International Baccalaureate vs. Grade Point Average: which side should your education be on?


Alexia Torres, Writer

There is a brewing rivalry between Saint John’s School and Robinson School. Between students it might be about which school has the better campus, or who has a better swimming team, but another rivalry that really digs deep is the difference between Grade Point Average and The International Baccalaureate Programme.

While the Grade Point Average system is mainly used in Puerto Rico at educational institutions like Saint John’s School, The International Baccalaureate Programme system is in contrast seen at other educational institutions like Baldwin School of Puerto Rico and at our neighboring school, Robinson.

International Baccalaureate Learner Profile
Grade Point Average Scoring Board


Being a student that has been graded under both the Grade Point Average System and The International Baccalaureate Programme, I can assure you that they are both exceptional if understood, executed, and appreciated by the teachers assessing students with different talents. Equally, all students must be capable of developing strategies and should skillfully work in order to transition into the system they are being evaluated with, especially if they are moving away from the traditional system and are being introduced to a completely unknown educational system. In my opinion, both of these academic platforms when optimized, offer students the opportunity to obtain a thriving base for their academic development. In the same fashion, I must add that during my International Baccalaureate years, I never fully understood the bases for point grading, as I found them very subjective from one teacher to another.

Mr. Luis Beltrán

The International Baccalaureate Programme and Grade Point Average systems are vastly different; they both benefit the student in a positive manner but with different approaches. According to Mr. Luis Beltrán, a teacher who has graded under both systems before, the International Baccalaureate basically consists of “each class being divided into four criterions to the subject. Once that is done, that criterion has to be assessed from a level of one through eight, one being the lowest and eight being the highest. It is not something proportional to percentage.”

He also says that “this is the first thing to break off from that mindset. For example, it is not that 4 is a 50%, it is that as you see the levels, you apply them as you would to a regular percentage.” As a teacher in the Mathematics Department he thinks that “the traditional part of mathematics should always be present. Although, in the International Baccalaureate System, there are three other components added to each criterion. These are investigating patterns, communicating in mathematics and applying mathematics to daily life.” This system also consists of two types of assessing these are known as a Summative and a Formative.

While teaching at Robinson School with International Baccalaureate System, Mr. Beltrán noticed that “to the educator, it might be easier to understand once we have wrapped our heads around it. However, for students it is very confusing even though they might have been very good at the subject of choice. At times they felt directionless when it came to how and why to do certain things. They were directionless in how to reach the level of success they wanted to achieve. When they finally got to the place they wanted to be, at times they did not know if they had a good grade.”

Claudia Díaz

As I kept on with my research, I spoke with Claudia Díaz, a student who was previously graded by the International Baccalaureate system and is now being graded with the Grade Point Average system. Claudia finds the Grade Point Average System to be “a system of grading that feels more straight forward due to the fact that you instantly know your grade and everything counts, even if it is a small assessment or a time-consuming project.” This system is one that goes from 0% being an F to 100% being an A+.

Equally important, I wondered whether Claudia Díaz and Mr. Luis Beltrán thought the International Baccalaureate system or the Grade Point Average system worked at the student’s advantage. Their opinions proved to be very interesting.  Mr. Beltrán indicated that “both definitely benefit the student but personally, I prefer percentage because it is far simpler that the International Baccalaureate system.” He then went on explaining that “the International Baccalaureate system has different assessing levels. For example, a 7 could be an A and an 8 was a 100%. However, in a traditional test you could have gotten a 99% that would be a 7 in the International Baccalaureate systems. In addition, if you get 100% it was an 8. Still, losing a point would bring you back to a regular A, which in percentage means that you lost about 7%. That took a huge toll on the student’s grade once they were at the end of the year with a good grade.”

Claudia Díaz said that she preferred percentage as well. She went on to say that she preferred the Grade Point Average system because “it is straightforward and benefits the student all the more.” She believes the Grade Point Average systems is “also helpful for colleges and transcripts for many colleges use Grade Point Average and are clear on how the system works. Due to this clarity, doubts are not present in the assessing of students therefore they got a more factual final grade.”

For the purpose of this article I must address that despite all schools mentioned being renowned institutions, solid questions still prevail. Which system has the most potential to measure students maximum capabilities while promoting in students a constructive growth?  Is the answer to these questions only people’s perception based on their experience with each or both systems or is it a reality?