The MYP Criteria System: Explained

If you are an MYP student or parent, you have probably spent some time trying to figure out how the Criteria grading system actually works. The MYP is designed to be much more open ended than the Diploma Programme, but this can mean that schools and teachers can vary a lot in how they grade, and it can be hard for students to know exactly what is expected from them. So what do each of the four criteria mean? Why do they change from subject to subject? How do teachers actually use this system to assess a student’s progress? In this article, we hope to demystify this system and show how you can thrive in the MYP!

So what do the criteria judge?

As we said above, the exact definitions of each criterion are purposefully a bit vague and change from subject to subject, so it is hard to say definitively what they all mean. However, as educators in the MYP, we think that in general:

  • Criterion A assesses a student’s ability to inquire, gain knowledge, and develop understanding.
  • Criterion B assesses a student’s ability to organise ideas, notice patterns, and design solutions.
  • Criterion C assesses a student’s ability to produce material, communicate effectively, solve problems creatively, and take decisive action.
  • Criterion D assesses a student’s ability to reflect, actively apply solutions, and think critically.

From the above descriptions it’s already easy to see how much overlap there is between the different criteria, and hard to say for sure whether a certain skill should be assessed as Criterion A or Criterion C or any of the others! If you start a scientific investigation by interviewing your classmates, should you be assessed on your inquiring skills, on your effective communication, maybe on your ability to design solutions? It’s not very clear!

How about a specific example?

To look subject by subject in more detail, we have included a full breakdown of the criteria, for each subject area in the MYP, in a table at the bottom of this article. However, even after reading through the more detailed descriptions in the table, you probably still won’t be totally sure what teachers will be looking for, and how a student can actually improve. It will be a little easier to see how this works in practice, so let’s use Mathematics as an example.

Criterion A – Knowing & Understanding:

  • Select appropriate mathematics when solving problems in both familiar and unfamiliar situations
  • Apply the selected mathematics successfully when solving problems
  • Solve problems correctly in a variety of contexts

Criterion A assignments will be work like in-class tests or problem sheets, and a teacher will be looking to see that a student can apply mathematical principles that they have learned to new and unfamiliar problems. Does the student deeply understand the content taught in class? Are they able to see beyond taught methods, and come up with their own approaches to novel problems? Do they recognise the similarities between problems presented in different contexts?

To improve your Criterion A grades, the best thing you can do is spend more time with your subject material, and increase the number of practice problems you do. The more time you spend working through example questions, the better your understanding of the content will be of course, but you will also be more likely to spot solutions for any new problem your teacher throws at you! Elite IB also recommends getting your hands on an additional textbook (check your local library, as they often have copies of old textbooks), or searching for some good MYP question banks or websites, to find a source of extra questions you can use to sharpen your skills.


Criterion B – Investigating Patterns:

  • Select and apply mathematical problem-solving techniques to discover complex patterns
  • Describe patterns as general rules consistent with findings
  • Prove, or verify and justify, general rules

For this criterion, teachers will be looking to see a student identify patterns in a set of data or a mathematical problem, find the relationship that explains this pattern, and use their mathematical know-how to back up their conclusion. A student may be asked to find a proof for their proposed theory, or justify their explanation of the data, and teachers will be looking for their students to incorporate their own creative ideas in their work.

Work assessed on this criterion will often be mathematical investigations, and usually a mix of both in-class and at-home work. This encourages students to develop their independent mathematical intuition and gives them the time and space to really dive into researching a large and complex problem. This kind of work prepares students really well for things like the Extended Essay in the DP, so it’s really important to put the work in here!

If you want to improve on your Criterion B work, the first thing you should do is to start looking for more mathematical patterns! When you’re out and about in the world, notice anything mathematical that you come across and try to imagine how you might investigate that in an investigation. How exactly do the notes of a police siren get higher and lower as it passes you? What kind of shape does water make as it sloshes down the pipes in the sink? How could you find a quick way to count the number of hairs on someone’s head? Once you start noticing these questions in your daily life, you’ll find your creative mind is already whirring with ideas when you sit down to do your Criterion B investigations!


Criterion C – Communicating:

  • Use appropriate mathematical language (notation, symbols and terminology) in both oral and written explanations
  • Use appropriate forms of mathematical representation to present information
  • Move between different forms of mathematical representation
  • Communicate complete, coherent and concise mathematical lines of reasoning
  • Organise information using a logical structure

This criterion is easily applied to all your maths work, from your problem sheets to your investigations – and even your exams. A teacher wants to see not just that their student understands the problem, but can express their understanding well too. A good test for yourself is to imagine that someone who knows nothing about the problem is reading your answer to it – would it make sense to them? Have you answered every part of the question fully, while also organising your answer in a way that is easy to follow? Are all of your drawings and symbols clear? Have you made sure not to forget a square root symbol, or missed a unit on one of your answers? Keeping these questions in your mind as you write can be a super helpful check to make sure you are always communicating well.

Like with Criterion A, the best thing you can do to improve here is practice, practice, practice! The more questions you write, the better you will get at expressing your ideas. Get your parents to read over your work and ask them if they understand what you’ve done. You can also ask your teacher to read over some of your extra practice problems, and they will be more than happy to give you advice on how you could improve.


Criterion D – Applying mathematics in real-life contexts:

  • Identify relevant elements of authentic real-life situations
  • Select appropriate mathematical strategies when solving authentic real-life situations
  • Apply the selected mathematical strategies successfully to reach a solution
  • Justify the degree of accuracy of a solution
  • Justify whether a solution makes sense in the context of the authentic real-life solution

Criterion D is all about reflection, justification, and explanation, and goes hand-in-hand with all of the other three criteria. A teacher wants to see that their student is able to give deep and reasoned explanations of a mathematical concept, and how it can be applied to a real-life context. This is best assessed when doing investigations, especially in the conclusion or results sections. Doing well in Criterion D is all about applying what you’re learning to the real world, and being able to also notice the gaps and flaws in a mathematical model, or in a maths investigation procedure. You will have to apply your skills from all the other three criteria to do really well on Criterion D, so try to always be thinking of how all the work you do could be applied to a Criterion D assignment.


And that is pretty much it! We hope this has helped clarify the MYP a little more, and that you feel more confident about your next summative! Of course there is a lot more that can be said about how the criteria are applied in the other subject areas, so if you still have any questions please feel free to reach out to Elite IB directly. We have nearly a decade of MYP teaching experience and are happy to answer any question you may have.


The Criteria Master Table

Language and Literature

A: Analysing

B: Organising

C: Producing Text

D: Using Language

Language Acquisition

A: Comprehending spoken and visual text

B: Comprehending written and visual text

C: Communicating in response to spoken and/or written and/or visual text

D: Using language in spoken and/or written form

Individuals and Societies

A: Knowing and Understanding

B: Investigating

C: Communicating

D: Thinking Critically


A: Knowing and Understanding

B: Inquiring and Designing

C: Processing and Evaluating

D: Reflecting on the Impacts of Science


A: Knowing and Understanding

B: Investigating Patterns

C: Communicating

D: Applying Mathematics in Real-Life Contexts

The Arts

A: Knowing and Understanding

B: Developing Skills

C: Thinking Creatively

D: Responding

Physical and Health Education

A: Knowing and Understanding

B: Planning for Performance

C: Applying and Performing

D: Reflecting and Improving Performance


A: Inquiring and Analysing

B: Developing Ideas

C: Creating the Solution

D: Evaluating

Interdisciplinary learning

A: Disciplinary Grounding

B: Synthesising

C: Communicating

D: Reflecting

Personal Project

A: Investigating

B: Planning

C: Taking action

D: Reflecting