International Baccalaureate: How hard is it to get a 7 on HL Maths? Watch

AspiringGenius
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I'm doing the IB next year and I'm apprehensive about doing HL maths. It has always been a passion of mine but as only one person in the 17 years our college has been running the course has even reached a level 7, I am worried about embarking on the HL as opposed to SL.

Obviously, it is hard. But exactly how hard. What math is really difficult and what does it take to reach the coveted 7. Im new to TSR so this may be in the wrong place.
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Mad Vlad
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(Original post by AspiringGenius)
I'm doing the IB next year and I'm apprehensive about doing HL maths. It has always been a passion of mine but as only one person in the 17 years our college has been running the course has even reached a level 7, I am worried about embarking on the HL as opposed to SL.

Obviously, it is hard. But exactly how hard. What math is really difficult and what does it take to reach the coveted 7. Im new to TSR so this may be in the wrong place.
I've moved this to the IB forum.
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AspiringGenius
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(Original post by Mad Vlad)
I've moved this to the IB forum.
Thanks
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Travelling_Girl
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It's not impossible but it is super hard. HL Maths is pretty much first year bachelors degree maths. The only person I know who got a 7 was an international student at Cambridge during an open day. I'm pretty sure he was from South Korea.
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Miss G
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It's not impossible. However, you need to work really hard, apart from also being very good at math. At our school, the minimum requirement to go into HL Math is an A at IGCSE Higher Tier. But, our math teacher said that we shouldn't even bother if we don't achieve an A*. It is a demanding course, you need to be naturally good and you need to be very interested in mathematic and be willing to work hard and think creatively. Because the questions will vary and will involve applying your knowledge, they will not be straightforward. What the person above me said is correct, it is university math. It's not impossible, but it's pretty close to impossible. And this is not me trying to put you off, this is the impression given to me by other math students and math teachers. Even people who were good at math and picked SL struggled. And that's SL. :/ Sorry. IB is really hard! Though try, if you like a challenge
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FiniteMr
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HL maths isn't as hard as university level maths. It's also easier than A-level maths in some aspects, including the amount of content.

Where IB HL maths gets its difficulty from is the non-modular nature. You need to be able to apply knowledge from every single area of the course, often overlapping in a single question.
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AspiringGenius
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Thankyou all for your help. What is the sort of "average" grade achieved?
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dogmatichurricane
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Have a look at the Section B of past papers - especially November 2009 HL Math. That should give you an idea of the worst that it gets. Comparatively, it isn't so hard to get a 7 because the grade boundary hovers around 75%. The trick is scoring high on the easier questions and then collecting as many method marks as you can on the real nasty ones.
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dijay_94
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HL Maths is VERY difficult. Your grade is based not just on your ability to do maths but also your personality and attitude when it comes to hard work. I got A* in iGCSE Maths a year early and took C1 Maths during my GCSE year and got 90+ and I found HL Maths crazily difficult. I worked hard at it for 5 months during which it ate up a lot of my time which I should have better spent on Chemistry HL and Biology HL. Organisation is very important. I dropped HL Maths last month BTW and took up Standard Maths. If I had done HL Maths, History and a language I probably would have been able to put in the time so your subject combination is also very important.
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chrypton
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Math HL is certainly known as one of the hardest subject the IB has to offer, but it is not as hard as people make it out to be. The trick is to know all the material really well, and the syllabus is really not that hard. The exams are quite stressful though, there's always a bunch of questions where you really need to apply things from different areas, and you don't have a lot of time. However, don't base your decision on the fact that only one person has gotten a 7 in Math HL in the last 17 years at your school, because I think that might be due to the fact that very few students have been committed enough to get a 7.

You can always start out in Math HL and drop down to SL if gets too hard.

Having said that, I have the Math HL exam coming up soon...so I think I'll be able to answer you better after that...
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Commando3200
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(Original post by Hypocrism)
HL maths isn't as hard as university level maths. It's also easier than A-level maths in some aspects, including the amount of content.

Where IB HL maths gets its difficulty from is the non-modular nature. You need to be able to apply knowledge from every single area of the course, often overlapping in a single question.
Your first statement is completely wrong I'm afraid. I quote from here, the UCAS report on IB:

Comparing size – study hours
The study hours for the IB Higher Level were recommended to be 240 – opinion differed as to whetheror not this was generally achieved in practice – and for A level around 250 - 300 hours. It was expected, therefore, that the A level specification would contain more material than the IB Higher Level but this was found to be not the case.

