Cancellation of IB exams shifts priorities

Teachers and students hope to have more fun once internal assessments are done


Ryan Lam

The three-week-long exam schedule no longer applies to AHS students. It would have posed a problem for some students considering how several exams are scheduled on Eid and during Ramadan.

Only until two weeks ago, students and teachers remained in the dark on whether or not IB exams would be held in May 2021.
A week prior, on Feb. 4, the International Baccalaureate confirmed that it would offer a dual-route system for the examination session in the spring, allowing counties to decide whether or not schools were able to sit the exams.
Considering that a number of schools were able to hold the exams in November 2020, many teachers at AHS continued on with their curricula, behaving as if it were a normal school year while also rushing to cover last year’s missed material and prepare their students.
English teacher McClain Herman, for example, made adjustments to her curriculum in an effort to balance both students’ learning of literary texts and preparation for their exams.
“Our plan for the spring was to teach our three remaining texts while preparing students for their spring exam, which was a timed passage analysis essay,” Herman said. “Our summative assessments for each text were going to be similar in style to the spring exam.”
With news of Fairfax County’s cancellation of IB exams on Thurs., Feb. 11, however, Herman and other teachers adapted once again.
“Our first priority is to complete the individual oral assessments and to collect and submit our students’ final HL essays,” Herman said. “However, once these two tasks are complete, we are excited to slow the pace of our class down a bit.”
Understanding that students have worked hard this year, especially given the circumstances, Herman hopes to help students de-stress by reducing their workload so that they have less to do outside of class.
“Our students will still read at least two of the texts we planned to read this spring,” Herman said, “but we hope to teach them in a way that allows for more creativity and student choice.”
In an attempt to be more accommodating, Herman has asked students for their opinions on how the rest of the school year should be formatted via Google Forms.
Already, many IB candidates have provided feedback not only for Herman, but also for all teachers in general.
“I think that the number one takeaway from IB exams getting cancelled is that teachers should relax their teaching,” senior Jimmy Le said. “This year has been hard enough.”
Senior Novera Hasnat, too, shares this sentiment, believing that teaching thus far has been too rushed and difficult to understand.
“Now that we don’t have to take the IB exams nor worry about catching up with the curricula, I hope teachers adjust their pacing to be more relaxing,” Hasnat said. “For example, in English, I hope to read books without having to stress over difficult, time-consuming summative assignments like commentaries.”
Other IB candidates want teachers to spend more time teaching certain lessons instead of mindlessly going through content.
“I hope that my teachers will take more time to thoroughly go through their lessons and possibly teach a curriculum that they find interesting instead of what was needed for the exams,” senior Natane Nguyen said.
Given that IB scores are now based on Internal Assessments, in addition to teachers’ predicted grades for students, students hope that their teachers will prioritize these papers, especially since they are due for submission very soon.
“I’m worried about my Chemistry IA the most,” senior Zainab Islam said. “The writing and research process for it have been exceptionally difficult, and I’m not sure it has a strong narrative.”
Other IAs causing the most concern are those for IB Environmental Systems and Societies and IB Analysis.
Regardless of worries over IAs, students are extremely happy as, compared to exams, their papers are much more likely to obtain IB credit during these troubling times.
“Since I was struggling a lot to learn content virtually, I didn’t think the exams would reflect how much I learned this year,” Islam said. “Basing our IB scores off of our IAs gives me a better chance at a higher final score.”
Overall, the cancellation of exams has provided lots of relief for both teachers and students. More importantly, it has granted lesson planning some more freedom, which students hope teachers to fully make use of.
“[It is a] unique, unprecedented opportunity to really teach however and whatever they wish for the last three and a half months of this year,” Le said.
With just a few more months left in the school year, teachers and students welcome a much more laid-back, low-pressure environment.