Frequently asked questions—Case study from the IB

At what point in the delivery of the course should I introduce practice for paper 3 to my students?

After the case study has been released teachers may choose different methods for delivering the additional content and organizing visits, guest speakers and practice papers. It is entirely up to teachers which approach they adopt to introduce this additional content, but it would seem reasonable for teachers to wait until they know that students have sufficient information gathered from independent research before they practise extended responses.

How often should I offer practice papers to my students?

As often as you consider appropriate, but it is strongly recommended that students become familiar with the requirements of the markband for question 4 as well as being able to demonstrate evidence of independent research (see above) in practice papers prior to taking HL paper 3 at different times in the second year of the course.

How much time in the course should I assign to preparing for paper 3?

30 hours has been assigned to the preparation of students for paper 3, and this includes time for analysing the case study and any additional research. It is expected that a large proportion of the 30 hours is spent on research.

In addition, while preparing students for the various parts of the course, aspects of HL paper 3 may simultaneously be developed.

Will there be “new” material in the HL paper 3 examination—that is, material not in the syllabus?

Yes, some of the material will be completely “new”, some based on a specified assessment outcome such as comparing a centrally controlled system with a distributed one, and some further developing ideas in the syllabus such as evaluating a range of methods that can be used to prevent data loss.

How many questions on the paper will come from the case study and research linked to it?

The majority of the questions on this paper will be directly related to the case study; however, where appropriate questions will be drawn from the SL/HL core and HL extension.

How many questions on the paper will come from the student’s research?

These will be predominantly extended response questions such as 3 and 4; however, students will be expected to learn definitions of additional terminology and processes that will be assessed throughout the paper.

Where can I find advice, information and assistance on finding material that can help to prepare my students for HL paper 3?

The OCC offers teachers the chance to share good practice and to access and contribute resources to help prepare students for the HL paper 3 examination.

Will my students have enough time to read any unseen text in the examination before writing their response?

As with all written examination papers, a 5-minute period of reading time is provided before the examination begins. It is recommended that students allocate 5–10 minutes of reading and planning before writing any response.

How are the markbands applied to question 4?

The markband provides the examiner with a gauge to determine the quality of the response. Examiners will use best-fit to determine which level is most appropriate before awarding the final mark. The markband will remain constant from session to session and teachers should familiarize themselves with these markbands and use them during the course to prepare themselves and their students for the examination.

Is there a suggested word count?

Yes. Students should write approximately 1,000 words and base the depth of their response on the requirements of the command terms and the mark allocations across the paper. Two examples of the paper are included in the specimen papers available on the computer science subject page of the OCC.

What are the “best practices” to ensure students do well on HL paper 3?

Students should:

  • understand the structure of the paper, including the command terms and requirements of each question, particularly the extended responses
  • use appropriate computer science terminology throughout the response
  • include evidence (for example, the introduction of new knowledge to that provided in the case study) of independent research in responses
  • ensure that any assertions made are fully substantiated and underpinned by balanced analysis
  • plan their extended responses before they start writing.