International Baccalaureate (IB) Retakes FAQs

Frequently asked questions about International Baccalaureate (IB) retakes - Lanterna Education

In October & November 2023, we have partnered with a school in London to run a retake examination programme. This follows on from our accelerated 8 week revision programme for N23 exam takers.  To read more click here. If you are reading this as you are currently sitting your May 2023 exams and are considering your options for N23 retakes or remarks, get in touch to see how we can support you secure an exam centre, or prepare for your exams. The article below is written more for May exam takers as a larger percentage retake in November than vice versa, but all dates and context below applies to both exam sessions.

If you are reading this, you’ve probably just taken your International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and feel unsure about your final IB exam marks. Maybe the anxiety of retaking one or more subjects to pass the (IB) Diploma Programme got you here. Whatever led you to this page, we’re glad you are here because we have the answers to all those burning questions about retaking your IB exams! If you are curious to know what your options are to improve your scores, you have two routes:

  1. Remarks – this is when you ask the IB examiners to re-review your IAs & exam papers in the hopes your results will improve. You will receive your IB results on July 5th. Please read this article for more information on IB remarks.
  2. Retakes – If you’ve already tried the IB remark route, or don’t feel confident that your scores will improve with a remark, you may want to consider re-taking one or more exams. In that case, this is the article for you!

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A quick note on COVID

Due to educational upheavals from 2020-2022, the IB, like manay examining bodies, had to inflate IB scores to allow for fair facilitation of a dual exam route. This past May, the IB has stated that IB exams and grade boundaries will return to pre-COVID standards and so many students may find themselves with lower IB grades than anticipated due to the more challenging assessment standards.

May 2023 exams were almost entirely exam route (as opposed to non exa route in countries still affected by COVID-19) , and November 2023 exams will follow the same process, we have moved historical advice to the bottom of this article as it is no longer relevant to most people reading this article.

To see which changes were implemented by the IBO to address lost learning, to make the May 2023 exams, please click here (written by our amazing team at Elite IB).

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Before we answer all your questions, we want to remind you that your grade doesn’t define you! Students worldwide retake subjects and IB exams because the programme syllabus is no walk in the park; it’s a challenging and very demanding programme. But you have opportunities to do better, so be kind to yourself.

Before we get started, we wanted to let you know of our Retake Accelerated Programme designed to help you retake your IB exams in November. You can find more information here, as well as at the bottom of this blog post.

Now, let’s look at your available options and opportunities to help you improve your marks and get the score you need.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme Exam Remarks and Retakes Explained

You already know you need a minimum of 4 points for each subject or a minimum score of 24 points overall to earn your diploma. But what options do you have to help you improve your internal assessment or IB exam grades?

There are two routes an IB diploma candidate can take — remarks or retakes! Here’s everything you need to know about the IB Diploma Programme examination retakes and remarks:

1. What Are IB Exam Remarks?

Remarks are when a candidate wishes to have the examiners re-review their internal assessments (IAs) and exam papers in the hopes that they’ll receive extra marks and the newly awarded marks will improve their original grade. After the examiners re-mark a candidate’s work, the student receives their results on July 5th.

2. What is an IB Exam Retake?

For candidates who have already tried the re-marking route or don’t feel confident that their examination scores will improve after remarking, a diploma candidate can retake exams for one or more subjects.

If you want to retake your IB exams, this article is for you! In the first half of this article, we’ll address the complexities of retaking your IB exams.

The second half of this post answers more questions about what is possible when retaking your IB exams and provides further information on registration deadlines for examination sessions.

5 Important IB dates every diploma candidate should know

The following dates are important for every student in the IB Diploma Programme. So please mark these dates in your calendar because you don’t want to miss them!

July 6th

Student IB results come out! If you want to retake any of your exams or request a remark. So make sure you speak to your Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator on the 6th of July.

July 6th – July 29th

Registering for retake exams is cheaper! You should do your registration between July 6th and July 29th if you need to rewrite your exams from a previous session and your student budget is tight, as it is the cheapest period to apply for a rewrite in November.

July 6th – August 31st

Your window to apply for remarks! You can apply for a remark between July 6th and August 31st. You should speak to your DP coordinator as soon as possible to arrange remarking.

October 15th

The very last date to register for IB exam retakes! October 15th is the official examination registration deadline for the International Baccalaureate. After October 15th, the IB will not accept student registrations.

However, it’s vital to note schools often set internal registration deadlines much sooner. So it’s best to contact your DP coordinator for further information regarding your school’s registration deadline.

October 21st

The first November exam sessions begin! The November IB exam sessions start on October 21st. If you missed the registration deadline due to adverse circumstances like financial struggles or illness, you’d have to enrol for the May examinations or another future session.

