Tel: +44 (0)20 3802 6862

May 2021 Exam Changes

Changes to how May 2021 students are assessed will affect how students should prepare for assessments. Read about the changes and your next steps here.

IB examinations have now ended ended. EIB will continue to offer support and guidance to IB students throughout the summer, and to update our offerings around the ongoing disruption caused by coronavirus. If you need to speak about your options, you can contact the EIB team, as well as find out more about the November retakes window below:

More Information about Remarks ↗More Information about Retakes ↗Retakes Tuition Programme ↗
Overview ↓'Examination' Route ↓'Non-Examination' Route ↓Grade Boundaries & Predicted Grades ↓Next Steps ↓

The IBO announced changes to the May 2021 examination period on May 4th 2021. These changes are in addition to the reduced assessment model for May 2021, which the IBO announced last year. This page was last updated on May 5th 2021. If you have any questions about the information on this page you can contact EIB at


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption to students and schools, the IBO has announced significant changes to how May 2021 exams may, or may not, be administered.

The IBO previously announced a reduced assessment model for May 2021 students, which involved modified weighting between papers, the removal of some papers etc. These most recent changes announced by the IBO are in addition to the reduced assessment model.

Following a consultation with all IB world schools in January, the IBO has now announced a dual assessment model for students. IB schools will decide whether or not to hold exams, depending on their ability to do so safely as well as local restrictions which may prevent them. If exams can be administered by schools, students will be assessed with the 'Examination Route', otherwise students who cannot sit exams will be graded using the 'Non-Examination Route'.

You can find out more about the changes below, as well as the best way to handle them and what your next steps should be.

Two routes: Exam and Non-Exam

If a school can administer exams safely, students will be assess based on coursework and exams ('Examination Route'). Otherwise, students will be assessed on the basis of coursework and predicted grades ('Non-Examination Route').

Examination Route ↓Non-Examination Route ↓
Boundaries & Predicted Grades

The IBO will modify grade boundaries to account for the disruption caused by COVID-19 and will provide more support to schools to help them accurately predict students' grades.

Boundaries & Predicted Grades ↓
Next steps

These changes will affect how you need to prepare for your assessments. Read about how to ensure you're ready for your assessment route and your next steps.

Next Steps ↓

Examination Route

For the majority of students and schools, May 2021 exams will proceed as usual - with the IBO announcing new measures to help schools ensure exams are administered safely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The IBO currently expect 75% of schools (which teach around 61% of all IB students) to administer exams.

Where schools are able to administer exams (and local coronavirus measures do not stop from doing so) students will sit exams and complete assessments in line with the reduced assessment model which the IBO announced last summer.

In addition, the IBO has modified grade boundaries to account for the amount of time teachers and students have lost due to the coronavirus pandemic. You can read more about how the IBO has modified grade boundaries below.

For 'examination' students, predicted grades will not be used to calculate students' grades.

How 'examination' students will be assessed:

Students on the 'examination route' will be assessed in a similar way to how students we're assessed before May 2020. Students will be assessed using a combination of:

Internal Assessments (IAs)

Grades for IAs will be awarded by external IBO Examiners, rather than moderation, to ensure students' work is marked and graded consistently.


Additional written assessed work for subjects students are taking which require coursework will also be marked externally.

Examination Results

Students will sit exams reduced assessment model exams as announced by the IBO last year and their grades used to calculate their overall subject mark.

Exam Grade Boundaries ↓

IAs, coursework, and exams will continue to weigh the same as they did previously - taking into account any changes the IBO made to coursework/exam weighting last summer for the May 2021 examination period:

Coursework & IAs (20%-40%) + Exam grades (60%-80%) = Final Mark

You can see the exact weighting of IAs in most subjects in EIB's report on the reduced assessment model here.

What if circumstances change and my school can longer administer exams in May?

The IBO will allow schools to transition students to the ‘non-examination’ route at any time before the examination period begins. Students/schools can also defer or withdraw from the May exams if they need to. Once schools transition to the non-examination route they cannot transition back to the ‘examination’ route.

What happens if my school chooses the ‘examination’ route but I can’t attend exams at the school?

