What do I need to score on the MCQ’s in order to get a 5?

February 11, 2016

I get this question a lot; “What do I need to score on the MCQ’s in order to get a 5?”

It’s a question that doesn’t really have an entirely straightforward answer, but nevertheless the answer is fairly simple to understand. Here it is.

Firstly, you really need to consider the exam as a whole. The MCQ and FRQ sections are worth 50% each, and in 2014 the grade boundaries for the total exam were as below (those numbers out of 100).


72 = 5, 58 = 4, 42 = 3 and 27 = 2

The MCQ section has 60 questions, but only 50 of those count toward the score (the other 10 are for statistical purposes only). Nobody knows which questions are the ones that don’t count, so you must try to answer all 60 to the best of your ability, and you really need to consider your score to be out of 60.

The FRQ section is usually out of approx. 46 points (it may vary slightly), but is scaled UP to be out of 50.

What do I need to score on the MCQ's in order to get a 5?

So, IF we assume the same performance on each half of the exam, in 2014 you would have needed to get 36 out of 50 on the MCQ, (i.e., about 43 out of 60 when you consider all 60 questions), and approx. 33 out of 46 (which would translate to 36 out of 50) on the FRQ, in order to get a 5. A better performance on either half of the exam would mean that the other half of the exam could suffer a bit, and the outcome would still be the same. Similarly, a worse performance on either half would mean that the other section would need to improve in order to achieve the same result.

The grade boundaries vary slightly from year to year to reflect global performance, and for the 2015 exam those boundaries were never released into the public domain. The suspicion is that they were a few points higher than 2014, perhaps to the tune of 2-4 total points.


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