For those of you who are Diploma Candidates you are probably focused on Math, English and Biology at the moment, which is perfectly understandable. On Friday afternoon there will be a flurry of activity as you scramble to revise your notes, organize your thoughts and attempt to memorize hundreds of details.  However, one weekend of studying cannot replace 240 hours of class time and numerous assignments.  You should use some time over the course of the next week to go over the demands of the exams.

As a reminder:

  HL SL
Internal Assessment 20% 25%
Paper 1 (4 questions, 24 marks) 20% 30%
Paper 2 (2 questions, 30 marks) 25% 45%
Paper 3 (3 questions, 45 marks) 35%  

Your IA has already been marked by your teacher and moderators are currently working to ensure that marks were interpreted correctly.  That means that you can focus entirely on your exams.  Below is an overview of each exam and what is covered:


Paper 1: Prescribed Subject – source-based analysis

This is the skills’ based component of the exams:

  • You have been taught one prescribed subject, and it consists of two case studies.
  • Your exam will include all 5 prescribed subjects so be sure to answer the correct questions.
  • Your exam will only cover one of the prescribed subjects.  Even though your teacher compared the two studies, the exams do not do this.
  • There will be two booklets – one with sources and one with questions.  If you don’t already have it, request a copy of the specimen paper so you know what to expect.
  • You will have 5 minutes reading time with all history exams.
  • Use the reading time to review the topic of the paper, look at the questions and start reading through the sources.
    • There are 4 questions
    • There are 4 sources
  • You have one hour for the exam so be sure to keep track of time.  If you spend too much time on the first question you will not have enough time for the last question.
  • Answer the questions in order; the first ones are easier, and by the time that you reach the last question you will have used all 4 sources.
  • Suggested timing for the exam:
    • First question (1, 5, 9, 13, 17): two parts: a & b – 5 points total – 10 minutes maximum
    • Second question (2, 6, 14, 18): source evaluation (OPCVL) – 4 points total – 10 minutes max
    • Third question (3, 7, 15, 19): comparing two sources – 6 points total – 15 minutes
    • Fourth question (4, 8, 16, 20): mini essay – 9 points total – 25 minutes
  • Consult the markscheme, and in particular, pay attention to the markbands for the third and fourth questions as they demonstrates the necessity of using sources, and own knowledge
  • Ask your teacher for help if you are confused with any of this.
  • You are not allowed to leave this exam early so use the entire hour; if you complete the exam early, review your work.

Paper 2: World History Topics

This is the concept-based component of the exams:

  • Review the specimen paper;  there are 24 questions in 12 topic areas; it is fine if you can only answer 3 or 4 of those questions, after all you only have to answer 2.
  • Review with the World History Topics that you have covered.
    • Look at the major themes and prescribed content
    • Since there are only 2 questions per topic you need to know all of the major themes and prescribed content for each case study.
    • In most instances you should have at least 3 cases studies
    • You must have knowledge of two different regions.
  • Outline how to use the 5-minute reading time.
  • With 1 1/2  hours they have 45 minutes per essay.
  • Remember to answer two questions from two different topics.
  • Go over essay-writing techniques:
    • Planning is very important: draft an outline, make a Venn diagram or create a mind map.
    • Mnemonics work well, and all teachers have their own; review those
    • Introduction: how do you begin your essay?  how do you ensure the examiner knows where you are going in your essay?
    • Body: stick to any roadmap you provided in the introduction; treat each argument as a mini-essay; have clear topic sentences that maintain focus on the question; advance your arguments with evidence and explanation of the evidence; try to provide different perspectives on your arguments but have an opinion that you have supported; link all arguments back to the question.
    • Conclusion: an essay cannot score higher than a 9 without a conclusion, and will probably score worse than that so include a conclusion that is consistent with your arguments.  It does not have to be long, but it should be there.
  • Review the command terms: compare and contrast; discuss; evaluate; examine, to what extent.
  • Think about two 42-minute essays with the remaining 8 for planning.
  • Use all 90 minutes.

Paper 3: HL option

This is the content-focused component of the exams:

  • Review the essay-writing components of Paper 2.
  • You have an evening before Paper 3 to review HL option-specific content.  Use it wisely.
  • Go over the content that you have covered.  Look at the sections of the guide that show everything you must know to respond effectively to any answer in those sections.
  • Look at the specimen paper: there are 36 questions on 18 topics.  You only need to answer 3, and you only need to know 3 sections.
  • You can answer any three questions; two from one section and one from another, or three from three separate sections.
  • With 2 1/2 hours you have 50 minutes per essay.
  • Plan on 3 45-minute essays with 5 minutes planning time.
  • Part of the planning time should be a mental break; don’t be afraid to clear your head.  Take your bathroom break after you complete an essay – not in the middle of one if you can help it.
  • Pace yourselves – this is exam is partly an endurance test.

Congratulate yourself: you have done a lot of work over the past two years and this is your opportunity to show this.  However, don’t let your IB results define you.  That is only one piece of the picture that is you.

Keep calm and carry on!