Grade 12

Dealing with disappointing grades

In this section you can:

The Expert View

Find out the different ways to deal with disappointment 

Read this to get the complete picture…


So your grades didn’t turn out quite the way you’d hoped, don’t panic there are plenty of things you can do. And by the way, this does not mean the end of your dream of going to university. Read on and we will explain why.


You may be annoyed and irritated with yourself because you only got a five in biology in your final IB exams, whereas you were consistently scoring 6 throughout grade 12. Or, more likely, your concern is centered around how disappointing grades will impact your chance of going to university.

Achieving lower grades than you were predicted/expected may or may not impact your university application, it all depends on what the conditions were that the university communicated to you when they offered you a place. 

In some countries and some universities, receiving lower grades than expected will not lead to the university canceling your place. So relax!

If, however, you have applied to a university that has given you a conditional offer based on you are achieving a specified points total – this is normally the situation with UK universities – then there may be a problem.

E.g. you have applied to study law at Kings College London and they have made you a  conditional offer of 35 IB points and 766 in the higher levels and  unfortunately your grades came out as 35 points and 666 in the higher levels. The result is you do not have a place at Kings College London to study law. This is an example of how disappointing grades can cause you to lose your place at university.

Possible courses of action

 In a situation like this there are several courses of action open to you:


Call your dream  university and ask them to take you anyway.

action 3:

Find an alternative university that will take you – in the UK you can use the system known as Clearing. Wigsbury has produced a module on this.

action 5:

Take a gap year and retake your IB exams, and reapply to university.

action 2:

Attend another university where you have met the conditions of the offer – in the UK this would be your insurance choice.

action 4:

Get one or more of your IB subjects remarked in the hope that your grades will rise and you will then meet the terms of your conditional offer.

More details…

Let’s take a look at these five options available in more detail:

In the UK, go for Clearing

If you apply to the UK and your grades are too low to meet the conditions of both your firm and insurance choices, then you can use clearing. Wigsbury has made a module on this topic and you can also look at this UCAS video How Clearing works

Appeal your grades

You were disappointed by your grades, you don’t like the grades the examiners gave you so you just want to change them, simple. Well actually not so simple. The IB allows you to appeal the grades given to you and you can request that subjects be remarked. I can almost hear you thinking, ‘great I’ll do that and my grades will go up and I will get into my dream university.’  But hold on a minute, it is not quite that easy. If you find yourself with disappointing grades and you would like to have one or more subjects remarked, you absolutely need to go and talk to your IB Diploma Coordinator.

IB marking works like this:  there are bands of marks and depending on which band your mark falls into you are awarded an IB grade. E.g. 7, 6, 5 etc. Now if your marks are towards the top end of the band, close to what is called the grade boundary then perhaps a remark would be realistic because if you only need to raise your marks by one or two points you may be able to move up into the next band and thus get a higher IB grade.

If, however, your marks are a long way from the grade boundary, it would be a waste of time (and money) having your paper remarked as you would just stay with the same IB grade. And remember, a remark could you lead you to be awarded a lower IB grade. It is vital that you talk your IB Diploma Coordinator as he or she has access to the detailed breakdown of your marks and can see whether you are close to the upper grade boundary and therefore whether it’s feasible to have your subject or subjects re-marked. You also need to be aware that only approximately 20% of remarks result in a higher grade.

Get on the phone!

Firstly, if your grades are a little bit short of what university was demanding just call them and ask them if they’ll take you anyway. You have nothing to lose, it’s only the price of a phone call and it could save you a lot of hassle as you won’t have to go through any of the scenarios laid out below.

Go after your 'insurance choice'!

We assume that you have applied to multiple universities, and although the grades maybe too low for your dream university, you do however have a place or places at other universities. Back in the fall of grade 12, when you were applying to universities you created a shortlist of universities that you actually wanted to go to.

All you now have to do is move on, forget about the university you failed to get into and focus on the ones that you can get into. Now select the one you like best, and go there with a positive attitude, determined to make the most of your opportunity. If you have applied to the UK,  the UCAS software will automatically default to your insurance choice if it notices that your grades were too low to meet the terms of your conditional at your firm choice university.

Take a Gap Year...

And finally, you could always consider taking a gap year and retaking your IB exams in the hope that you achieve a better grade. Just a note of caution, retaking your IB exams is no guarantee that you will end up with a higher score, indeed studying the IB diploma on your own is not easy. When you are in school in grade 12 you have the support of your classmates, you are all in the same boat together; however, if you take a gap year and retake your IB diploma you’ll be working largely at home on your own and without the support of your teachers.

You need to consider this very carefully and ask yourself the question, is the university I want to go to worth the sacrifice? How realistic is it that my grades will go up? Before deciding on a gap year and retakes you definitely need to seek advice from your IB Diploma Coordinator and the subject teachers concerned.

Critical Questions


Should I just go to my second-choice university?


Should I take a gap year and retake my IB exams?


How realistic is it that a remark in my papers will result in a higher grade being awarded?

Get help!

Discuss your situation with your IB Diploma Coordinator and your College Counselor, they will have a lot of experience of working with students who are disappointed with their final IB grade. They will be able to discuss the pros and cons of different courses of action and advise you on what will be best for you.

Wigsbury Frequently asked questions

Quick answers to the important questions

Can I get my papers remarked for high-grade?

Yes, but first get some advice from your IB Diploma Coordinator.

Does it cost money to have a paper remarked?

Yes, but it will be a good investment if your grades go up.

How do I go about appealing my grades?

Talk to your IB Diploma Coordinator, he or she can advise  you on your chances of your grade going up and also on how to set the process emotion.


I am going to have one on my IB papers remarked, and then hopefully I will get into university. But what happens if they cancel my place in the meantime?

It’s important that you inform the university that you are having a paper remarked; ask them to hold off on cancelling your place until the result of your remark is known.

What can I do if I have a paper remarked and my grade stays the same?

Just accept it, and move on to Plan B which will probably mean going to a different university.

My university offer is 36 points, but I only got 30. Do you think if I have all six papers remarked I will reach 36 points?

This is highly unlikely; it is best that you consider going to a different university that asked for lower points.