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IB Exam Retake FAQs

Choosing the right subjects can set up a student for life. Make sure your child starts the IB on the right foot by speaking with an EIB Consultant to pick the perfect subjects.

Remarks or Retakes?

If you are reading this as you've just taken your May 2022 exams and are curiuos 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!

The first half of this article addresses the complexities of IB retakes, and how recent COVID upheavel may affect students who have taken non-exam routes. For those curious to understand what is possible, and the dates by which you need to register, please scroll down to the latter half of this article.

COVID-19 & IB Exams

This article was constantly updated for 2020 & 2021 exams when the IBO introduced the dual exam-route, ie exam route and non exam route. Although a sensible solution to an incredibly challenging time, it did make remarks & retakes a particularly complex process, as different schools and regions utilised different solutions. For example, if you took the non-exam route, where you elligible to retake through the exam route?

Given May 2022 exams were almost entirely exam route, and November 2022 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 2022 exams, please click here.

Important Dates

  • July 6th - IB results come out, speak to your IB coordinator on this day!
  • July 6th - August 31st: This is the window in which you can apply for a remark. We would advise arranging this with your IB coordinator.
  • July 29th - this is the window in which it is cheapest to register for a November 2022 retake.
  • October 15th - this is the latest date to register for IB exames. Note, this is the IB's offiical deadline and your school's deadline is likely to be much sooner.
  • October 21st - the first 'N22' (November 2022) exam

Grade Inflation in 2021 Exams

The IBO reacted to the gobal pandemic by ultimately inflating grades, both the mean scores as well as the pass rate and maximum (45 point) scores. This saw an almost 10% increase from 2019 to 2021 scores. We would estimate that 2022 May scores will be more in line with May 2020 scores, as has been the historical average for many years.

Due to this vast grade inflation, there was a significant reduction in November retake candidates in November 2021, as can se be seen from the plot below. From 2020 to 2021, the % of retake candidates in the November session dropped from almost 14% to 7.7%. We'd anticipate this to retun to normal levels in the 2022 November exam session.

Useful Links

November 2021 stats bulletin

May 2021 stats bulletin

IBO COVID policy

IBO 2023 exam policy

For many students, particularly those looking to retake at a new school, IB November registrations must be registered by August 31st. Speak to your school as soon as possible to avoid missing this registration deadline. Contact Elite IB directly for more guidance.

Please see below some of our most frequently asked questions on IB retakes, answered in simple, easy to comprehend language. Please let us know through our enquiry form or by giving us a call if you have any IB Retakes questions.

IB Retakes - Advice & FAQs

In the bullets below, we address questions such as: 
  • What if I did the non-exam route? Do I have to do exam route for retakes?
  • What is a failing IB score?
  • What is the process for re-doing exams? Do I have to sit them at my same school or can I sit them elsewhere?
  • Can I re-use my previous IA? Or do I have to re-do my IAs?
  • When are results published for May 2022 exams?
  • When is the November 2022 exam schedule?

How many subjects can I retake?

You can retake all six of your academic subjects, as well as the core components, or any combination of these, if your subject(s) are offered by your IB World School and they are happy for you to sit each subject or component through them. Candidates can sit a subject up to three times, in three different exam sessions, which do not have to take place consecutively. If you took your exams in May originally, this gives you, for instance, November of the same year, and May of the following year to resit the exams, although not all subjects are available in both May and November sessions. Alternatively, you may wish to wait a full year before retaking any IB exam, and then opt to retake again if necessary in another future session.

You can also revise or complete a new Extended Essay. A new Extended Essay can be registered in the same or in a different Diploma subject. You can also retake Theory of Knowledge, but must be aware you cannot carry over marks from the TOK essay, as the prompts change year-to-year and it is considered an examined compenent.

Should I retake in November or May?

