What is criterion based assessment in the IB Diploma?

by Michael Fletcher, DP Coordinator

As examination week looms closer and closer, students and teachers become increasingly anxious. However, examination week is just another assessment, that all students complete throughout each semester. The difference is that these examinations are approached in a more formal and structured way, consistent across the whole of the Secondary Years division.

Formal assessment of the IB Diploma (DP) includes some multiple-choice tests for a few subjects and examination papers for most subjects, intended to be taken at the end of the two-year course, and a variety of other tasks (essays, research essays, written assignments, oral interviews, scientific and mathematical investigations, fieldwork projects and artistic performances) spread over different subjects and completed by students at various times under various conditions during the two year course.

The DP uses a variety of assessment methods to accommodate the variety of assessment techniques preferred in a range of countries. Additionally,  a variety of assessment techniques helps to reduce the potential for inequity in assessment. There is also theoretical considerations, with regards to suitable assessment methods for the different subject and student preferences.

Assessment of the DP is regarded as criterion-based performance assessment. DP assessments support and encourage appropriate student learning. Examination week will identify student’s strengths and areas for development. This is particularly important for our G12 students, as they’re nearing the end of the course, and need to close any gaps in their knowledge.

Assessments are criterion based, which means that marks are not always specific to the content of the student’s answer, although some examinations may refer to the need for candidates to show specific kinds of content knowledge. The criteria concentrate more on the generic skills that candidates are expected to demonstrate, regardless of the specific individuality of the response.

For example…

0The candidate has not reached level 1.

[1-2 marks]
Little interpretation of the text
• the candidate’s ideas are mainly insignificant and/or irrelevant or
• the commentary consists mainly of narration and/or repetition of content.

[3-4 marks]
Some interpretation of the text
• the candidate’s ideas are sometimes irrelevant
• the commentary consists mainly of unsubstantiated generalizations or
• the commentary is mainly a paraphrase of the text.

[5-6 marks]
Adequate interpretation of the text
• the candidate’s ideas are generally relevant
• the analysis is adequate and appropriately illustrated by some relevant examples.

[7-8 marks]
Good interpretation of the text
• the candidate’s ideas are clearly relevant and include an appropriate personal response
• the analysis is generally detailed and well illustrated by relevant examples.
• there is evidence of balance, and judgments are made.

[9-10 marks]
Excellent interpretation of the text
• the candidate’s ideas are convincing and include an appropriate and considered personal response
• the analysis is consistently detailed and persuasively illustrated by carefully chosen examples.
• there is considerable balance, and judgments are accurately made.

The approach used in DP assessment in the application of criterion achievement levels is a “best fit” model. The teacher applying an assessment criterion must choose the achievement level that overall best matches the piece of work being marked

To ensure reliability and consistency, all summative examinations are moderated by another teacher in school. Here at GEMS World Academy (Singapore), we take it further, our Internal Assessments (IAs) are moderated by another subject specialist, usually in a different international school here in Singapore. Therefore, we can be confident in the student’s marks that we submit to the IB.

In all cases where assessment criteria are applied, differences in student achievement that lead to the award of different marks are defined by achievement level descriptors for each criterion, which describe the typical ways in which a candidate’s response can be measured against the criterion.

Successful students will not simply memorise content and regurgitate this in the examination. Instead, successful students will be able to demonstrate skills, such as the application of theories, analytical discussion and critical thinking in their answers. These skills are taught in lessons and DP students complete a minimum of 3 assessments per quarter, highlighting to students and their teacher’s areas for development and improvement.

I wish all students good luck for examination week.

Please contact Mr. Fletcher if you have any questions regarding the DP examinations (m.fletcher@gwa.edu.sg).

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