Useful Links for IB Diploma Programme Students:

For many students in the International Baccalaureate programme, particularly those wanting to rewrite their exams at a new school, the November retake candidate’s registrations must be complete and submitted to the IB by August 31st.

We encourage you to talk to your school’s DP coordinator to avoid missing registration and future examination session deadlines.

You can also contact the Lanterna Education team for assistance with your retake registration, tailored revision courses and other forms of one-on-one tutoring to help you prepare for retakes and pass with flying colours!

IB Retakes FAQs and Advice

Here are some of the most common retake questions students and parents ask our tutors. Our team answered these frequently asked questions (FAQs) in a simple, easy-to-understand way to avoid confusion.

Keep reading to have all your questions about rewriting the IB exams answered! You’ll find answers to the following questions and a whole lot more:

  • What if I did the non-examination route? Do I have to do an examination for my retakes?
  • What is a failing IB score?
  • What is the process for redoing my exams? Do I have to take an examination at my same school, or can I write my retake somewhere else?
  • Can I re-use my previous internal assessment (IA), or do I have to redo my IAs?
  • When are the student results for the May exams published?
  • When are the November exams scheduled?

Please get in touch with our team if you have any more questions after reading the FAQs and advice below. Simply submit an enquiry form on our website or give us a call. We’d love to assist you!

1) How many subjects can I retake

All of your subjects and any core elements! If your IB World School offers your subject group and is happy for you to rewrite them or redo core programme elements, then you can retake all six of your course subjects and the three core components of the IB syllabus (i.e. the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity, Service), or any combination of subjects and core elements!

  • Rewriting exams

Candidates can retake subject exams up to three times in three different exam sessions, and the retakes don’t have to take place consecutively.

For example, if you originally wrote your Chemistry exams in May. Then you can rewrite Chemistry in the November exam session in the same year, and you can write the subject again in the May sessions the following year.

Alternatively, you can wait a full year before retaking the Chemistry paper. Then, if necessary, you can write Chemistry again in a future examination session.

But remember, not all of your course subjects will be available in both exam sessions. So it’s essential to check which subjects are available during the different sessions.

  • Redoing core elements of the course

A candidate can also revise or complete a new Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS).

You can submit a new Extended Essay for the same course subject or select a different diploma subject. But remember that you can’t carry your previous TOK essay marks over.

You can’t carry your Theory of Knowledge score over as essay prompts change every year, and the TOK essay is one of the examined core elements of the diploma programme.

2) Should I retake the IB exams in November or May?

It depends on a candidate’s university plans and how quickly they think they can reach their desired score.

To choose an examination session, a candidate should consider their current academic score, the retake subject(s) grade boundaries, and their commitment to working hard over the coming months.

Assuming the academic year for your preferred universities begins in September/October, you must decide if you can make enough progress before November to achieve the grade(s) needed before the academic year begins.

If you’re not confident that the period between the previous session and the upcoming exam is enough time to improve your score, consider taking a full year to study before rewriting the exams.

  • Retake candidates and UK UCAS Applications

UK candidates and students interested in applying to educational institutes in the UK should remember that the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) application deadline is on January 15th. And UK university classes start in September (excluding Oxbridge universities and Medical, Dental, and Veterinary courses).

You’ll only receive your November session results on January 6th each year; this means you’ll get your results in January and only nine days before the UCAS deadline for September admissions. Yikes!

For example, if you are a May retake candidate wanting to study in the UK, you can use your predicted scores in January for admissions. But remember, predicted scores are usually higher than the grades you can realistically achieve after just six months. And your predicted scores work according to all your work from July to December.

If you want/need more time to improve your grade(s), rewriting in May is a better option, as you’ll have a full year to focus on revision.

You can then submit concrete retake results with your university applications instead of using predicted scores to apply or reapply to UK universities, ultimately increasing your chances of admission because universities don’t often take the risk of accepting students based on expected results.

  • Oxbridge and medical student applications

For Oxbridge and medical applicants, rewriting the following May is recommended because the UCAS deadline on October 15th doesn’t give a candidate enough time to apply with finalised examination grades.

However, as IB experts, the Lanterna Education team are here to offer you advice based on your personal circumstances, aims, and ambitions. So please get in touch if you need advice.

3) When do I register for IB retakes?

For November exams, candidates must be registered by July 29th if they want to pay the lowest registration fees.

All candidates registering after July 29th will pay higher registration fees and late subject fees for each subject or core element. After the final deadline on October 15th, the IB will not accept any candidate registrations, regardless of when students first took their exams.

The deadlines for May exams differ, and the equivalent final deadlines for May retake sessions are April 15th. If you are rewriting in May and want lower registration fees, you must enrol by January 29th.

