi Mike!

    Thank you for your answer.

    Most of my answers where only two or three lines over the box , whilst the last one was quite over, I’d say around 5 more lines.

    Do you think that if the examiner sees this he will be able to request a physical copy? I’m really worried as I felt the exam went really well but I’m worried I will do badly because of writing outside the margins.

    Thank you

    • Mike Meads
      May 3, 2017

      Hi Marc,

      I consulted with our academic team for further information. Here’s the response:

      “For your future exams, it’s a better idea to continue on the extra answer sheets, even if it’s just one line – they will be scanned in and displayed together with the answer that the examiner sees.

      For the exam you wrote out of the box for, one or two lines will most likely be picked up by the scanner. An examiner can always request a re-scan if the answer is not legible for whatever reason. Examiners are in their right not to read what’s outside the box, although the instructions in general say to look for what the students know and not what they don’t know. My personal view is that it would be a mean examiner who realises that the last lines are missing and still chooses to ignore it, because it’s been written out of the box!”

      Hope that helps.

  • Amy
    July 7, 2017

    Hi Mike,

    What is the remarking process like for exams? Do examiners see a clean copy of the exam, or one with previous comments/grades. If one is only 2-3 marks away from the next grade (going from a 6 to a 7) do you think it is worth it to get a remark, or is it risky?

    I would really appreciate it if you could let me know what you think.

    Kind regards,

    • Mike Meads
      July 25, 2017

      Hi Amy,

      Below is the response from our Academic Manager. I hope it helps.

      Hi Amy

      I think the discussion of whether or not to ask for a remark is something you should have with your DP Coordinator. S/he knows what the exact grade boundaries are and should be able to tell you if you would benefit from a remark.

      If you demand a remark, all your papers (not the IA) in one subject are remarked. The fee for doing this is £60. They are marked (without other examiners’ marks) by a senior examiner, and the final mark will be the one that is recorded in your transcript, no matter if it’s higher or lower. Is it worth it to ask for a remark if you are 2-3 marks from a 7? Chances are, it isn’t worth it, because the total grade span of a grade of 6 isn’t that great, and being 2-3 marks below a 7 may be actually quite close to the centre of grade 6. This is the kind of thing your DP Coordinator would be able to tell you about, better than I could.

      Best wishes

  • Amruta
    August 30, 2017


    How long does it take to get my mark sheet from school after the IB results are out.

    Asking as my school is unable to give me the mark sheet till date.

    Gave the exams this year 2017

    • David Allen
      September 11, 2017

      Hi Yasubharucha,

      Thanks for the question. Do you mean the breakdown of individual paper marks when you say ‘mark sheet’?


  • Catherine
    November 8, 2017


    Does ECF apply to all questions in Chemistry paper 2? Say if you get part a wrong and then used the wrong answer for part b and part c, do you get penalised three times??

  • Roshan Ramdenee
    November 1, 2018

    My son just sat for his IB exams today . Instead of answering one question from Section A and One question from Section B , he by misunderstood and answered 2 questions from Section B . Do you think they can give some consolation points ?


    • David Allen
      November 29, 2018

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for the question but this blog post is now outdated. The examination model changed in May 2016. Paper 2 no longer contains section A & B. Candidates need to answer all the questions. Are you getting confused with paper 3 (which now has section A and B)

  • Buvana
    July 8, 2019

    As a candidate can I request or purchase my marked answer script from IB – as I am way off in one of the subjects and can’t understand how ?

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