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The Ultimate Guide to IB Physics Grade Boundaries

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Don't wait until your final IB Physics exams to start understanding the grade boundaries!


This article is your ultimate guide, packed with valuable insights and practical advice. Let’s unpack what grade boundaries are, how they’re determined, and how you can use this knowledge to ace your IB Physics exams.

I've also compiled a complete list of grade boundaries for Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL) Physics from 2016 to 2023, so you can see how they’ve changed over the years and set your goals accordingly.

I'll also consider how the exam structure changing with the new IB Physics syllabus in 2025 might impact future markbands. Finally, I've included my handy IB Physics grade calculator to help you estimate your grades based on your current marks.

Let’s dive in!

  1. Understanding IB Physics Grade Boundaries
  2. How Grade Boundaries are Determined
  3. Complete List of IB Physics Grade Boundaries (Since 2016)
  4. Why do Grade Boundaries Change?
  5. How will the new IB Physics Syllabus 2025 affect Grade Boundaries?
  6. Using Grade Boundaries to Improve Your IB Physics Score
  7. Grade Descriptors: Characteristics of Each Grade in IB Physics



Understanding IB Physics Grade Boundaries


First things first – what exactly are IB Physics grade boundaries? Simply put,

A grade boundary is the minimum score you need to achieve to reach each grade level.

For example, the grade boundary for a 7 in IB Physics SL in November 2023 was 70. That means you needed an overall percentage of 70% in IB Physics SL to get a 7.

The exam weightings make it tricky to work out what your final IB Physics percentage actually is, that's why I've built out this free IB Physics grade calculator for you to check your current overall score - allowing you to make a realistic comparison with the grade boundaries below.

You can't definitively say that the "grade boundary for a 7 in IB Physics HL is 68%". That's because they vary from year to year based on the difficulty of the exams and other factors. I'll often quote the average grade boundary, which gives a good indication of the levels to aspire to. On this note,

The average grade boundaries for a 7 are:

IB Physics SL: 65%

IB Physics HL: 68%

Crazy low, right?

However, if you check the table of grade boundaries below, you'll notice that you have to aspire slightly higher than that to be sure of your goal grade.

There are grade descriptors for what a person attaining each grade should be capable of achieving. Lead examiners assess how much of the paper a person reaching that level of understanding would be likely to get and decide the grade boundaries accordingly.



How Grade Boundaries are Determined


You might wonder how examiners come up with these boundaries. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not set by a bell curve. Instead, each grade has a set descriptor outlined in the IB specification, indicating what a student at that grade should be capable of achieving. I've detailed these grade descriptors from the IB examiners below. Lead examiners look at these descriptors, assess the exam paper, gauge the level of understanding a student needs, and then decide the grade boundaries accordingly.

So that's how grade boundaries are set...

There's a set of grade descriptors, each corresponds to a range of marks to differentiate student performance. After the exams have been marked, a best-fit approach is used to ascertain which particular mark to use from the possible range for each level descriptor.



Complete List Of IB Physics Grade Boundaries


Standard Level (SL) Physics Grade Boundaries

Year Timezone 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
M19 TZ1 0 13 22 32 42 54 65
M19 TZ2 0 13 23 35 46 56 66
N19 TZ0 0 14 25 36 46 57 67
N20 TZ0 0 14 25 35 45 56 68
M21 TZ1 0 12 18 25 34 48 62
M21 TZ2 0 10 15 26 37 50 63
M22 TZ1 0 11 20 27 37 47 58
M22 TZ2 0 12 21 32 43 54 65
N22 TZ0 0 13 22 30 40 49 59
M23 TZ1 0 11 21 32 44 56 68
M23 TZ2 0 12 22 35 45 55 65
N23 TZ1 0 15 28 43 51 61 70
N23 TZ2 0 15 28 43 51 61 70


Higher Level (HL) Physics Grade Boundaries

Year Timezone 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
M19 TZ1 0 13 23 34 45 56 67
M19 TZ2 0 15 26 39 49 60 70
N19 TZ0 0 15 26 39 49 59 69
N20 TZ0 0 16 30 44 53 64 73
M21 TZ1 0 12 18 25 36 52 69
M21 TZ2 0 14 20 29 39 54 69
M22 TZ1 0 12 19 27 38 50 63
M22 TZ2 0 15 25 35 46 58 70
N22 TZ0 0 13 21 30 40 52 65
M23 TZ1 0 12 21 32 44 56 68
M23 TZ2 0 14 24 37 47 58 69
N23 TZ1 0 15 26 39 49 59 69
N23 TZ2 0 15 26 39 49 59 69




Why do Grade Boundaries Change?


Here are a few factors that affect them:


Exam Difficulty

It’s challenging to create an exam of the same difficulty level every year. Some exams are tougher than others, impacting the grade boundaries. If it's a tough exam, you can expect the grade boundaries to be lower.


Cohort Performance

If most students perform well, the grade boundaries will likely be higher. If lots of students perform badly, the grade boundaries will be lowered.


External Factors

Events like COVID-19 or cheating scandals can also influence grade boundaries. For instance, the May 2024 time zone cheating scandal had a significant impact.

In situations like this, the IBO will make a statement. Here's the statement the IBO made about the adjustment of grade boundaries for the covid pandemic:

During grade-awarding, appropriate grade boundaries were set for each route, to account for global disruptions in learning and teaching and other unusual circumstances that might have affected performance. The IB looked very carefully alongside the team of experienced external examiners to consider the grade boundaries.  Students facing adverse circumstances over and above the pandemic have been supported on a case by case basis by a suite of mitigation measures.


