Leaked IB exam questions spark student fears of resits or exams being downgraded (2024)

Students sitting the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams fear their results could be downgraded after exam questions were leaked online.

Several versions of papers for the A-level alternative have been shared on Telegram, including a math exam and a biology test for people in timezone 2, which includes pupils in Europe and Africa.

Students have taken to social media channels to call the leaks “unfair”, with some fearing they might be asked to resit the exams.

IB claimed that the content shared online was not official IB exam papers and that it was mocked up papers created by students who had memorised exam questions and shared them online to benefit students due to take the exams in a different time zone at a later date.

The organisation told i it was alerted to “activity claiming a small number of students engaged in cheating by sharing exam content on social media platforms”, adding it immediately investigated and addressed this activity which it described as “time zone cheating”, which it “explicitly prohibits”.

The IB warned: “Consequences for students identified in correlation with academic dishonesty include “not receiving marks for their examination and or relevant subjects”, and “potentially the non-award of the IB qualification”.

The organisation said “any attempt to compromise the integrity of IB examinations is taken seriously” and it has “actively worked to identify and remove instances of shared examination content online, and hold the students responsible accountable”.

IB said that students who did not engage in sharing questions will not be asked to resit the exams, saying it will carefully review “individual exam responses for cases of misconduct” and “otherwise mark papers as usual, to ensure students who acted with integrity are not penalised”.

It is unclear how many students saw the content online before the exams, or whether any of the leaked questions could be changed in time for this exam season, which is from 24 April to 17 May.

The IB said it takes allegations of academic misconduct “very seriously” and consequences for students who have shared content include “not receiving marks for their examination an or relevant subjects, and potentially the non-award of the IB qualification”.

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate (IB), which first started in Switzerland, is taken in more than 150 countries.

It is an alternative to A-levels and other post-16 courses, and qualifies students to work in certain areas or move on to another professional qualification or training course.

For those who want to go to university, the points they receive convert to Ucas points.

The IB was introduced in the 1960s and offers a greater breadth of topics for post-16 students than A-levels.

Currently, 117 schools in the UK offer the IB, according to the International Baccalaureate Organisation – almost half the figure in 2008, when 230 schools offered it.

The leak has sparked fears circulating on social media that it could push up grade boundaries – the minimum marks a student needs to achieve to hit a certain grade – due to more people getting higher marks.

Grade boundaries vary slightly each year according to how hard a paper is, data about the cohort taking the exam, and previous statistics.

The IB did not specify in its response to i how it will decide grade boundaries this year.

A student, who studies in Turkey, recently completed a IB math exam, which they believe is one of the affected papers.

They claimed that they and fellow students had learned of leaks in exams scheduled for the following weeks.

The student, who has studied on an IB programme of study for more than two years, told i they felt stressed and sad about the leaks and boundaries being changed would undermine their and many other student’s aspirations.

They said: “None of us wishes to face the prospect of failure or receive diplomas that fall short of our expectations. Conversations with peers reveal a shared anguish over the possibility of dashed situations. This outcome is untenable.

“For over two years, we have dedicated ourselves both financially and emotionally to the IB programme. Such efforts should not culminate in this manner. We have esteemed IB’s principles and painstakingly adhered to them.

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“Mentally, I’m feeling drained. Conversations with friends from other countries, each grappling with their own sense of helplessness, serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for action.

“We students long for an environment where our hard work is properly recognized. No IB student should have to endure such uncertainty. Given IB’s esteemed reputation, this issue demands immediate resolution.”

They also called on the IB to conduct a thorough review of the leaks – focusing not on those behind them – but on “preserving the sanctity of exams entered without deceit, honoring our diligent efforts”.

A student who has taken math, business and physics IB exams told i they fear if grade boundaries are changed many universities will remove conditional offers for those sitting the exams because they will not get their predicted marks.

The student, who studies in Singapore and does not want to be identified, said: “Grade boundaries will be affected majorly which is a huge concern for all of us holding university conditional offers.”

They added they think students should be “given the chance to retake the leaked exams using backup exams”, or “make their exams already taken that were leaked invalid”.

They also suggested that universities could base conditional offers for those sitting the exams on predicted grades.

Another parent said on social media: “My daughter is distraught that after working so hard her IB results might now be compromised.”

In a message sent to IB, one student said: “Please do not increase the grade boundary due to leaked papers. I worked so hard for this final exam for the past 2 years.

“I do not want my efforts to be ruined by someone else’s academic misconduct.”

Other students complained that this year’s exams “won’t be equal”, with one writing on X, formerly Twitter: “I just hope the lower bound is not raised a lot for math marks.”

Another wrote: “I’m totally up for retaking the two math papers if it means it’s fair.”

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that exam boards must ensure fairness for all students in cases of cheating.

Tom Middlehurst, curriculum, assessment and inspection specialist at the ASCL, said: “While cases of student malpractice remain rare, cheating is never tolerated and leads to severe consequences.

“Exam boards and schools have very clear processes to follow in such instances, to ensure fairness and support for all students and to protect the integrity of the examination series.”

Leaked IB exam questions spark student fears of resits or exams being downgraded (2024)
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