This blog was written by David M. Smith – Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School

You will be studying IB History at either the Higher Level (HL), a two-year course, or at the Standard Level (SL) which can be either one or two years.  While every teacher approaches things a bit differently, there are some elements that are common to all IB History courses.  The first was laid out in the previous blog – Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATL).  Here are the other elements common to all IB History courses.

Prescribed Subject – Source Study

Both SL and HL study two case studies based on historic sources – primary and secondary.  Your teacher will pick which case studies you will be learning.  This section of the course is very skill based and will concentrate on the analysis of a variety of sources.

Comparative World History

Again, this is required of both HL and SL courses.  It involves study two topics from world history chosen by your teacher.  The goal is to look at these topics as they were experienced in at least two different areas or regions of the world to be able to compare them across the six historical concepts discussed earlier.

Regional Option

The component of the course is only required of HL courses.  It involves an in-depth study of the history of one global region.  The region is chosen by the teacher.

Historical Investigation

Each student, both in HL and SL courses, will research and prepare a three-part investigation into an historical topic of their choice – what IB calls the Historical Investigation.  Once you settle on a topic, you will need to come up with a research question based on the topic. This investigation is to be 2200 words and will be graded by your teacher.

Theory of Knowledge (ToK)

ToK is a course in the IB programme that is designed to examine how knowledge is created in various subject areas.  Because IB is an integrated programme, these ToK concepts are also woven into each course – including history.  In short, we want to explore how we know what we know in history.


At the end of your IB History course you will take a series of exams – called papers – set by the IB.  There will be a paper for each of the Prescribed Subject, World History Topics, and the Regional Option (HL) that you studied.  In total the exams will take 2.5 hours for SL and 5 hours for HL.

Want to get ahead in the IB? Attend a Pre IB Summer School in Oxford, UK or Boston, US to meet students from all over the world and be taught by world-class IB teachers.