How to get 45 points on the IB – 2019 version

How to get 45 points on the IB – 2019 version

This post is a follow up to my previous tongue-in-cheek guide on how to get 45 points on the IB. If you’re a student reading this hoping for a magic short-cut to getting a 45, I’ll ruin the ending now – there isn’t one. Put your phone / laptop down and do some work.

For everyone else, the premise is that the IBO publishes a statistical bulletin every year, and the results are fascinating. For example, we know that at least one student managed to achieve 39 points (more than enough for admisison to a very decent degree course, such as English at Oxford or Law at Durham) and not be awarded the IB diploma! It also plots the IB’s growth rate nicely, with over 160 thousand students from almost 3000 schools sitting the Diploma in May alone.

You can view the full dataset for the May 2018 exam season here:

This data also analyses the scores awarded in different subjects, broken down by the six subject groups. In this post I’ll pick out the subjects with the highest percentage of Level 7 grades in each of the six subject groups, and then present the final choice of the subject combination with the highest likelihood of getting 45 IB points in May 2018 (assuming you don’t join the 39 point student who assumedly didn’t get their CAS points and therefore missed out on their diploma).


Group 1 – Studies in Language and Literature

This group usually sees a large variance in the percentage of students awarded the top grade, especially comparing less-commonly and more-commonly sat subjects. For example, 8.15% of the 496 students taking HL French literature achieved a level 7, vs 50% of the 18 students taking the comparable HL Estonian course.

Honourable mentions also go to HL Georgian Literature (45% Level 7s), SL Khmer Literature (59.38% Level 7s, slightly up on the 58.82% of Level 7s in Khmer HL Literature), and SL Albanian (67.86% Level 7s). However, for the second time (out of two), the top ranking goes to Macedonian, with 73.68% of the students sitting SL Macedonian Literature achieving top grades.

Group 2 – Language Acquisition

A few subjects like Chinese B (both SL and HL) hover around the already-impressive 40% mark for Level 7s, but nothing comes close to Classical Greek, with 64.71% Level 7s in Classical Greek HL, and a whopping 80% in Classical Greek SL.

Group 3 – Individuals and Societies

The grade variance drops off at this point, and no subject scores over 50% of Level 7s in this group. Indeed, some switch the other way, for example with less than 2% of the not-inconsiderable 1388 students taking Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) HL achieving top grades. Some other subjects also seem very difficult to get top grades, with just 2.07% of the near 45,000 HL History students getting a 7.

One subject shines out amongst all the rest – Classical Greek and Roman Studies SL, with a massive 35.71% of students getting a 7. Admittedly, only 14 students sat this course, so maybe time to petition your teachers to launch this course?

Group 4 – Sciences

This is another block of subjects with much less variance than seen elsewhere. There are some interesting anomalies – 12.5% of students taking Sports, Exercise and Health Science HL got a Level 7, versus less than 4% of those taking the equivalent SL course.

If you’re brave enough, statistically the best option is HL Physics, with 14.3% of 12,956 students getting top marks last year. The obvious SL option is Astronomy, with 12.2% (out of just 42 students) getting the 7.

Group 5 – Mathematics

This is relatively easy, as there are only 4 choices!

The best choice statistically is Further Maths HL, where 27.76% of the 267 students attempting the course got top grades. Admittedly this may not be an option you want to consider! If not, HL Maths (again tricky!) is your next best bet, with 13.7% getting top grades.

Group 6 – The Arts

Finally, we get to the last group. The Arts has a relatively low level of variance. No subject had much above 10% of students achieving a 7. Having said that, you might want to avoid Visual Arts SL – just over 1.5% of students managed the 7 in May 2018. Top marks go to Theatre HL, with 10.12% of students getting top grades.


So there we have it! To sum up, if you want to base your future life chances off a dataset, you might consider the following subject choices as giving you the best chances of getting the magic 45 points on IB. (The percentages in brackets represent the percentage of students getting a 7 in May 2018).

  1. Macedonian Literature SL (73.68%)
  2. Classical Greek SL (80%)
  3. Classical Greek and Roman Studies SL (35.71%)
  4. Physics HL (14.3%)
  5. Further Maths HL (27.76%)
  6. Theatre HL (10.12%)

Actual conclusion

It would be remiss of me to leave it there. As much fun as these exercises are, years of working with teenagers has taught me to never rely on sarcasm. Please, please don’t take this advice as anything other than a geeky attempt at humour, and only pick subjects that you

a) Care about,

b) Think you might do well in,

c) Think might help you with whatever it is that you want to do next.

If you are actually in the position of choosing your IB subjects now, your teachers and parents are the best place to start. Good luck!

Secondly, if you are an IB student and you aren’t close to getting 45 points, please don’t despair. This is a very hard thing to do (remember, Oxford ask for a fair bit less on their English course), and getting 45 points on the IB isn’t a pre-requisite for anything, anywhere.

Notes and links

Firstly, you can read the IBO’s statistical bulletin using the following link. I thoroughly recommend you do!

If you want to know more about how the IB works and is put together, you could do worse than to read our advice on this:

Lastly, if you ever need any extra assistance, we do have an excellent selection of tutors who would be happy to help!

Thanks for reading, and good luck!