Since the May 2013 Subject Report was released in September I was asked to write this month’s teacher’s blog on it.  It is available on the Online Curriculum Center (OCC) on the home page of the history site.

In the subject of history there are so many configurations that the report only gives the grade boundaries for a cross—section of the HL results.  If you did not do HL: Americas Peacemaking Timezone 1 or HL: Europe and the Middle East Peacekeeping, check your school’s results for overall grade boundaries as they vary slightly.

The main variation comes from the Paper 1 results: in Peacemaking peacekeeping, an 8 out of 25 is passing grade whereas it is 9 out of 25 for the Arab-Israeli conflict and Communism in crisis exams.  Should you switch to Peacemaking to take advantage of this?  After all, a 16/25 is a 7 on that exam whereas it is 18 for Communism and 19 for Arab-Israeli.  The answer is probably not; instead read through the comments on the paper, focusing on advice for future candidates.  An important aspect of this is sharing the subject report and mark schemes with the students so that they understand the demands of the exam.

In the report on Paper 2 – Timezone 1 there is an interesting comment:

“Historiography is not the be-all and end-all of history essay writing: it should not be a substitute or replacement for solid factual knowledge, accurate chronology and sequencing which must for the basis of any effective essay.  It does not add to an essay when candidates thrown in such phrases as, “Intentionalists believe ….”when it is patently obvious that these terms are not really understood but merely dropped into an essay to impress.” (p.22)

Lastly, Paper 3 reports remarked on relatively strong knowledge in the subject areas but a tendency to focus on the essay prompt implicitly, rather than providing explicit direct analysis of the question asked.  The Europe/Middle East guidance reminded teachers that they needed to teach all of the bullet points in a section to ensure that the students could answer all questions in a given section.  It also suggested that teachers spend time on the command terms so that students understand the demands of the questions that they choose to answer.

The responses to particular questions are very helpful in showing how students responded in a global sense.  Not surprisingly, weaker candidates tended to write narrative or descriptive sketches and the top students provided detailed knowledge with explicit and perceptive linkage to the questions.

There are no real surprises in the subject report, nor are there dramatic revelations of any sort but it is still very good reading.  At the moment, it may seem that there are other, more pressing matters, but as the IB exams approach for the November session, southern hemisphere teachers may find the information especially informative.