Ib Geography Essay Rubric

Coefficients / Scaling Factors

On internal semester/mock exams (=when no Fieldwork grade can be used), the final Geography grade is obtained by applying the following coefficients:
  • Standard Level: Paper 1 (53%) + Paper 2 (47%) = 100%
  • Higher Level: Paper 1 (31%) + Paper 2 (44%) + Paper 3 (25%) = 100%
On the actual IB exam, the final Geography grade (which includes the Fieldwork grade) is obtained by applying the following coefficients:
  • Standard Level: Paper 1 (40%) + Paper 2 (35%) + Fieldwork (25%) = 100%
  • Higher Level: Paper 1 (25%) + Paper 2 (35%) + Paper 3 (20%) + Fieldwork (20%) = 100%
"Scaling factors" based on these coefficients are used to reflect the respective weight of each component in the final grade. For example, p1 HL is worth 60 marks and accounts for 25% of the final grade on the IB exam.
The scaling factor for the p1 HL is therefore 25% ÷ 60 marks = 0.417

Grade Boundaries

Grade boundaries are the equivalencies between marks given on each exam component (e.g. total out of 45 marks) and IB grades (1 thru 7). Marks in each component are multiplied by a "scaling factor" (to reflect the respective weight of each component) and then added: a table then gives the equivalency with the final IB grade out of 7. See above under "Coefficients / Scaling Factors" to understand how scaling factors are calculated.

Grade boundaries (and scaling factors) are different for each component, level and discipline of the IB exam. They can also be adjusted slightly by the IB from one year to the next although this is not common. The grade boundaries below were used for the May 2011 IB Geography exam session worldwide:

Standard Level
To obtain a 1-7 grade for a SL component taken individually, use tables (1) thru (3). Otherwise, use these formulas:
Weighted SL total WITHOUT FIELDWORK = (p1) x 0.889 + (p2) x 1.167: find your final grade in table (4) below
Weighted SL total WITH FIELDWORK = (p1) x 0.667 + (p2) x 0.875 + (fieldwork) x 0.833: find your final grade in table (5) below

Higher Level
To obtain a 1-7 grade for a HL component taken individually, use tables (6) thru (9). Otherwise, use these formulas:
Weighted HL total WITHOUT FIELDWORK = (p1) x 0.521 + (p2) x 0.729 + (p3): find your final grade in table (10) below
Weighted HL total WITH FIELDWORK = (p1) x 0.417 + (p2) x 0.583 + (p3) x 0.8 + (fieldwork) x 0.667: find your final grade in table (11) below

Markbands

Markbands are used by examiners to determine how to grade each component.
The markbands below apply to the following types of questions only (analytical questions):
  • Paper 1: section B (15 marks)
  • Paper 2: final question of each topic (10 marks)
  • Paper 3: part A (10 marks) and part B (15 marks)
  • Fieldwork: see the Grading Criteria listed under the "Fieldwork" tab

Grade Descriptors (1 thru 7)

Grade 7: Excellent performance
Demonstrates: conceptual awareness, insight, and knowledge and understanding which are evident in the skills of critical thinking; a high level of ability to provide answers which are fully developed, structured in a logical and coherent manner and illustrated with appropriate examples; a precise use of terminology which is specific to the subject; familiarity with the literature of the subject; the ability to analyse and evaluate evidence and to synthesize knowledge and concepts; awareness of alternative points of view and subjective and ideological biases, and the ability to come to reasonable, albeit tentative, conclusions; consistent evidence of critical reflective thinking; a high level of proficiency in analysing and evaluating data or problem solving.

Grade 6: Very good performance
Demonstrates: detailed knowledge and understanding; answers which are coherent, logically structured and well developed; consistent use of appropriate terminology; an ability to analyse, evaluate and synthesize knowledge and concepts; knowledge of relevant research, theories and issues, and awareness of different perspectives and contexts from which these have been developed; consistent evidence of critical thinking; an ability to analyse and evaluate data or to solve problems competently.

Grade 5: Good performance
Demonstrates: a sound knowledge and understanding of the subject using subject-specific terminology; answers which are logically structured and coherent but not fully developed; an ability to provide competent answers with some attempt to integrate knowledge and concepts; a tendency to be more descriptive than evaluative although some ability is demonstrated to present and develop contrasting points of view; some evidence of critical thinking; an ability to analyse and evaluate data or to solve problems.

