IB exams officially began last Thursday with school-based syllabi and Business Management and Global Politics last Friday.  And today, with Biology there are even more students involved in the examinations.  Critical mass with Diploma Candidates will occur Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning when English and Mathematics take place.  As a result, few students are focused on studying for their history exams right now – but some have begun their revisions and next weekend will be when they are focused on this subject.  For those of us still teaching, we can provide them with some assistance, but our focus really should not be on content: trying to teach 240 hours worth of material in 5 or 6 is impossible.

So – what can we do? The most important thing we can do is reassure the students by going over the demands of the 2 or 3 papers they need to complete.  They may roll their eyes or feign boredom, but this will usually help their confidence.

Paper 1: Prescribed Subject – source-based analysis.

This is the skills’ based component of the exams:

  • Remind them that there will be two booklets – one with sources and one with questions.  All Prescribed Subjects are in the booklet so be sure to tell them which subject number you have covered.  Showing them the specimen paper is especially helpful for this.
  • Go over the two case studies; even after many explanations, it only seems to be at this point that they understand that questions will come from one or the other – not both.
  • Explain to them how to use the 5-minute reading time effectively.
  • Review the types of questions they will be asked to answer.
  • With 1 hour for the exam (after 5 minutes reading time), give them an idea of how much time to spend on each question.
  • You may wish to show them the mark-scheme, and in particular, the mark-bands for the third and fourth questions as it demonstrates to them the necessity of using sources, and own knowledge
  • Be patient as they ask you questions on assessment that you have answered many times.

Paper 2: World History Topics

This is the concept-based component of the exams:

  • Show them the specimen paper so that they understand clearly that there are 24 questions and that it is fine that they can only answer 3 or 4 of those questions.
  • Review with them the World History Topics that you have covered with them.
  • Remind them of the affiliated case studies they have covered.
  • Go over the topics, including major themes and prescribed content so that they understand what they must know for this exam.  Now that there are only two questions per topic it is imperative that they have covered all of the material to ensure that they can complete this exam properly.
  • Outline how to use the 5-minute reading time.
  • With 1 1/2  hours they have 45 minutes per essay.
  • Explain that they must answer two questions from two different topics.
  • Go over essay-writing techniques: even though you have done it dozens of times, they need to remember the requirements of IB history essays.
    • Cover the importance of planning and encourage them to take time to draft an outline, Venn diagram or mind map.
    • Mnemonics work well, and all teachers have their own
    • Introduction: what is the purpose?  what are the expectations?
    • Body: how do students ensure that they are advancing arguments?  how much evidence do they need to provide and what types?
    • Conclusion: point out that the essay cannot score higher than a 9 without a conclusion, and will probably score worse than that.
  • Use the markbands as teaching tools.
  • Review the command terms.
  • Discuss how to structure their time so that they can craft two essays in 90 minutes.

Paper 3: HL option

This is the content-focused component of the exams:

  • Since these students have already discussed the material for Paper 2, the essay-writing components do not have to be discussed.
  • Go over the content that you have covered.  Provide them with sections of the guide that show them everything that they must know to respond effectively to any answer in those sections.
  • Use the specimen paper to show them the 36 questions on 18 topics.
  • Let them know that they can answer any three questions; two from one section and one from another, or three from three separate sections.
  • With 2 1/2 hours this gives them 50 minutes per essay.
  • Let them know that this exam is part endurance; they need to pace themselves.

They will probably ask you about component percentages:

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%

Congratulate them on the work they have done so far.  Let them know if you will be having any content-based review sessions or, better yet, have them organise the sessions but be present to fact check.