Schools can request individual students are marked by the ‘non-examination’ route, even if they rest of the school’s students are in the ‘examination’ route. This can be because students are shielding, because they’re in another country and unable to return and more. Schools can also let students sit their exams in a different location, provided they can provide adequate invigilation. If your school has chosen the ‘examination’ route but you can’t attend exams at the school, you should speak with them soon to understand what options are available to you.

Non-Examination Route

If your school cannot safely administer exams (or local COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from doing so) you will be assessed by the IBO's 'Non-Examination Route'. This route is similar to how students were assess in May 2020, with the IBO offering additional support, mechanisms and tools to schools to assist them.

How 'non-examination' students will be assessed:

Students on the 'non-examination route' will be assessed in a manner similar to May 2020 students, with the IBO offering additional support and tools to schools to assist them in assessing students. Students will be assessed in each individual subject using a combination of:

Internal Assessments (IAs)

Grades for IAs will be awarded by external IBO Examiners, rather than moderation, to ensure students' work is marked and graded consistently.


Additional written assessed work for subjects students are taking which require coursework will also be marked externally.

Predicted grades

Schools will provide predicted grades for students based on the quota provided for them by the IBO, based on past students' attainment.

Non-Exam Grade Boundaries ↓

IAs and coursework will continue to weigh the same as they did previously - taking into account any changes the IBO made to coursework/exam weighting last summer for the May 2021 examination period - with predicted grades replacing examinations in the IBO's calculations. Thus:

Coursework & IAs (20%-40%) + Predicted grades (60%-80%) = Final Mark

You can see the exact weighting of IAs in most subjects in EIB's report on the reduced assessment model here.

Why do the percentage weightings vary between subjects?

Different subjects weigh coursework differently, meaning some subjects will differ from others. The IBO has kept the weight of course work in each subject the same, and so the percentage ranges above account for this.

Why don’t the IB award grades based on coursework/IAs only?

Students tend to score higher on coursework than in exams. The IBO could try to account for this by marking all students down from their coursework average, but the IBO say this isn’t fair and students’ will be more accurately graded using predicted grades supplied by their teachers.

Weren’t there criticisms of the way the IBO used predicted grades last year? Has anything changed this year?

Some students felt the IBO’s awarding of grades last year wasn’t fair. This year, the IBO say they have improved system with which they can account for discrepancies in the accuracy of predicted grades supplied by teachers by providing more detailed guidelines to help more accurately predict students’ grades, and a robust system for schools to make requests to change this allocation when they feel a student will not receive the grade they should. You can read more about this in the ‘predicted grades’ section below.

Grade Boundaries & Predicted Grades

In addition to the two routes students may be assessed on in May 2021, the IBO will also make changes to grade boundaries and how schools provide students' predicted grades. Both of these changes attempt to improve the accuracy with which students final grades are awarded.

Grade Boundaries ↓Predicted Grades ↓

Grade Boundaries

The IBO has said it will modify grade boundaries (the minimum score/percentage a student needs to achieve a particular mark in a single assessment or overall) to account for lost teaching time this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has also said that it will set grade boundaries independently between the 'Examination' and 'Non-Examination' routes to ensure a parity in attainment in case one route ends up being more or less difficult than the other and to ensure students on one route are not disadvantaged.

Examination Route

Modifying grade boundaries is something the IBO does with every examination period; it is a process which takes into account the strength of students in a given year, the difficulty of the exam etc. with the aim of seeing similar quantities of students achieving certain grades each year. The IBO expects that boundaries will be lowered this year to allow for the number of students achieving particular grades in a subject to be broadly similar to previous years, despite the disruption to their learning due to COVID-19 and that their performance in exams will likely be weaker than students in previous years.

Rather than just instituting a blanket change to grade boundaries before exams, the IBO will instead wait until after students have sat exams. They will consider:

  • how both a sample of and students overall performed
  • how students' performance compares to predicted grades
  • how students' performance compared statistically in comparison with other years

Using this information, the IBO will decide on grade boundaries that most fairly distributes students between grades as appropriate.

The IBO has already reduced the quantity of material students must cover in preparation for their exams. They announced this reduced assessment model last summer.

Non-Examination Route

Normally students' written assessed tasks are marked by their school teachers. A sample of those assessments are then 'moderated' by the IBO and all students grades are changed depending on the extent to which the moderator agrees with the teacher's marking.