Comparing size – content
It was agreed that the major topics unique to the IB Higher Level needed introduction, assimilation and application, and practice whereas the topics unique to the A level were essentially additional applications of what had been already taught. Taking into account the time needed to cover these unique items the group suggested that the IB Higher Level content specification was between 10 and 20% larger than that of the A level.
Also, it is more difficult than A Level Maths, I quote from the Cambridge IB Report:

We feel that the IB examinations discriminate well at the top end 7/6/upper 5 grades. From our experience, a student with a mid-range 5 at IB HL would normally be capable of an A at A level, and a student with a 7 at IB HL is one of genuine insight and ability in the subject and is likely to be at least as strong – if not stronger – than an average A* Mathematics and Further Mathematics student.
Also, it is arguably as difficult as first year University Maths as many will give you a credit for HL Maths.

So to the OP: It's tough. My exam's in three days, and I'm quite worried. It's not the concepts that are hard, it's applying it. They require you to think outside the box mathematically in order to solve them, and the correct solution isn't always apparent, nor is the correct course of action for the question.

It's tough, but not impossible: A 7 is about on average 75% every year, but that 75% is hard to accumulate.
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QG-DAWG
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How to get a 7 from IB maths HL (even if you teacher is is fudge)

Things you need:
Maths book - Pearson Baccalaureate: Higher Level Mathematics for the IB Diploma (Pearson International Baccalaureate Diploma: International Editions)
Maths HL syllabus
Pen and paper
Time (taken from sleep, social life or other subjects)

How to pull it off:
After each class read the Pearsons book.
Do every friggin' exercise in the book (or ones that has answers on the back). - practice makes perfect-
For the exams, find some past IB final exam papers online and do them under time constraint.

I don't want to sound like a Viagra salesman but I did it! and got a 7...
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white_orchidea
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(Original post by Hypocrism)
HL maths isn't as hard as university level maths. It's also easier than A-level maths in some aspects, including the amount of content.

Where IB HL maths gets its difficulty from is the non-modular nature. You need to be able to apply knowledge from every single area of the course, often overlapping in a single question.
It is not easier than A-level Maths at all. IB maths is hard, because when an exam comes, there are always new and unseen tasks (even if you have done all of the past papers). A-level is so predictable; you can solve it without any problems at all, because tasks are repeated every year. Moreover, you have less subjects on A-levels and more time to get used to this level of Maths. I am responsible for what I am writinig here, I have done IB HL maths this year and AS Maths and I am going to do A-levels next year, because they are easier. I don't recommend HL Maths, especially when your teacher is useless. Check whether universities, in which you are interested require HL Maths- if not, don't even bother and choose another subject.
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white_orchidea
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(Original post by AspiringGenius)
I'm doing the IB next year and I'm apprehensive about doing HL maths. It has always been a passion of mine but as only one person in the 17 years our college has been running the course has even reached a level 7, I am worried about embarking on the HL as opposed to SL.

Obviously, it is hard. But exactly how hard. What math is really difficult and what does it take to reach the coveted 7. Im new to TSR so this may be in the wrong place.
What is hard: Calculus. It is the only hard part of the course for me. You have to do Maths tasks every day, thousands of them. If you are gifted in Physics, Maths, Chemistry, etc. it is a good choice, because you can practice maths during other lessons. Personally, I think that SL Maths is a better choice. I have done HL and you have to make a really effective effort, which is hard. It doesn't have much in common with GSCS maths.
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FiniteMr
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(Original post by white_orchidea)
It is not easier than A-level Maths at all. IB maths is hard, because when an exam comes, there are always new and unseen tasks (even if you have done all of the past papers). A-level is so predictable; you can solve it without any problems at all, because tasks are repeated every year. Moreover, you have less subjects on A-levels and more time to get used to this level of Maths. I am responsible for what I am writinig here, I have done IB HL maths this year and AS Maths and I am going to do A-levels next year, because they are easier. I don't recommend HL Maths, especially when your teacher is useless. Check whether universities, in which you are interested require HL Maths- if not, don't even bother and choose another subject.
This is a very silly response. Firstly it's incontestable that A-level maths (and when I say this, I imply maths+further maths) contains more subject material. They do more calculus, discrete maths, more statistics, and equal amounts in things like vectors and matrices. The only area I can find that we've done more is our option topic (only the obscure sets relations and groups option) and plane vector geometry.