This depends primarily on what your plans are for university and how quickly you think you can reach the level you want. If the academic year for your universities of choice begins in September/October, then it all depends on considering your current academic level, aims for your retake subject(s), and commitment to working hard over the coming months, to help you decide if you feel that you will be able to make enough progress before November to achieve the required grade(s). If you are not confident that the time between May and November will be enough, you should consider retaking a full year after your last IB exams. Although, please remember that for UK applications the UCAS application deadline is 15th January, and the November session results are released on 6th January each year. Therefore students looking to apply, or reapply, to UK unis will be able to apply to university with their concrete retake results, rather than their predicted grades- which further boosts your chances as the universities are not taking a risk based on your predicted grades.

For instance, if you are a May candidate and are looking to apply to UK universities to commence your studies in September  (other than Oxbridge or Medical, Dental, and Veterinary courses) November exam results will be released on in January, approximately 9 days prior to your UCAS deadline for September entry. However, if you feel you could apply with predicted grades in January which are higher than those you could really achieve over 6 months’ work (i.e. sitting in May after a full year to revise, rather than just 6 months, and with predicted grades based on your work from July-December) then the May exams may be better suited. For Oxbridge/Medical applicants, the UCAS deadline of October 15th does not give you sufficient time to apply with ratified grades from your November exams, and taking until the following May is therefore advisable in this instance. As IB and UCAS experts, however, we are on-hand to provide you with bespoke advice on this, taking into account your personal circumstances, aims, and ambitions, so please do get in touch.

When do I register for IB retakes?

For November exams, candidates must be registered by 29th July if they want to pay the lowest registration fees. All candidates that register after 29th July will have to pay higher registration fee, including a late subject fee for each subject or core element registered. The IB will not accept any candidate registrations after the final deadline of 15th October, regardless of when students first took their IB exams.

The deadlines for May exams differ from the November resit deadlines. If you are resitting in May, you need to register by 29th January to attract lower registration fees. The equivalent IB final deadlines for May resit sessions is 15th April.

For students looking to resit an exam six months after their last attempt (in November of the same year for May exam students, for instance), the deadline to bear in mind is 29th July/29th January, as after this deadline the fees for registration are much higher, and schools may be less likely to consider taking on new students as retake candidates, as the administrative burden increases.

However, you should bear in mind that your school’s final internal deadline for registration will vary, and may be much earlier; remember, also, that schools, and therefore IB Coordinators, are often not accessible throughout the summer, and therefore aiming to finalise your plans with the school before the summer holidays begin is strongly recommended. As always, then, it is best not to leave it to the last minute!

How do I register for IB retakes?

Candidates must be registered through an IB World School – this is vital! The school you have previously sat your exams with is the most obvious choice, but if you have moved or found yourself otherwise unable to retake through your school, it is your responsibility to find a school who will let you sit your retake exams through them. Elite IB can provide all the tuition for your IB retake, but we cannot submit your exams, register you as a candidate, or supervise your IA or other non-examined work. You should make speaking with your school’s IB Coordinator a matter of top priority if you decide to retake- schools do not have an obligation to offer you the opportunity to retake through them, and so it can prove difficult to find a school willing to provide you with this chance, particularly if your current school are not happy or able to do so.

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

You do not have to retake all the assessed aspects of your retake subject(s); you may just sit the exams and not change your Internal Assessments. Alternatively, your school may offer you 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 that it is significantly different to any previously submitted work. In order to be able to guarantee this to the IBO, students re-submitting an IA or any other non-examination-based work must attend classes at the school they will sit the retake through, making some schools wary of taking on new students who wish to resubmit their IAs in addition to sitting the final exam papers. However, you do not have to attend classes in order to sit the exams for one or more IB retake subjects, making schools sometimes happier to take on students not planning to re-do their IAs.

How do retakes affect my university applications?

