Grading in ESS

Environmental Systems and Societies is part of the IBDP Group 4 Experimental Sciences, which means that student work in ESS is scored according to guidelines published by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).

Student work in ESS may be classified into 3 broad categories: classroom and practical projects, internal assessments, and external assessments. Each one of these categories is assessed differently and counts for different parts of student grades, as described below.

Classroom and practical projects

This category is all the ‘regular’ assignments such as homework, projects, quizzes, and tests, which students encounter throughout the year. All work in this category is scored on a scale of 0-100%. Each assignment is worth a maximum number of marks, and the number of marks earned by students determines the % score they earn on that assignment. The total marks earned during a semester are divided by the possible marks to calculate the percent grade for the semester, which is then compared to the grade boundaries below to determine the Diploma Grade.

  • 100% – 84% = 7
  • 83% – 70% = 6
  • 69% – 55% = 5
  • 54% – 45% = 4*
  • 44% – 30% = 3
  • 29% – 15% = 2
  • 15% – 0% = 1

Please note that a score of four (4) is the lowest passing grade in ESS.

Internal Assessment

Internal Assessments (IA’s) are the practical lab reports in ESS. Students will conduct a series of investigations throughout the first 6 terms of the ESS course. Some investigations will be designed by me, so that all the students have to do is follow a procedure, collect data, and analyze their results. A more common approach to investigations in ESS will be for students to design, carry out, analyze, and evaluate their own independent investigations into an assigned topic. When this model is employed, students’ IA’s will be assessed under the 3 criteria outlined below. A detailed scoring rubric is presented below, and it is also available to download here as a PDF file: ESS IA Rubric. The scoring rubric is identical for all internal assessments in ESS.

Assessment Criteria for Internal Assessments in ESS

  • Planning (PL): Defining the problem, selecting and controlling variables, and developing a method for collecting data
  • Data Collection and Processing (DCP): Recording data appropriately, processing data correctly, and presenting processed data clearly
  • Discussion, Evaluation, and Conclusion (DEC): Discussing and reviewing results, evaluating procedures, suggesting improvements, and reaching a valid conclusion supported by data

Personal Skills in Internal Assessment

The personal skills grade attempts to measure students’ ability to collaborate effectively as part of a team of scientists working on a common goal, and they count as part of the Internal Assessment in Environmental Systems and Societies. Personal skills are assessed only once during the entire 2-year length of the ESS course – during the ESP week of field work, when students participate in the Group 4 project. Each year, we science teachers take students to an area in Tanzania where ‘real-world’ investigations of scientific concepts may be conducted in the field. IBDP students have been to the Udzungwa Mountains and Zanzibar in recent years, but we have not yet determined the location(s) of this year’s ESP field course. Stay tuned for further developments regarding this critically important part of Internal Assessment.

Everything within the Internal Assessment component of ESS accounts for 20% combined of a student’s overall ESS grade at the end of the 2-year course!

External Assessment

External Assessment is the biggest part of students’ grades in ESS – and all IBDP Group 4 sciences, for that matter. External Assessment is the big IB Exam, which students will sit in May of their final year in high school. External Assessment (EA) accounts for 80% of students’ overall grade in Environmental Systems and Societies! The IB ESS Exam is structured as follows:

  • Paper 1:
    • 30% of final ESS grade
    • short answers or calculations
    • no multiple choice
    • 60 minutes + 5 minutes’ reading time
  • Paper 2:
    • 50% of final ESS grade
    • Section A – short answer questions about a case study (a ‘Resource Booklet’ is provided)
    • Section B – choose 2 out of 4 essay questions
    • no multiple choice
    • 120 minutes + 5 minutes’ reading time

Because the External Assessment is so important to students’ overall ESS grades, all tests I give throughout the course will consist of real IB ESS questions from past exams. Students should plan on taking at least one Paper 1-style test and one Paper 2-style test each term in preparation for the IB ESS Exam. Additionally, students will take a Mock ESS Exam under simulated exam