Academic Group 6 Subjects Tips

Overview and Tips: Visual Arts HL Process Portfolio

Note: first assessment 2016, from the IBO Visual Arts Guide.

Exams are one of the reasons why the IBDP is considered tough. You are basically expected to show what you have learned in the past 2 years in 2 hours. Therefore, IAs come as a blessing during our journey—if you use your time wisely—since you are allowed to work on it for as long as you want before the deadline. 


Visual Arts is a Group 6 subject in which students are expected to create a body of works that demonstrates their technical and analytical skill as artists. In Visual Arts, the process portfolio is the IA equivalent, however, it is externally assessed as there are no exams for this subject. The assessments of Visual Arts are Comparative study, Process Portfolio, and Exhibition.

Process portfolio takes up 40% of your final grade and compared to other curricula, the IB does not solely grade you based on your technical skills: they care about your growth as an artist as much as your final pieces. In your Process Portfolio, you will show evidence of experimentation, exploration, manipulation, and refinement of a variety of visual arts activities you did over the 2 years.

HL Visual Arts students are expected to create 13 to 25 screens that include at least 3 different art-making forms. Simply put, it is all about showing your process and sharing your reflection.  You are graded based on 4 criteria which are:

  • Criteria A: Skills, techniques, and processes
  • Criteria B: Critical Investigation
  • Criteria C: Communication of ideas and intention (visual and written)
  • Criteria E: Presentation and subject-specific language

 Tips on acing your VA process portfolio

1. Documentation

Make sure to take as many pictures of your process as possible and do not forget to take notes, as it may be hard for you to remember everything you were doing after a while. Also, creating a Process Portfolio album on your phone or computer can help you to be more organized.

When I was creating my very first Process Portfolio draft, I realized that I simply had nothing to show the process of my artwork. As expected, my grade was low, however, while creating my second piece, I was aware of the situation and took as many pictures as possible which ended up making my grade rise to a 6!

2. Emphasize your analysis

Include critical analysis and evaluation of your work, as well others’ works since it is one of the assessment criteria. You need to go beyond the surface and be familiar with the vocabulary you are expected to use.

A lesson I learned as a DP Visual Arts student that connects to this tip is the time I did an “Artist Analysis” on one of my favorite Mongolian artists, Zayasaikhan Sambuu. (If you like paintings that share a personal and cultural story through them, make sure to check his artwork!) Since I loved his artworks, analyzing was entertaining, and I realized that I was simply going beyond the descriptive analysis that I used to write! From there, I realized the importance of picking an artist that connects with your soul and your personal artistic style. Moreover, try not to perceive analyzing as a daunting process, instead, make sure to be curious about your artists and artworks, and do not solely see it as a school assignment. You will love it!

3. Edit, edit, and edit

To achieve a high-quality process portfolio, approach it like an artwork you constantly review and refine. Moreover, by working on your process portfolio constantly, you can feel reassured when the actual due date approaches. 

Every once in a while, I check my Process Portfolio to see if I want to change or edit something. I believe that as artists, our growth is constant. Every single artwork we see, movie we watch, and gallery we go to affects our thinking dramatically. 

4. Show your progress

Criteria A: Skills, techniques, and processes is awarded more marks compared to the other criteria. With that in mind, make sure to include screens that show improvement of your technical skills. 

Be genuine and authentic as there is no other artist like you. Document your journey as an artist and show how your technical skills, thinking, and creating improved through your DP journey. 

As my Visual Arts teacher said, “IB Visual Arts is all about improving as an artist. They do not want to see a ‘born artist’; they simply want to see a student who was determined and creative enough to make themselves into an artist.” 

IB Visual Arts is a must-choose class if you enjoy creating new things, it exposes you to many different art-making processes and in the journey of creating artworks, you eventually unlock pieces of yourself you never knew before!

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