Nearly 26,000 students took the International Baccalaureate Economics exam in May 2021, making it the second-most popular “Individuals and Societies” class behind IB History, per provisional data from IB. Next May, students in IB Economics will be the first to take the course’s revised end-of-year test.
To prepare for success, here are three key points that IB Economics students should know about the updated exam.
A Revised Approach That Relies on Holistic Content Assessment
What does “holistic” mean in the context of the updated IB Economics course? It means that the assessments bring together the many aspects of the course, as opposed to breaking them down and testing them separately.
For this reason, students in IB Economics should actively look for connections, similarities and differences between course concepts. Consider making Venn diagrams part of your study routine and always keep the “bigger picture” in mind.
The assessment changes do not mean that students can no longer use past IB Economics content to prepare for the updated tasks. Rather, the implication is that you should practice responding to them from a more comprehensive angle.
Revisions to Paper 1 and Paper 2
Both standard level, or SL, and higher level, or HL, students are required to write Papers 1 and 2. Only HL students respond to an additional task called Paper 3.
Currently, Paper 1 consists of Section A, which tests microeconomics concepts, and Section B, which tests macroeconomics concepts. Section A and Section B also include two subsections, the first of which generally requires an explanation and the second of which usually requires discussion. For both Section A and Section B, students may choose one question to answer out of two. All subsections for the selected question are mandatory.
Paper 2 currently has a similar structure. It consists of Section A, which covers international economics, and Section B, which covers developmental economics. Both questions also contain four subsections, and students again have a selection of questions.
In May 2022, Paper 1 will become an “extended response paper that now assesses the whole course,” per the IB website, in keeping with the newly holistic nature of IB Economics. Paper 2 will involve both quantitative and qualitative data that will be “based on real-world scenarios or case studies.”
For the revised version of Paper 2, students must be comfortable working with both economics-related math and written texts. Graphic literacy is a necessity, so students should seek to expose themselves to a variety of visual representations of economic data throughout the school year.
Revisions to the Internal Assessment Portfolio
The revised internal assessment portfolio will require students to analyze three course concepts from this list: scarcity, choice, efficiency, equity, economic well-being, sustainability, change, interdependence and intervention. Students should use this assignment to demonstrate how their three chosen concepts apply to the real world — meaning through the lens of factors such as poverty — and make individual commentaries that prove understanding.
To prepare for this task throughout the school year, students should stay abreast of major developments in the world of economics. Ways to do so may involve reading financial news in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, which will get students comfortable with financial terminology, relevant graphs and charts, and today’s trending topics.
It’s important for students to be aware of these major changes to the IB Economics course to avoid unpleasant surprises and prepare as best as possible. To learn more, you can also read the IB’s official explanation of these revisions.
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