Now that it is mid September most northern hemisphere schools are starting up and teachers are fine tuning their lesson plans and reviewing last year’s results. In the southern hemisphere, EE are safely away to the examiners and teachers are preparing for the IB exams that will commence in less than two months. This, then, seems like a time to review the results and think about areas of focus.

In history, the world average is not a simple thing as it depends on Time Zone, Prescribed Subject and HL option. For students doing Communism in Crisis and History of the Americas HL in TZ1, the average was 4.11. For Peacemaking, Europe/Middle East in TZ2 it was 4.55. Others fell elsewhere.

Reading the OCC teachers are generally satisfied with Paper 1. The tasks are clear, as is syllabus coverage. While some may argue that topics were too narrow (Washington Naval Conference) or go beyond the scope of topic somewhat (collapse of the Soviet Union), the same teachers will agree that the IB is clear on how to prepare students for material and the skills necessary for success on this exam.

Also, despite some referring to it as the ‘infernal assessment’, most teachers find the task useful, rewarding and easy to mark. Nonetheless, there seems to be a disconnect between comments on IA reports and the final moderated mark. And the fact that there are no remarks for IAs makes this even more frustrating.
The subject report is now available and there are few surprises in it. Unfortunately, there is little insight either. Most teachers would agree, for example, that students need to work on their essay-writing techniques. However, the poor responses – and low scores – on Paper 2 need to be addressed more concretely – how are we failing our students? How can the same students who receve 42/60 on Paper 3 – the HL paper – receive 20/40 on an exam sat by HL and SL students alike? Teachers are confused by both expecations from the syllabus (eg, it does not specify that 2 right-wing leaders must be covered) and the types of questions asked. We constantly tell students that writing an IA or EE on the rise of Hitler is too broad yet they are asked to write an essay in 45 minutes on the same subject.

These frustrations with the assessment color what are otherwise positive comments about the IB curriculum. Most teachers enjoy the depth and choice that the history syllabus affords and do not want to give up teaching it despite conflicts with state and provincial standards.

So – where do we go from here? We have a syllabus that satisfies most and an assessment system that does not. We still have to prepare our students for these exams so we go back to the basics. Essay writing. Research. Historical inquiry.

Any advice?