Comment: Our Distorted View of IB Success

The IB – we all know it. It’s a beastly “dragon” that essentially all La Chat students encounter and have to slay over the course of two high-pressure years. Luckily, we have a great track record of defeating the dragon: average scores are usually around 35 or 36, and pass rates always exceed the world average.

Now entering my final year of IB, I look at those numbers and wonder; why do I worry? The school obviously knows what they’re doing and how to bring most students to grades in the high 30s, so why am I still so consumed with fear over how I will fare in the next year? And after a recent article published in the Update, I think I have found my answer.

I realise I have never actually heard advice from a student achieving the average La Chat grades. Since the IB process kicked off in year 11 with subject choices, the focus has been concentrated on the highest scoring students. Of course, it’s natural for us to turn for those in the 40+ points group for tips on how to join their ranks, but this group is still the minority (about 25%) of La Chat IB graduates – is it fair to make them the benchmark for success?

The academic pressure this fuels is harmful. Most students lie outside of this grade bracket, and it is highly unfair to push the notion that those grades are what makes a successful IB student. Recognising the hard work and grit that it takes to score so highly is one thing, but through assemblies given by alumni who scored the perfect 45, organisations whose ambassadors have on average 43 points being called to guide the IB year groups, and articles on the Update that explicitly call on former students at the top universities in the world for advice, it starts to seem like students in the 40-45 range are the only ones worth publicly celebrating.

Instead, the emphasis should remain on how success is relative. I think our school is good at this on an individual level through the personalised guidance we get, but when collectively addressing year groups, it can come across as if priority is still with Oxbridge and Ivy-level students by giving separate sessions for them specifically. I acknowledge the interests of the staff is to push students to achieve their highest academic potential, but the statistics show that for most, that is still below 40 points.

Why is it then that we never benefit from the perspective of a student who scored 33 in our assemblies? They too know the hard work that the IB requires, the hours of studying and worrying that it entails, and- unlike the higher scorers- can show that it is possible to meet your goals without getting 7s and 6s in every single subject. I don’t mean to diminish the achievements of those getting 40+, but I believe incorporating more diverse outlooks on how to tackle the IB would be less daunting (it can be hard to take advice from someone who may not know the academic struggles you do) and ultimately help lessen the pressure for those of us in years 12 and 13.

At the moment, I can’t help but feel that fear is a huge motivator for my fellow classmates and myself. I know of too many that worry a 36 – the average score from the 2018 cohort – still isn’t good enough and others that freak out because it’s above their reach. This spread of ability needs to be addressed more frequently. Not bringing light to it is something that I think is damaging to the morale of students; fear should not be our motivator. It’s normal to have trepidation in your final year, but not to the point of having a chain of sleepless nights for the sake of raising your grade from a 5 to a 6 or a 6 to a 7. Pulling pieces of advice from a more representative group of La Chat’s IB performance could prevent people from feeling like the work they are doing is not good enough just because they’re not getting 7s.

Hopefully, changes will be made for the future IB students. The programme is seriously hard regardless of what grades you are aiming for, so my advice is: work hard for your own sake, always try to aim as high as you personally can- but keep things in perspective. At the end of the day, everyone slays the dragon, and that in itself is an achievement worth celebrating.


  1. Hi, recent IB Alumni here who scored well below his predicted (30).

    La Chat prides itself on academic achievement very highly, but don’t let this blind you to your own motivations and your own learning. I struggled to keep my GPA up in the second year of IB, and I found that the more I concentrated on my GPA and the finals the less I enjoyed what I was actually learning. Really take time to think about the content, and even do research to help connect and understand concepts. Talk to your friends and fellow classmates, sometimes they can explain things better than the teacher can. Don’t let your grades define who you are and who you want to be, extracurriculars and personal development outside of school are just as important as GPA, if not more so. Prioritize your mental health before your academics, nothing is more important than getting enough sleep, eating right and getting physical exercise to really optimize your focus and enthusiasm.

    Really talk to your college counseler, I found that in the whole school they had the best grasp on my ability and my personal achievement, and the more you talk to them the better they know you and the better they can help you find the college that matches you and your personal ambitions and goals.


  2. This article really needed to be published and thank you so much for doing so!! Sincerely, an ex IB student


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