Secondly, IB HL maths is predictable as well. Less predictable, because it is not modular ; but nevertheless you can always expect the typical questions like "two series question", "vector intersection with other vector", "question involving simple double-rate calculation", "question with determinant of 3x3 matrix being singular or not", and so on.

Thirdly, I don't know what your situation is with your strange IB-A-level mush, and I apologise if I am taking the wrong interpretation, but if you haven't done the A2 course yet, or year 2 IB HL maths, you can't really make a judgement on the two courses.

Finally, top universities don't accept HL maths candidates for maths-based degrees, which is a clear indicator of the larger skillset from maths+further maths.

The reason HL maths seems harder when sitting papers is that it requires more independent thought, problem solving, and making connections between parts of the course that A-levels do not demand. Yes, in this aspect IB is harder, however it covers less ground than A-levels. Clearly both courses are aimed at different objectives. The IB HL maths aims to train problem solving ability and encourage flexible application. The A-level maths+further maths concentrates on allowing students to learn a wide variety of maths. Take what you will from the comparison, but I think the only reason IB would be considered more difficult is if the comparison comes from a student with limited independent thought.
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Commando3200
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(Original post by Hypocrism)
This is a very silly response. Firstly it's incontestable that A-level maths (and when I say this, I imply maths+further maths) contains more subject material. They do more calculus, discrete maths, more statistics, and equal amounts in things like vectors and matrices. The only area I can find that we've done more is our option topic (only the obscure sets relations and groups option) and plane vector geometry.
Hang on, are you comparing the HL Maths syllabus to the A Level Maths syllabus AND the A Level Further Maths syllabus? Elaborate please.

Secondly, IB HL maths is predictable as well. Less predictable, because it is not modular ; but nevertheless you can always expect the typical questions like "two series question", "vector intersection with other vector", "question involving simple double-rate calculation", "question with determinant of 3x3 matrix being singular or not", and so on.
"Typical questions" are often delivered in ways where it doesn't matter whether a question on the same topic has already been asked. I just took the HL Maths 2011 TZ2 exam, and I'll tell you honestly, there were a maximum of thee or four questions in the entire exam that I'd seen in years prior (two of them being a matrix determinant and vector intersection question). The rest were simply new types of questions.

Thirdly, I don't know what your situation is with your strange IB-A-level mush, and I apologise if I am taking the wrong interpretation, but if you haven't done the A2 course yet, or year 2 IB HL maths, you can't really make a judgement on the two courses.
Of course someone taking either syllabus can't, because they haven't done the other. However, as I quoted in a previous post, UCAS and Cambridge University have come to their own conclusions on the difficulty of HL Maths compared to A Level Maths.

Finally, top universities don't accept HL maths candidates for maths-based degrees, which is a clear indicator of the larger skillset from maths+further maths.
Again, are you comparing HL Maths to A Level Maths and A Level Further Maths? These two university ranking lists show the top ten universities in the world. Each of these universities will give a first year Maths credit for completing HL Maths with the required grade. (Except Cambridge or Imperial, of which I couldn't find information).

The reason HL maths seems harder when sitting papers is that it requires more independent thought, problem solving, and making connections between parts of the course that A-levels do not demand. Yes, in this aspect IB is harder, however it covers less ground than A-levels. Clearly both courses are aimed at different objectives. The IB HL maths aims to train problem solving ability and encourage flexible application. The A-level maths+further maths concentrates on allowing students to learn a wide variety of maths. Take what you will from the comparison, but I think the only reason IB would be considered more difficult is if the comparison comes from a student with limited independent thought.
Sorry, but how can you compare two syllabi to one syllabus? The IB offers an SL Further Maths which covers all the "limited" sections in the HL Maths syllabus, and extends with Euclidean Geometry and other elements.