For students wanting to rewrite six months after their last attempt, the deadlines to keep in mind are July 29th and January 29th. After these deadlines, the registration fees are much higher, and schools may be less likely to consider taking on new students as retake candidates because the administrative burden increases.

You should also remember that your school’s final internal deadline for registration will vary and may be much earlier. Another factor to remember is that schools and your DP coordinator are often not accessible throughout the summer. You should finalise your plans before the summer holidays start and not leave it to the last minute!

4) How do I register for IB retakes?

Candidates must enrol through an IB World School – this is vital! The school you have previously written your exams at is the most obvious choice.

If you’ve moved or found yourself unable to rewrite at your previous school, then it’s your responsibility to find an IB World School offering the IB Diploma Programme to allow you to retake exams through them. 

Schools aren’t obligated to allow students the opportunity to rewrite exams through them. And it can prove challenging to find a place willing to provide you with the opportunity, particularly if your current school isn’t happy or able to do so.

Lanterna Education can provide all the tutoring you need for your retakes, but we cannot register you as a candidate, write your exams, or complete your IA or other non-examined work. You should prioritise speaking with your school’s IB Coordinator if you decide to rewrite exams.

5) Do I retake just my exams, or can I redo my IAs too?

You don’t have to retake all the assessed aspects of your subject(s); you can write the exams and not change your Internal Assessments.

Alternatively, your school may offer the option of revising or redoing your IAs. In this case, your teacher will be responsible for marking the new IA(s) and must be able to confirm that it is all your own work and significantly different from any previously submitted work.

To be able to prove this to the IBO, students resubmitting an IA or any other non-examination-based work must attend classes at the school they will write their retake; this makes some schools wary of taking on new students who wish to resubmit their IAs in addition to sitting the final exam papers.

However, you don’t have to attend classes to rewrite exams for one or more retake subjects, which often makes schools happier to take on students who aren’t planning to redo their IAs.

6) How do retakes affect my university applications?

Yes. Universities don’t officially rule out IB retake candidates. We’ve seen it time and time again; universities accept IB graduates, whether they earn their diploma over one diploma session or more.

However, for many top UK universities, your final grade, including the retake(s), must be significantly higher than the required points to differentiate you from first-time applicant candidates and to receive an offer.

To prove your determination and commitment to your chosen course, we recommend, in addition to focusing on your revision, that you create concrete plans linked to the course or industry you would like to study before your university studies begin; this shows that not only have you (hopefully!) exceeded the entry requirements, but you are also aware of how to use your time.

7) Where can I take my IB retake exams?

You can find a list of all the World Schools offering the IB Diploma Programme and retake session(s) on the IB website.

Please note only some establishments offer retake sessions, and an IB World School isn’t obliged to take on IB retake candidates. You should consult your current Diploma Programme Coordinator and call other local IB schools if your current school is unable or unwilling to support you with your IB retakes.

To give yourself the best possible chance and make the necessary arrangements in good time before the registration deadline, we recommend you contact other IB World Schools as soon as possible. 

8) Can you request a re-mark as a retake candidate?

Your examiners will not know you are a retake candidate, so the re-marking process is the same as any other candidate taking exams during a session.

Be aware that the deadline for re-marking exam papers is very soon after the release of results, though! Also, remember that your IB Coordinator must request the re-mark for you and may ask for your fees up-front, as you have already left the school.

9) How much help can I get for my retakes?

From merely helping with administration and marking to offering a complete study plan, schools may offer a wide range of support as the IB states that any IB World School must not simply adopt the role of a “retake centre” and must support each candidate, whether they are writing a subject for the first, second, or third time.

Whatever your circumstance, Lanterna Education is here to help you. We have an excellent team of experienced tutors who can provide guidance and support every step of the way. Our Retake Revision Course is the ideal way to boost your revision efforts, and it offers small groups of exam-focused workshops. Our team of IB graduates also takes great care in staying on top of IB procedures so that they can advise students.

Get in touch with Lanterna Education

The Lanterna Education team has experience liaising with educational establishments and students to coordinate retakes and offer guidance. If you would like to discuss how we can support your student(s) with their retake preparation, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Please feel free to contact us. Our team will happily discuss similar guidance we’ve provided previously and offer advice on any specific support your students require.

Suppose several students at the same school want to write retakes. In that case, the Lanterna Education team can arrange group lessons and revision sessions in addition to our usual online or face-to-face one-on-one tutoring.

We also run a Retake Accelerated Programme, which provides highly focused exam revision with an expert IB tutor, ensuring students receive the recommended number of teaching hours. Our Retake Accelerated Programme offers small classes throughout the weeks leading up to the beginning of each IB exam session to help ensure students not only meet their subject grade boundaries but surpass them and pass those challenging subjects with flying colours. Find out more here.

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