Raise The Boundaries For IB Math SL & HL

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The Maths HL Paper 1 grade boundaries need to be raised substantially in light of the significantly decreased difficulty of the paper.  There were three aspects of the paper which made it much less difficult than previous years:

1) The number of very difficult questions in the paper was lower, and the paper had less difficult questions overall.  In every exam paper, you expect to receive a couple of difficult questions, but in this case, the overall difficulty of the questions was lower.  The integration question in Section A was an equation you would expect to see in Pre-Calculus, for example, because of its simplicity - and the questions just got easier from there.  Because of the decreased difficulty, students' marks overall will be higher, and the grade boundaries need to reflect that.

2) The style of the questions was noticeably different to previous papers.  This decision was made without prior warning to teachers or students, so nobody could be properly prepared for how easy the exam was.  No past papers or resources can adequately prepare students if the questions are different to what will actually be in the exam. For example, questions 8 and 9 took the concepts of addition, and multiplication, in entirely cliched directions to all previous papers.

3) The question 10 focus on factorials was, in particular, hugely too easy considering factorials are in no way focused on in the course and are only considered briefly in binomial expansion.  Every student understood factorial concepts adequately enough to answer such a question, and no teacher expected it to be asked; the course itself puts extremely minimal emphasis on factorials.  To ask a question 10 - as if to provide free marks - on a side-concept isn't fair.  The question will unfairly reward all students with the slightest hint of mathematical knowledge, which should obviously not be considered a requirement of learning HL mathematics. 

In light of these unannounced and entirely unexpected changes to the reduced difficulty and style of the paper questions, we strongly urge the IBO to seriously consider the grade boundaries.  Students who were expected to score 3s in this subject, after putting many hours and much effort into preparation for what should have been a predictable exam (as it has been since 2011), will now find themselves facing a disappointingly high mark which does not reflect their achievement, if changes to the ground boundaries are not adequately made.

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