This year, almost every piece of written assessed work students produce will be marked by a teacher and an IBO Examiner to help ensure similar standards of assessment are applied to students on the 'non-examination' route as on the 'examination route'.

Predicted Grades

Predicted grades - provided by teachers - will be important for students on the 'non-examination' route - replacing the weighting of exams for each subject (see above). The IBO has said that predicted grades in 2020 we're higher than previous years and in response has committed to 'recommend generous guidelines within which teachers will be asked to submit their predictions'.

In addition, where schools or teachers are concerned the IBO's guidelines are overly restrictive, the IBO has announced a more robust system to allow schools to lodge requests for a modified grade distribution on a student's behalf.

Next Steps

The changes announced by the IBO mean that it's vital students continue to work towards their final assessments and do not lose momentum in the run up to May. Depending on the route schools choose to take, EIB has a variety of support options available to support students and ensure you're perfectly prepared for your final IB assessments.

Examination Route

Support options for students sitting IB exams in May.

Non-Examination Route

Ways to prepare for the 'non-examination' route.

Online Easter Revision Course

A comprehensive programme of engaging, online workshops to prepare students for final exams during the Easter holidays. Choose to revise up to 6 subjects with our expert IB tutors.

Easter Revision Course >

February Maths Revision Course

A unit-by-unit Maths course delivered by IB world school teachers; perfect for catching up on missed material and boosting maths confidence for upcoming IA submissions and predicted grades.

February Maths Revision Course ↗

Private Tuition

Our tutors only tutor the IB, so they're perfectly placed to support students through the reduced assessment model and examination changes. With IB teachers and IBO Examiners on our team, you'll get one-on-one support to explore, engage, and learn at your own pace and prepare for your final IB assessments.

Online Tuition >Face-to-Face Tuition >

May Retakes Tuition Programme

An 8-week solution to prepare retake students for the May examination period. IB world school teachers will lead thrice-weekly lessons that revise subject content and practice exam technique, giving necessary structure to revision in the run-up to exams, and boosting subject knowledge and confidence for improved IAs and predicted grades. Last year’s course received excellent feedback and saw students improve their grade by an average of 1.3 points.

May Retakes Tuition Programme ↗

School-oriented solutions to support teachers and educators

Our close international connections to IB schools and educators means every of our support options are devised to compliment the measures schools have taken to support students. Read about how schools can take advantage of:

Private Tuition >February Maths Revision Course ↗Easter Revision Course, 2021 >May Retakes Programme, 2021 ↗
Outstanding Teachers
We’ve built our team of tutors over a decade and they know the IB inside-out, so you can be sure you’re in good hands.
15 Subjects Offered
With so many subjects offered, you can cover all your bases to make sure you're on top of every syllabus before the new year.
View the Programme Schedule

Cover up to 5 of your IB subjects.

With up to 60 sessions running over a 3 week period, you can attend classes in almost all of your IB subjects. There are also classes for Extended Essay support, Theory of Knowledge revision, and UCAS and UK university application advice.
Register for classes in the individual subject units you need to cover.
Attend small classes, taught by our outstanding tutors, in our trusted online space.
Rewatch your lessons, access class notes and additional resources to learn at home.

Remote learning technologies which
make you feel in the room.

Last year we delivered over 40,000 hours of online tuition, and over the last decade we’ve learned how to deliver an exceptional quality of tuition remotely, with our recommended packages and custom software.
Collaborative & Interactive
Online whiteboard, shared documents, video conferencing and live chat ensure tutors and students work well together.
Every Subject
From plotting functions to battle plans, online working spaces let students and tutors explore together in detail.

Private break-out rooms.

Tutors use private breakout rooms to differentiate the class content to suit your needs, and to facilitate group activities and pair discussion. Tutors also have access to the latest shared whiteboard and collaborative software so that students can directly contribute to diagrams, annotations, and worked examples.

Ongoing resources and exercises
after the Programme.

All the classes on the programme are recorded so you revisit them after the Programme, alongside call notes, exercises for each class and additional resources. That way you can keep learning and revising.

Small classes.

Every class on the Mid-IB Tuition Programme is capped at six students, so you have the time to work closely with your class tutor.
Register Now