Grade 4: Satisfactory performance
Demonstrates: a secure knowledge and understanding of the subject going beyond the mere citing of isolated, fragmentary, irrelevant or ‘common sense’ points; some ability to structure answers but with insufficient clarity and possibly some repetition; an ability to express knowledge and understanding in
terminology specific to the subject; some understanding of the way facts or ideas may be related and embodied in principles and concepts; some ability to develop ideas and substantiate assertions; use of knowledge and understanding which is more descriptive than analytical; some ability to compensate for gaps in knowledge and understanding through rudimentary application or evaluation of that knowledge; an ability to interpret data or to solve problems and some ability to engage in analysis and evaluation.

Grade 3: Mediocre performance
Demonstrates: some knowledge and understanding of the subject; a basic sense of structure that is not sustained throughout the answers; a basic use of terminology appropriate to the subject; some ability to establish links between facts or ideas; some ability to comprehend data or to solve problems.

Grade 2: Poor performance
Demonstrates: a limited knowledge and understanding of the subject; some sense of structure in the answers; a limited use of terminology appropriate to the subject; a limited ability to establish links between facts or ideas; a basic ability to comprehend data or to solve problems.

Grade 1: Very poor performance
Demonstrates: very limited knowledge and understanding of the subject; almost no organizational structure in the answers; inappropriate or inadequate use of terminology; a limited ability to comprehend data or to solve problems.

IB Grade Calculator

Download the EXCEL calculator (right) and enter the total of marks awarded on each component to calculate your final Geography grade (1 thru 7)
Calculator for Geography SL
File Size: 52 kb
File Type: xlsx
Download File


Calculator for Geography HL
File Size: 53 kb
File Type: xlsx
Download File


(1) Paper 1 SL
taken individually
From
   To   
Grade
46
60
7
40
45
6
33
39
5
27
32
4
20
26
3
10
19
2
0
9
1
(2) Paper 2 SL
taken individually
From
   To   
Grade
28
40
7
24
27
6
19
23
5
15
18
4
10
14
3
5
9
2
0
4
1
(3) Fieldwork SL
taken individually
From
  To  
Grade
25
30
7
21
24
6
17
20
5
13
16
4
8
12
3
4
7
2
0
3
1
(4) Final Grade SL
without Fieldwork
From
  To  
Grade
73
100
7
63
72
6
50
62
5
40
49
4
28
39
3
14
27
2
0
13
1
(5) Final Grade SL
with Fieldwork
From
  To  
Grade
75
100
7
64
74
6
51
63
5
41
50
4
27
40
3
13
26
2
0
12
1
(6) Paper 1 HL
taken individually
From
  To  
Grade
46
60
7
40
45
6
33
39
5
27
32
4
20
26
3
10
19
2
0
9
1
(7) Paper 2 HL
taken individually
From
   To   
Grade
42
60
7
36
41
6
29
35
5
23
28
4
14
22
3
7
13
2
0
6
1
(8) Paper 3 HL
taken individually
From
   To   
Grade
20
25
7
17
19
6
15
16
5
12
14
4
9
11
3
5
8
2
0
4
1
(9) Fieldwork HL
taken individually
From
  To  
Grade
25
30
7
21
24
6
17
20
5
13
16
4
8
12
3
4
7
2
0
3
1
(10) Final Grade HL
without Fieldwork
From
  To  
Grade
73
100
7
63
72
6
52
62
5
42
51
4
28
41
3
14
27
2
0
13
1
(11) Final Grade HL
with Fieldwork
From
  To 
Grade
75
100
7
64
74
6
53
63
5
41
52
4
28
40
3
13
27
2
0
12
1
Markbands for Paper 1 and Paper 2
Paper 1 (section B)
Paper 2
Accurate, specific, well‑detailed knowledge and understanding; examples and case studies are well chosen and developed
Detailed analysis; well‑developed answer that covers most or all aspects of the question
Good and well-balanced attempt at evaluation or synthesis
Appropriate and sound maps and diagrams; well structured and organized responses; terminology sound
13-15
9-10
Generally accurate knowledge and understanding, but with some minor omissions; examples and case studies are well chosen, occasionally generalized
Appropriate analysis; developed answer that covers most aspects of the question
Beginning to show some attempt at evaluation or synthesis of the issue, which may be unbalanced
Acceptable maps and diagrams; appropriate structure and organization of material; generally appropriate terminology
10-12
7-8
Relevant knowledge and understanding, but with some omissions; examples and case studies are included, occasionally generalized
Some attempt at analysis; competent answer although not fully developed, and tends to be descriptive
No evaluation or synthesis, or unsubstantiated evaluation or synthesis
Basic maps or diagrams, but evidence of some skills; some indication of structure and organization of material; acceptable terminology
7-9
5-6
Some relevant knowledge and understanding, but with some omissions; examples and case studies are included, but limited in detail
Little attempt at analysis; answer partially addresses question
No evaluation or synthesis
Few or no maps or diagrams, little evidence of skills or organization of material; poor terminology
4-6
3-4
Little knowledge and/or understanding, which is largely superficial or of marginal relevance; no or irrelevant examples and case studies
Very little analysis; important aspects of the question are ignored
No evaluation or synthesis
Very low level; little attempt at organization of material; no relevant terminology
1-3
1-2
No relevant knowledge; no examples or case studies
No evidence of analysis; the question has been completely misinterpreted or omitted
No evaluation or synthesis
No appropriate structure and terminology
0
0
Markbands for Paper 3
Part A
Part B
Accurate, relevant knowledge and understanding
Well‑developed answer that covers most or all aspects of the question
Well‑structured response with sound terminology
Clear, developed synthesis/clear, substantiated evaluation (part B)
9-10
13-15
Generally accurate knowledge and understanding
Answer is developed and covers most aspects of the question
Appropriate structure with generally appropriate terminology
Synthesis that may be partially undeveloped/evaluation that may be partially unsubstantiated (part B)
7-8
9-12
Some relevant knowledge and understanding
Answer partially addresses the question
Some indication of structure or organization
Basic synthesis/basic or unsubstantiated evaluation (part B)
4-6
5-8
Little relevant knowledge and/or understanding
Important aspects of the question are ignored
Little attempt at organization of material
Little attempt at synthesis/evaluation (part B)
1-3
1-4
No relevant knowledge, or inappropriate
The question has been completely misinterpreted or omitted
No appropriate structure and terminology
No synthesis/evaluation (part B)
0
0
Graphic Organizer to Write Essays
File Size: 47 kb
File Type: doc
Download File


