Many of us in the northern hemisphere are gearing up for a new school year so I thought that it might be a good idea to offer a refresher and overview of what is required in IB History.  All of this is readily available in the History Guide but there are so many details there, and I thought it would be good just to boil it down to the most basic elements.  It is equally helpful for new IB coordinators as registering students for IB history can seem so arcane if you are not accustomed it.

All of the following information is valid for students taking the course through the November 2016 examination cycle.

First off, schools choose either Route 1: History of Europe and the Islamic world or Route 2: 20th century world history.  This decision then drives all other curricular decisions.

For SL students, the school – or teacher should select

Syllabus component                                       Method of assessment

  • 1 Prescribed Subject                       Paper 1: source based test
  •  2 Topics                                               Paper 2: essay test
  • Historical Investigation                  Internal Assessment: research project

In addition, for HL students the school selects an option at HL – for Route 1 there is only one ‘option’ but for Route 2, there are four possible choices that are broken down geographically: Africa; Americas; Asia and Oceania; and Europe and the Middle East.  Even though the core for Route 2 is 20th century, the options cover the time frame of roughly 1750-2000.  Regardless of the option, schools choose 3 sections to cover in depth.  HL students are assessed in Paper 3, which is also an essay test.

In all IB courses, teachers are supposed to inject internationalism – luckily the History syllabus does this for us.  If we cover the syllabus according to the requirements that are laid out in the guide we are giving the students the international perspective they need.

Lastly, 2 hours of Theory of Knowledge is supposed to be integrated into the curriculum.  Again, if we are following the aims and objects from the Guide, this is fairly easy to do.  More than anything, we are trying to reinforce what the TOK teachers are doing by using their terminology and pointing out the links between History and other disciplines.

How schools organize the material is entirely up to the schools as long as they include all of the necessary components.  Some schools take a chronological approach and others tackle the curriculum thematically.  In larger schools with more than one teacher, the prevailing model is to do the HL option in year 1 of DP and the Prescribed Subject and Topics in year 2.  In smaller schools where there is only one teacher – or the course is not bound by state or provincial standards, schools often take a chronological approach.  Neither is necessarily better than the other, but the model for covering the syllabus should fit with other requirements that need to be satisfied at the same time.

Sometimes it feels as if we have a lot to do in a very short time (150 hours at SL and 240 hours at HL) so it is important to remember the 1-2-3 system and stay focused on those areas.

Throughout the next few months I will tackle each of these elements in its own blog.  I will post individual entries on each section of the syllabus and each method of assessment.  I will go into much greater detail on the curricular and assessment requirements for IB history and will usually use a specific content area to explain each component.  In each case, I will try to compile a short list of documents that relate to the subject.  Some may be IB-specific, but most will be more general.

My next post will be on the HL option, and I will use the Aspect of History of the Americas as my example.  So, with that in mind, I have presented you with a photo representative of the subject: