How to get a 7 in ESS IB

IGCSE Chemistry students

We often work with students who think that getting a 7 in their ESS IB is simple, and much easier than Chemistry, Physics, or Biology.

However, once they get into the course itself, students often realise that ESS also requires hard work.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well, it is true that for students who dislike or are not strong in the Sciences, ESS can be a good option. The focus is less on knowledge. In fact, the use of case studies is central and many students find this easier.

However, this doesn’t mean it is necessarily easier to score a 7 in IB ESS than in other Science subjects.

This is because students do well in their assessments and this means that the grade boundaries are higher.

Also, there are some important nuances in the marking scheme. These ensure students need to demonstrate higher-level thinking and analysis in order to access the very top marks.

So, in this article, we have worked with our team of IB teachers and examiners to get their advice on how to get a 7 in IB ESS.

It is not easy. But with their tips, this article explores ways you can get the best score possible.

Plus, if you still feel stuck, our IB ESS tutors are teachers and examiners are just a click away.

algae research in laboratories, biotechnology science concept

What is ESS?

It is only available at Standard Level, and it is a very popular course.

This is partly due to the interdisciplinary nature of the course, and because of the fact that it serves as an alternative for those who don’t want to take Chemistry, Physics, or Biology.

The course explores Environmental Systems and the interaction of societies with their environment.

It can fulfill the IB Diploma Science (Group 4) requirement of the Individuals and societies (Group 3) component.

Here is the link to the IB subject brief. Where you can get more in-depth detail on the course itself.

Despite what some may think ESS is not a “soft” subject. What you will see from the topics is that you will need to invest time and effort studying if you want to get a 7.

So, let’s get down to it. Here is what our IB expert ESS tutors say you need to do.

Do a great IA, it is worth a quarter of your final score

In some ways, this goes without saying. However, time and effort spent here will put you in a much stronger position to get a 7 in your final ESS score.

The ESS IA is an individual research project in the form of a written report. As it accounts for 25% of the final IB score you have it is an important element of your final score that you can influence in advance through thorough preparation.

Here are some great tips on how to go about your IA with the best chance of success. In this way, you will be sure to be able to maximise your score.

Whether your IA is just at the stage where you are trying to find the best question, or you are already some way through your research start and you are thinking about your question or part-way through we can help.

Chemistry and science

Get organised & tackle problem topics as you go

Organise your notes as you go. You will find this is especially important in your first IB year. As you don’t want to get to your final year revision and realise you did not understand key concepts from your first year.

Go topic by topic, and make sure you understand each one before moving on to the next.  Even if this means going to your teacher and getting extra help before you move on.

We recommend that students should keep their notes organised. Ideally, you should be making revision notes on key terms and concepts as they go through the course.

Use your notes to test yourself. Ideally, do this at the end of a topic. Then, you will see where you need to do more work.

This process of testing yourself also helps you retain the information you need over the period of the course.  Then this allows you to consolidate your knowledge as you go along. Rather than waiting, and leaving it all down to revision.

To get the maximum score possible (7 in IB ESS) we really encourage you to revise as you move through the course IB1 year too.

Know the mark scheme

To reach your potential in the IB and to increase your chance of getting a 7, you need to understand WHAT you are getting tested on, but just as importantly HOW you are going to be tested.

To get the best possible results you need to know what you are being tested on.  Not just the topics, but right down to the granular detail.

First, this means knowing the rubric for each exam paper, as they will be different.

Second, the criteria will vary by subject, so do not assume that because you are graded one way in one subject that this will apply to ESS.

You will know by now that a mark scheme is the guide that sets out the criteria that examiners use to grade students’ assessments.

This needs to be your bible as you are preparing for your exams, so you need to know it inside out. So, if you don’t have it already, then ask your teacher to give it to you.

You can be the smartest, hardest working student and not get the score you deserve, and all because you are not answering the question in the right way.

How can we help?

If you are stuck, need a little help with revision, just a few hours with an expert IB teacher or examiner can make a huge difference in helping you work towards a 7 in IB ESS .

TutorsPlus offer IB tuition in ESS and all IB subjects to help international students prepare for this demanding programme.

Our tutors know the IB inside-out and truly work magic to draw out each student’s ability to self-direct their learning. You can reach us at 022 731 8148 or

By Sara Lloyd

Sara has been an education consultant for TutorsPlus for 15 years, and is an expert on international IB education.  She is also a parent of two lively children.

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