Also, how can you accuse IB students who struggle with the course as being a student with "limited independent thought"? Surely there are more factors to it? I disagree that it's the student's fault that the syllabus is difficult (although you can't help it if the syllabus is simply beyond them). I wrote my exam recently, and my Maths teachers shared it amongst one another and they found it to be difficult. My Maths HL teacher has been teaching A Level Maths for many years, and then switched to IB for the last five years. He himself told us that it was easier than what we had to be taught. Now, obviously that is one example but it is an example from someone who came from both teaching fields.
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Welix
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(Original post by AspiringGenius)
I'm doing the IB next year and I'm apprehensive about doing HL maths. It has always been a passion of mine but as only one person in the 17 years our college has been running the course has even reached a level 7, I am worried about embarking on the HL as opposed to SL.

Obviously, it is hard. But exactly how hard. What math is really difficult and what does it take to reach the coveted 7. Im new to TSR so this may be in the wrong place.
I was in the same situation, but I didn't even enjoy maths then love it now!

However, that only one person in 17 years has gotten a 7 out of your college can only mean that nobody cared enough to work for it, or that the teachers for 17 years have been terrible. In my class of 12 about 4 or 5 got a 7 last year (the year before there were only 2 in HL maths, and both got a 7), so there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a 7 if you're willing to put in the work.

From a statistical standpoint, it is not at all the subject with the least 7s: about 8% got a 7 last year, while only 2% get 7s in HL English and History. The only thing to be aware of is the workload: I probably worked more in maths than in all my other subjects put together on the other hand, it was the work I most enjoyed (or least detested, whichever way you want to put it).

If I were you, I would take it! Also, as you say you're into maths, you're likely to be one of those that wants to study something mathematical at uni, so you'll probably need it anyway.
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white_orchidea
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(Original post by Hypocrism)
This is a very silly response. Firstly it's incontestable that A-level maths (and when I say this, I imply maths+further maths) contains more subject material. They do more calculus, discrete maths, more statistics, and equal amounts in things like vectors and matrices. The only area I can find that we've done more is our option topic (only the obscure sets relations and groups option) and plane vector geometry.

Secondly, IB HL maths is predictable as well. Less predictable, because it is not modular ; but nevertheless you can always expect the typical questions like "two series question", "vector intersection with other vector", "question involving simple double-rate calculation", "question with determinant of 3x3 matrix being singular or not", and so on.

Thirdly, I don't know what your situation is with your strange IB-A-level mush, and I apologise if I am taking the wrong interpretation, but if you haven't done the A2 course yet, or year 2 IB HL maths, you can't really make a judgement on the two courses.

Finally, top universities don't accept HL maths candidates for maths-based degrees, which is a clear indicator of the larger skillset from maths+further maths.
The reason HL maths seems harder when sitting papers is that it requires more independent thought, problem solving, and making connections between parts of the course that A-levels do not demand. Yes, in this aspect IB is harder, however it covers less ground than A-levels. Clearly both courses are aimed at different objectives. The IB HL maths aims to train problem solving ability and encourage flexible application. The A-level maths+further maths concentrates on allowing students to learn a wide variety of maths. Take what you will from the comparison, but I think the only reason IB would be considered more difficult is if the comparison comes from a student with limited independent thought.
I can't agree with you in this aspect- top universities do accept HL maths and DO appreciate it- my friends, one is studying at Cambridge (Engineering) and second one is studying Maths. There are many more at Durham, LSE, UCL, Warwick or Imperial after IB. If you consider these universities as weak, you definitely have a problem with distinguishing a difference between top and low. A-level is always better credited, because not many people in the UK are able to do IB for many reasons, so in order to fill places at universities A-level's graduates are welcomed.

Yes, you can predict some tasks, which are rather obcious and trivial to vast majority od students- these tasks are usually for 4-7 points, nothing more.

Look at the statistics of A-levels grades and IB, you would be really surprised what are the results and how many people get an A or A* and 7 in HL maths. Unless, you consider British people more clever and bright than any other nation or it's other way round, that A-level maths is so predictable and easier every year.

Yes, IB's goal is to teach independent thinking and working under pressure of time. A-level Maths gives you more time to learn and practice, during the exams you have more time for solving problems, which in 95% you have seen before in your textbook/ previous past paper and so on.

I have graduated and I finished HL maths exams. Now I am doing my first year A-level, so I know exactly what I am talking about in comparison to you, unless you did the same as I.

Kind regards.
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