Is IB Maths Hard?

Is IB Maths Hard?

4 min Read|February 06 2024

In this article, we explore whether IB Maths is hard, looking at all the skills you need and why this subject is so notorious in the world of the IB exams.

As IBDP Maths, in one form or another, is a subject taken by almost every single IB Diploma student, as it composes a group on its own, this is a subject that absolutely everyone has to face when they decide to take the International Baccalaureate.

Across the over 100,000 students that took the Mathematics group in May of 2021, the average grade came out at 5.08/7. While this is far from the lowest, with the Arts section coming in at 4.65, it is still one of the lowest of the subject groups. That said, it has one of the highest percentages of students that receive a 7, coming in at 16.2% of students. Compared to Studies in Language and Literature, which has an average of 12.2% of students achieving a 7, or the Arts, where only 6.9% of students get a 7, the IB Maths subject looks fairly easy.

Have a look at our comprehensive set resources for IB Maths developed by expert IB teachers and examiners!
- IB Maths AI SL Study Notes
- IB Maths AI HL Study Notes

- IB Maths AA SL Study Notes
- IB Maths AA HL Study Notes

Maths Grades


However, this is incredibly deceiving, as the Maths IB, especially at HL, is by far one of the hardest IB subjects that students will come up against when they’re sitting their exams. With the changes to how Mathematics is assessed from 2019 onwards, there are now two different streams for IB Maths, Maths AA and Maths AI.

While both of these subjects, at higher level or lower level, are difficult, Maths AA has a much higher percentage of students getting top marks. Maths AA HL has 24.7% of students getting a 7 and 17.4% of students at SL getting a 7. Alternatively, only 16.9% of students get a 7 in HL Maths AI, with an even smaller percentage of 10.6% getting a 7 in SL.

If you’re looking to choose the easiest IB Maths subject, we recommend you take the Maths AI, which students tend to fare better with. Additionally, here's what Dr Zhen Shao, a lecturer at Oxford University has to say:

"As an IB tutor, I have found Maths Analysis & Approaches to be one of the most challenging subjects for students. It requires a strong foundation in mathematical concepts and the ability to think critically and analytically. The subject delves into complex equations, abstract reasoning, and problem-solving techniques that can be quite demanding. Many students find it difficult to grasp the intricate concepts and navigate through the mathematical complexities."

In this article, we’ll be breaking down exactly why IB Maths has become such a scary subject, touching on what makes it difficult and the skills students need to develop to score well in this IB.

Let’s get right into it.

Amount of Content

One of the reasons that Maths IB is so difficult is that there is a ridiculously large amount of content for you to cover. If you’re studying at HL, the vast majority of this content will be skills that you’ve never before come across, meaning you will have to put in a lot of hours around class to ensure you stay on top of everything.

By squashing so much content into a short amount of time, HL Maths IB is really a race against the clock, forcing you to learn as quickly as possible. Alongside juggling your other IB subjects, you’ll also have to put in a lot of hours doing homework, practise questions, and revising for your in-topic tests throughout the years.

This isn’t really a subject you can just cram, needing a vast base of Mathematical knowledge for you to fall back on.

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Advanced Skills

Alongside the sheer amount of content that you’re going to have to cover in this subject, many of the most advanced stops are actually fairly difficult to get your head around. Even for students that scored an A or an A* at IGCSE, they’ll still most likely have a hard time when it comes to the difficulty of the content that they’ll have to attempt at IB.

Especially at the beginning of the course, students may struggle to keep up with some of the hardest pieces of content that they come across, often having to practise for hours to make sure that they fully understand a skill and in which situations they will deploy them.

One of the best tips for cracking the hardest skills within the Maths IB is to ensure you ask questions in lessons. Instead of getting swept away by the content, you should ask questions about absolutely anything you don’t understand. This is also where an IB Maths tutor can be very useful, as they can walk you through any ideas you failed to understand in class.

Problem Solving

Another core part of both IB Maths AA and AI is that you need to have fantastic problem-solving skills to even work out what is being tested within a certain question. Each question gets right to the point, simply asking you to solve something without actually hinting at what skills might be needed.

Even if you have a good knowledge of a range of Mathematical skills, you still might not be able to pinpoint exactly what a question is asking you, meaning you can’t even begin to apply the knowledge that you’ve been studying. A lot of the questions have this structure, especially within HL Maths, meaning you need to brush up on your problem-solving skills if you stand a chance of doing well in this subject.

Saving Grace

Much like A level Maths, the saving grace of IB Maths is the fact that the grade boundaries are very low to get the highest marks. In 2021, the grade boundary to get a 7 in HL Maths was only 62 out of 100, meaning anything equal to or above 62% would have landed you with a 7 on that paper.

Compared to a subject like English Language and Literature, which needs a 77 even at SL to get a 7, you can see the large difference. This is often one of the reasons that much higher percentages of students end up with 7s in Maths, as the grade boundaries are in your favour.

Need Expert IB Maths Help?

If you’re looking for a boost with your studies, get in touch with the TutorChase team and we’ll be able to provide you with an expert IB Maths tutor. We’ll be there every step of the way!


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Charles Whitehouse

Written by: Charles Whitehouse

Oxford University - Masters Biochemistry

Charles scored 45/45 on the International Baccalaureate and has six years' experience tutoring IB and IGCSE students and advising them with their university applications. He studied a double integrated Masters at Magdalen College Oxford and has worked as a research scientist and strategy consultant.

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