Step 1: Weight of essay questions on Paper 1, 2 and 3

Essays or essay-like extended-responses are usually indicated by a command term such as "discuss", "to what extent", "analyze", "evaluate", "justify", "compare and contrast". Essays or essay-like "extended responses" are expected on the following components:
  • Paper 1: section B requires an essay-like "extended response" which accounts for 15 marks out of 60. Use approximately 20-25 minutes on section B, and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate.
  • Paper 2: each one of the Document-Based Questionnaire (DBQ) on Paper 2 accounts for 20 marks. The last question on each DBQ is always longer and requires an essay-like "extended-response" which accounts for half the marks. Use approximately 20 minutes for each essay-like question and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate.
  • Paper 3 (HL only): you have one hour to answer a 2-part essay question. Use approximately 25 minutes for part A (=10 marks) and 35 minutes for part B (=15 marks), and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate for both part A and part B.
Essays therefore represent a significant portion of the external assessment:
  • SL: essays = 41% of the written exam (15 marks for p1 + 2x10 marks for p2)
  • HL: essays = 54% of the written exam (15 marks for p1 + 3x10 marks for p2 + 25 marks for p3)

Step 2: Expectations for top marks

According to the IB markbands, essays or extended-responses MUST display the following six elements to achieve the top marks:
  1. Well-developed answer to all or most aspects of the question (see step 3-4 below)
  2. Detailed references to a variety of specific case-studies and named examples to support the answer
  3. Appropriate and frequent use of the terminology (e.g. "carrying capacity", "time-space convergence", "distance-decay principle")
  4. Clear and well-articulated structure (see step 6 below)
  5. Well-balanced attempt at evaluation or synthesis (e.g. pros and cons, limitations, exceptions)
  6. Clear and relevant annotated maps and diagrams as often as is appropriate (see step 7)

Step 3: Understanding the keywords in the essay question

Step 6: Common essay structures in Geography

You essay must follow the structure found on the left. You can also download and use the graphic organizer found at the top of this page to help guide you in this process.