Most universities do not officially rule out IB retake candidates, and indeed, we have seen time and time again that IB graduates remain attractive to universities, whether their Diploma was attained over one exam session or more. However, in the cases of many top UK universities, the final grades including the retake(s) must be significantly above the points required for an offer, in order to differentiate the applicant from those applying for the first time. In order to prove your determination and commitment to your chosen course of study, we would recommend having firm plans for the remainder of your time before your university studies would commence, linked to your course or industry, in addition to the time spent focusing on your exam revision. This shows that not only have you (hopefully!) exceeded your universities’ entrance requirements, but that you are aware of how best to use your time.

Where can I take my IB retake exams?

You can find a list of all IB World Schools and the exam session(s) in which they participate on the IB website. Please note that not all schools offer retake sessions, and that schools are not obliged to take on IB retake candidates. You should consult with your current Diploma Programme Coordinator, as well as calling all other local IB schools should your current school be unable or unwilling to support you with your IB retakes- we recommend doing this as soon as possible, in order to give you the best possible chance of making the necessary arrangements in good time before the registration deadline.

Can you request a re-mark as a Retake candidate?

Your examiners will not know that you are a retake candidate, and so the re-marking process is the same for you as for any other student taking their exams that session. Do 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 as you will have left your school, they may ask for you to pay the fee up-front. See our guide to IB re-marks here, for further information.

How much help can I get for my retakes?

Your school can offer you a wide range of support, from merely helping with administration and marking, to offering a full scheme of study- the IB state that any World School must not “simply adopt the role of a “retake centre””, and so must support each candidate, whether they are sitting for the first, second, or third session in a subject. Whatever your circumstance, Elite IB Tutors are here to help. We have a wonderful team of experienced tutors who can provide guidance and support every step of the way, our in-house team of IB graduates take great care to stay on top of IB procedures each year so we can advise students, and our Retake Revision Course is the ideal way to boost your revision in small groups of exam-focused workshops. Whatever your IB retake question, please don’t be afraid to ask!

2021 & 2020 Updates

Update 04/07/2021: Following the May 2021 dual route assessments and looking ahead to the results release on the 6th of July, we have reviewed the information on this page in light of retakes in November 2021. With the update from the IBO in June 2021, the IBO intends to provide the dual-assessment route in November 2021 again. As such, the information on how assessments and retakes work for May 2021 remains relevant for the next round of retakes. In addition, we have prepared this flowchart (click for full size), which lays out what your grades will be based on should you choose to retake in November, depending on if your school takes the exam or non-exam route, and if you choose to resubmit your internal assessments (IAs).

dual route flowchart

Update 08/02/2021: Following the IBO’s announcement of the dual exam route as of last week, we have recorded the video below which should act as a quick explainer guide for the impact on student’s considering retaking in May 2021.

Update 08/01/2021: Much of the below was created after the May 2020 exam session was cancelled. For those considering retaking in May 2021 but unsure about IB protocol (for example, will the old Maths syllabus be offered), please keep checking back here as we add more information. The November 2020 exams did go ahead after 74% of schools backed the decision. The decision around May exams taking place will be reached presumably with a similar time-allowance, therefore by 1st March 2021.

Update: 03/09/2020. After the IBO’s decision on August 17th 2020 to revise the manner in which marks were awarded and allocated, we have created a video to explain the impact on the November 2020 and May 2021 exams with a view to retake policies, and resubmitting IAs and other internal coursework. We encourage everyone to watch this video, alongside the slides below, and to revert to us with any questions you may have.

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EIB has significant experience liaising between schools and students to coordinate retakes guidance; if you would like to discuss how we may be able to support your student(s) in their retake preparation, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to call at the number below, where we will be happy to discuss the specific support required, and to advise on similar guidance we have provided previously. Where several students are looking to retake at the same school, we can arrange group lessons and revision sessions in addition to usual one-to-one tuition, online or face-to-face, and we will also once again be running our Retake Accelerated Programme, which provides highly focused exam revision with an expert IB tutor, in small classes through the weeks leading up to the beginning of each IB exam session.

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Timothy Hoffmann