The IB Economics Diploma Programme at Higher Level is a rigorous part of the IB. Like any subject, it is difficult if you don’t get to grips with the basics. Below, I’ll briefly outline the course structure, followed by a focus on the final exams and the internal assessment. I’ll share some revision techniques and advice on achieving the top grade. Finally, I’ll share some advice on where to pursue your interest in economics at university level once you’ve finished the IB!
IB Economics: Subject Overview
IB Economics is split into both internal and external assessment. First, the external assessment is essentially your economics exams which will take place at the end of the two-year course. The external assessment consists of three papers, all three of which cover information from across the entire syllabus. There are four units in the external assessment syllabus – Introduction to Economics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and the Global Economy. The first unit – introduction to economics – is only two sections long, but these are the more fundamental sections to underpin the whole course. It covers normative and descriptive economics, as well as grasping economics as the study of scarcity. The first paper goes towards 20% of your final grade, the second and third papers 30% each, meaning that the external assessments amount to a total of 80% of your final economics grade. The specification was recently reformed, and you can find a link to download the textbook here. It is best to download it as a zip file which can convert it to pdf with the full 450 pages accessible.
Meanwhile, the internal assessment is a form of coursework which you do outside of exam conditions, so you can perform in a different environment and demonstrate your ability differently. This takes the form of a portfolio in which you create written commentaries based on the different units of the syllabus, namely Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and the Global Economy. This means the IA does not include the introductory Unit 1 of the syllabus (Introduction to Economics). At higher level, it accounts for 20% of your final grade. I’ll go into more depth later in the blog with advice on how to approach the IA.
IB Economics External Assessment
The IB doesn’t seem to release many past papers or example papers on its own website, but here is the link to where you can find them if you are studying any of the other subjects for which they do offer past papers. Many have however been uploaded via other means, but there is no guarantee these will be as useful as those from the official IB website for other subjects. That being said, unofficial websites converge on examples found on this website, alongside another website which has some past papers alongside mark schemes. Other official websites which produce IB materials do suggest that the external assessment papers will follow a similar format. But do confer with your teacher about the structure of your examination for absolute clarity, as they will be best informed. Do also bear in mind that the course was reformed and reintroduced around the time of the pandemic, so these example papers are based on the old syllabus. But, again, they are still better than nothing. Generally, however, qualifications at this level want you to demonstrate your ability to reason through information given to you and apply it appropriately depending on context. Then, they want you to evaluate it, meaning ‘weigh it up’ and say where it is valid and where it is less so.
IB Economics Internal Assessment
As mentioned above, the internal assessment consists of a portfolio containing three written commentaries based on different units of the syllabus (except the introductory unit) and from published extracts from the news media, analysed using different key concepts. Imperatively, the three written commentaries must be based on published extracts from mainstream news media. Stay close to publications with reputability like AP News, Reuters, or the Financial Times, but be careful you don’t select articles which do the economic analysis for you! If you do, the capacity for you to achieve the higher marks will be limited, as there won’t be anything for you to explain. Other publications like the Guardian, BBC News, or The Times could also be useful – again, just ensure the specific economics analysis you will explain isn’t already done for you. Politics/policy-based articles can be good to discuss as they often feature contention from competing voices, which only hint at economic analysis. The explanation of ‘what is going on’ economically can be conducted in your explanation, with benefits/disadvantages in your evaluation, allowing you to reach the higher marks. Evaluation also requires you to suggest alternative microeconomic or macroeconomic policies.
The maximum word limit for each commentary is 800 words. Therefore, you need 3 sources (i.e., 3 articles) altogether, summing to 2400 words in total. Each commentary is marked out of 14, three marks of which are devoted to the key concepts. There are 9 of them, therefore do not reuse one concept throughout – you will be marked down. Use a diagram wherever possible – if you can’t, look for another article where you can use a diagram, so you demonstrate your ability to connect theory to real-world examples. Diagrams should be original and individually drawn. You can use hand-drawn diagrams and scan them into your commentary, or you can construct these digitally.
IB Economics Revision: How to get a Grade 7
Below are some key tips in helping you achieve the top grade in your IB Economics assessments. Whilst not exhaustive nor guaranteeing you the highest grade, they will definitely help!
Read the Subject Brief on the IBO website
The subject brief is a great short summary of IB Economics, outlining the different units, formats of assessment, and associated weighting. You’ll need to know the structure of the course, because, if not, you won’t know where to develop. It also gives some example questions which could come up on each of the external assessment papers.
Go through past papers & mark schemes (EA)
Whilst there aren’t many available, the ones which are offer some great exemplary practice to take from and even create your own to test yourself on other topics. The mark schemes available on the website recommended above are also helpful to see what examiners would be looking for.
Go through all the information provided on official websites (IA & EA)
The info available on the Hodder Education website is hugely valuable, offering much guidance on each part of the course, including both external and internal assessments. These are direct from the producers, so it will be relevant to the examinations.
This document is taken directly from the information on Hodder Education’s website pertaining specifically to the internal assessment. It provides so much guidance on how to write it, select an article, what is and isn’t included in the word count, and so much more. It would be a mistake not to!
Ensure you know the content inside out (both IA & EA)
The subject brief above clarifies the different sections on the syllabus, and the textbook has all the content in. Go through these and classify the content however it would best help you to absorb it. It is probably best to structure it in accordance with the units, subdividing according to major subtopics. For example, supply and demand with their respective elasticities together via a supply/demand diagram with accompanying explanations for the curves’ gradients to explain elasticity. Whatever works best for you to create mental pathways to recall the content!
The Best Universities to study Economics
Once you’ve finished studying IB Economics, you may have enjoyed it so much you wish to carry it on with further study at university. Below are the top 10 universities for studying economics according to the Complete University Guide.
- University of Cambridge
- University of Oxford
- London School of Economics
- University of Warwick
- University College London
- Durham University
- University of St Andrews
- King’s College London
- University of Bath
- University of Leeds
These rankings should not however in themselves dictate to which university you want to apply to study economics, but they do give a good overall guide as to the course’s quality. Other factors, such as affordability, accommodation, and general life at the university should be considered. I, for example, attended Durham University and studied Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at undergraduate level. As a city, Durham is very green, and it doesn’t feel like a city. It all depends on the type of experience you’re looking for as well as longer-term career prospects. Good luck!
IB Economics tuition
Keystone Tutors have a number of highly experienced IB Economics tutors who can help with exam and interview preparation, wherever you are in the world.
Read more about our IB Economics tutors.
For more details on how Keystone can help prepare your child for IB Economics, please call the office for a chat with one of our client managers, or contact us via our request a tutor form.