Is a 3 a fail in IB?

In short, yes, a score of 3 is considered a fail in the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program. The IB grading scale ranges from 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest possible score. A score of 3 is the minimum passing grade for individual IB courses, but a higher average score is required to earn the full IB diploma.

Overview of IB Grading Scale

The IB uses the following 7-point grading scale for assessing student work:

IB Grade Grade Description
7 Excellent
6 Very Good
5 Good
4 Satisfactory
3 Pass (Minimum Passing Grade)
2 Fail
1 Fail

As shown in the table, a score of 3 is considered a minimum pass for individual IB courses. However, in order to receive the full IB diploma, students must meet additional requirements beyond just passing each class.

Requirements for IB Diploma

To earn the prestigious IB diploma, students must:

  • Take courses across 6 subject groups (studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts)
  • Complete 3 “core requirements” – an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge course, and Community, Action, Service component
  • Accumulate a minimum total of 24 points from subject exams and core requirements
  • Not receive a grade 1 in any subject
  • Meet additional criteria including compliance with IB regulations

This means that even if a student passes all their individual classes with a score of 3, they will not receive the IB diploma if their total points don’t equate to 24. The IB requires students to show proficiency across a diverse curriculum, not just pass each class.

What is Considered Passing for the IB Diploma?

According to the IB, a diploma score of 24 to 29 points is considered passing. However, the minimum needed for passing varies by institution. Many top universities require IB diploma scores of 30+ points for admission or to receive college credit.

Here is a breakdown of typical IB diploma passing standards:

IB Diploma Score Performance Level
45 points Excellent (top score)
36-44 points Very Good
30-35 points Good
24-29 points Pass (IB minimum)
Less than 24 points Fail

As shown, most universities set the passing mark at 30 points or higher – well above the IB minimum of 24. Some institutions give automatic credit for scores of 36+ points.

Is a Score of 3 Considered Failing?

While a 3 allows you to pass an individual IB course, it is considered a failing score when it comes to the full IB diploma. A grade of 3 brings down your total points and makes it very difficult to accumulate the 24+ points needed to pass the IB diploma program.

Think of it this way: if you scored a minimum 3 in all 6 of your subjects, your total diploma points would be 18 (6 x 3 points). You would fail the full diploma by scoring 3s across the board.

In addition, remember that you cannot receive any grade 1s. So a score of 3 in even one subject means you have very little room for low scores in other areas if you want to pass the IB diploma.

How Universities View a Score of 3

Top colleges and universities will not give credit for IB scores of 3. Here are typical IB credit policies at selective institutions:

  • Harvard – Requires scores of 5 or higher for college credit
  • Stanford – Requires scores of 5 or higher for college credit
  • MIT – Requires scores of 5 or higher for college credit
  • Princeton – Requires scores of 6 or higher for college credit

While a 3 allows you to pass an IB course, it signals to universities that you have only a minimal grasp of the subject. A 3 is not high enough to earn college credit or demonstrate proficiency.

Strategies to Avoid Failing IB Courses

Here are some tips to help you successfully pass IB courses and earn your IB diploma:

  • Attend class regularly – Don’t skip lessons or rely solely on studying outside of school.
  • Take thorough notes – Review material from class and synthesize concepts in your own words.
  • Start assignments early – Give yourself time to ask questions and produce quality work.
  • Form study groups – Collaborating helps you gain new perspectives.
  • Leverage IB resources – Use IB revision guides, practice tests, videos & other prep materials.
  • Learn exam structure – Understand how your IB subjects are graded and what skills are evaluated.
  • Review past papers – Practice timed exam papers so you know what to expect.
  • Take care of yourself – Don’t let stress overwhelm you. Prioritize sleep, nutrition and self-care.

Preparing well, seeking help when needed, and sticking to a structured study plan will help you perform your best and avoid failing IB assessments.

What to Do if You Fail an IB Exam

If you do end up failing an IB exam, don’t panic. You have options:

  • Retake the exam – You can register to retake exams in subsequent IB exam sessions.
  • Speak to your IB Coordinator – Discuss whether you can take alternative coursework to meet requirements.
  • Continue non-IB courses – Register for standard high school classes in subjects you struggled in.
  • Shift focus – Spend time on extracurriculars you enjoy if an IB diploma is no longer feasible.
  • Consider your wellbeing – Focus on your mental health and seek support if you feel overwhelmed.

Failing an IB exam doesn’t define you. Be kind to yourself, come up with an alternative plan, and know that your best is good enough.


In summary, while a grade of 3 allows you to pass an individual IB course, it is considered failing in terms of the full IB diploma. Earning the prestigious IB diploma requires accumulating 24+ points across assessments. With grade 3 equating to just 3 points, it is very hard to pass the IB with scores of 3. Top universities also do not give credit for IB exam scores below 5. To avoid failing, utilize all resources available to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. With diligent preparation, you can succeed in IB.

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