How will the new IB Physics Syllabus 2025 affect Grade Boundaries?


Starting in 2025, there will be some changes to the IB Physics syllabus that could affect grade boundaries:


Increased Focus on Database Questions

This could make it easier for students who excel in these questions to score higher marks. Here's some advice from me... practice, practice, practice this data-based questions!


New Exam Structure

The introduction of Paper 1A, Paper 1B, and Paper 2 with different weightings will lead to adjustments in grade boundaries.


No Penalty for Incorrect Answers

The instructions in Paper 1A stress that "No marks are deducted for incorrect answers" this AND the fact that each question has now been allocated 2 minutes per multiple choice question (instead of 1.5 minutes). This re-emphasised policy might encourage more students to attempt all questions and take longer to answer, meaning the grade boundaries for Paper 1A might be adjusted form the previous syllabus Paper 1. 



Using Grade Boundaries to Improve Your IB Physics Grade


Now, how can you use this information to your advantage? Here’s a quick guide:


Set Realistic Goals

Look at the grade boundaries and set a target for the grade you want to achieve. You’ll notice that getting a seven in IB Physics isn’t impossible – you need about 70%. That means you don’t have to get 30% of it right.


Target Your Weak Areas

Identify your weaknesses, whether in concept knowledge or exam technique. This is a key focus in our TrIBe Physics course. I personally help you pinpoint and improve your weak areas, boosting your scores significantly


Practice, Practice, Practice!

Your exam technique improves with practice, and it’s even more effective with the guidance provided in TrIBe Physics. We have tools like the IB Physics grade calculator in our blog post to help you predict your final grade. Just enter your marks, and it’ll show you your current grade and what you need to score to reach your target.


Join TrIBe Physics

If you’re serious about acing your IB Physics exams, consider joining TrIBe Physics. It’s where the magic happens! You get direct access to me, all the resources you need, videos, mock exams, screencast solutions, and personalised support.

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Grade Descriptors: Characteristics of Each Grade in IB Physics


The IBO create a set of grade descriptors to explain what level each students should achieve to reach each mark. Their language is pretty dry and boring - so I've written them to make them more relatable for you.

Here’s a breakdown of what each grade represents in your IB Physics course.


Grade 7

A Grade 7 means you have a comprehensive understanding of the subject and can handle concepts and principles like a pro. You can pick out the relevant information and apply it in various situations. You’re great at analysing data and constructing detailed explanations for complex phenomena. Problem-solving is your strong suit, even with the toughest challenges. Your communication is clear and precise, using the correct terminology. You show originality and insight in your work. You approach investigations ethically, considering environmental impact and safety. Your practical work is innovative and effective, demonstrating high-level investigative and analytical skills.


Grade 6

A Grade 6 shows you have a strong grasp of the subject and understand the concepts and principles thoroughly. You can select and apply the right information in most contexts and are competent in analysing data. You explain complex phenomena well and make accurate predictions. You can solve basic problems easily and tackle more challenging ones with some success. You communicate effectively using appropriate terminology. You approach investigations ethically, with a significant focus on environmental impact and safety. Your practical work shows some innovative thinking and independence.


Grade 5

A Grade 5 indicates you have broad subject knowledge and understand most concepts and principles. You can apply them in some contexts and analyse data competently. You explain simple phenomena clearly and solve most basic problems, with some success in tackling more difficult ones. Your communication is clear with minimal irrelevant material. You approach investigations ethically, considering environmental impact and safety. Your practical work demonstrates appropriate investigative techniques with relevant conclusions.


Grade 4

A Grade 4 means you have reasonable subject knowledge, though there may be some gaps. You understand most basic concepts and principles but might struggle to apply them effectively. You show some ability to analyse data and solve basic problems but find challenging ones difficult. Your communication is adequate, though it might lack clarity and include some irrelevant material. You generally approach investigations ethically, with some focus on environmental impact and safety. Your practical work is fairly routine but shows some appropriate techniques and conclusions.


Grade 3

A Grade 3 shows you have limited subject knowledge and a partial understanding of basic concepts and principles. You can handle some data manipulation and solve basic problems but struggle with more complex ones. Your communication might lack clarity and include irrelevant material. Sometimes, you approach investigations ethically, considering environmental impact and safety. Your practical work is basic, with simple techniques and partial conclusions.


Grade 2

A Grade 2 indicates you have little subject knowledge and a weak understanding of basic concepts and principles. You find it hard to apply what you know and struggle to manipulate data or solve problems. Your responses are often incomplete or irrelevant. Occasionally, you approach investigations ethically, with limited awareness of environmental impact and safety. Your practical work requires considerable guidance, and your conclusions are often incorrect or irrelevant.


Grade 1

A Grade 1 means you have very little subject knowledge and understanding of concepts or principles. You rarely demonstrate personal skills or responsibility in your work. Ethical considerations, environmental impact, and safety are often overlooked. Your practical work is very basic and heavily dependent on supervision, with little to no relevant conclusions.


Keep pushing forward, and use these descriptors to understand where you are and how you can improve. Remember, it's not just about the grade but about learning and growing. If you need extra help, don’t hesitate to join GradePod's TrIBe Physics. Keep up the hard work!

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