It is CRITICAL to skip lines to clearly indicate to the reader that you have an organized structure and that you are separating each part of your argument:
  • After the introduction: skip 3-4 lines
  • Between each topic: skip 1 full line
  • Before the conclusion: skip 3-4 lines
You can usually adapt one of the following structures to most essay questions. The best plan -and also the most elaborate- is often the "typological plan" since it leads to a spatial differentiation and is usually supplemented by a map which illustrates the 3rd section of the essay (geography is all about maps!). It is also a good idea to change scales (local/regional/global) and use as many diverse and specific examples as possible.


Step 7: Annotated Maps & Diagrams

Students are expected to include well‑drawn, large, relevant maps, sketches, and diagrams as often as applicable (metric scales only for maps).
  • Click here to see the list of command terms
  • Referring to: using, mentioning explicitely
  • Outcome: consequence, result
  • Benefits/costs: positive/negative outcomes
  • Pressures/conflicts: undesirable competition
  • Challenges: difficulties which may be overcome
  • Social: relates to human welfare (e.g. housing, health)
  • Cultural: relates to languages, customs, religions, moral codes
  • Political: relates to government actions
  • Demographic: relates to populations (e.g. fertility)
  • Environmental: relates to the physical environment
  • Issues: important and controversial results
  • Trend: change over time (usually on a graph)
  • Pattern: distribution in space (ie: can be mapped)
  • Process: actions or changes which occur between two parts/stages
  • Relationship: two-way interactions
  • Global scale: the entire world
  • Regional scale: large regions (e.g. Europe, Asia Pacific)
  • National scale: within one country
  • Local scale: immediate district or state

Note: "DESCRIBE" (=what?) is different from "EXPLAIN" (=why or how?)

Step 4: Interpreting the essay title

Look carefully at the essay title and carry out the following:
  1. Underline the key words in the title
  2. Use the L.I.S.T. checklist below to ensure that you give the essay title its broadest interpretation:
  • L – LOCATION (spatial context): poor/rich countries; rural/urban areas;
  • tropical/temperate; land/air/sea; marine/terrestrial/atmospheric
  • I – ISSUES (factors): positive/negative, advantages/disadvantages, costs/benefits,
  • human/physical, environmental, social, cultural, demographic, political,
  • economic, geographic
  • S – SCALE: global, regional, international, national, sub-national, local
  • T – TIME: long-term/medium-term/short-term; past/present/future; contemporary/recent/current
(note that some of the items in the L.I.S.T. may not be relevant to the essay)

Step 5: Brief introduction (3-5 lines)

A good introduction must be brief and include the following 3 elements:
  1. Define the key words of the title (e.g. "globalization", "information technology", "megacity")
  2. Formulate the question: use or rephrase the essay title, suggest possible sub-questions which may be relevant to the essay
  3. Announce the structure/plan that will be used to answer the question: however do NOT "conclude" by giving away your key arguments in the introduction. Rather, indicate the path you'll follow (e.g. "we will first examine this aspect, then evaluate this this aspect, and finally look into this aspect")
Skip 3-4 lines after the introduction so that there is no doubt for the reader that you are know beginning the body of the essay.
Assessment Plan
  1. Thesis (pros)
  2. Antithesis (cons)
  3. Synthesis (conclusion)
Thematic Plan
  1. Aspect / Theme #1
  2. Aspect / Theme #2
  3. Aspect / Theme #3
Comparative Plan
  1. Similarities
  2. Differences
  3. Correlation / Interaction
Analytical Plan
  1. Causes
  2. Consequences / Impact
  3. Limits
Typological Plan
  1. Description
  2. Factors of change
  3. Spatial typology (different types of regions, with a map if possible)
Annotated maps and diagrams are expected for any essay-like or extended response and in the Fieldwork (wherever appropriate):
  • Paper 1 - Section B
  • Paper 2 - Last question of each of the exercises
  • Paper 3 - Part A and part B
  • Fieldwork - Section 3 (analysis and treatment of data)
Annnotated maps and diagramsMUST feature the following elements:
  • Title
  • Key
  • Annotations explaining, elaborating or emphasizing particular features
  • Scale and orientation (for maps, particularly in the Fieldwork)
  • Clarity + legibility
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