As the IB draws ever nearer our students are full of questions about how to study and what to study.

When they are preparing for Paper 2 one of the most common questions is how many case studies are needed for Topics 1 through 4.  Topic 5 is slightly different and will be treated separately.

For Topics 1-5 the students need enough wars, leaders and/or countries to answer questions successfully.  Many questions will ask them to provide examples from two different region.  So, we know that they need to know at least 2.  However, some examples are better suited for certain types of questions, so two might not be enough, so it is always good to have a safety.  So, that means that we should teach – and they should prepare a minimum of 3 for the exams, again coming from at least 2 regions.

Does that mean we only teach 3?  Not necessarily.  If you are covering the Cuban Missile Crisis as part of the Cold War, taking time to cover Castro makes sense not just for Paper 2 but also for Paper 3 where a question could appear on him in Political Developments section.  If you study History of Europe and the Middle East, you may have chosen the bullet point that includes Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin – so those will all be covered, and then you need to add one outside of the region.  If you cover Communism and Crisis, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Deng are all covered regarding rise, economic and political policies, so adding social policies onto the unit makes sense.

Now, Topic 5: Cold War is different as the material for detailed study includes events, countries and people, and you need to choose a cross-section of them.  And, you don’t necessarily have to cover all the  major themes.  If it does not fit in with the rest of your course you may choose to leave out Non-alignment, for example.  So, you want to choose examples and major themes that line up.  Your students won’t be able to answer all 6 questions but they will be able to answer most of them, provided you give them a sufficient number of major themes and material for detailed study.

What does all of this mean for us as teachers?  We definitely want to cover more than what is required if we have time so that students can make a choice of what they want to study.  There is always one war, for example, that they didn’t really like, and they can opt out.  However, not all of us have a lot of time and may need to be more, well, efficient.  If that’s the case, then we need to advise students to cover everything we did in class.  It sounds daunting – but what did they expect?