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Ib History Paper 1 Source Evaluation Essay

This is the skills’ based component of the exams:

  • You have been taught one prescribed subject, and it consists of two case studies.
  • Your exam will include all 5 prescribed subjects so be sure to answer the correct questions.
  • Your exam will only cover one of the prescribed subjects.  Even though your teacher compared the two studies, the exams do not do this.
  • There will be two booklets – one with sources and one with questions.  If you don’t already have it, request a copy of the specimen paper so you know what to expect.
  • You will have 5 minutes reading time with all history exams.
  • Use the reading time to review the topic of the paper, look at the questions and start reading through the sources.
    • There are 4 questions
    • There are 4 sources
  • You have one hour for the exam so be sure to keep track of time.  If you spend too much time on the first question you will not have enough time for the last question.
  • Answer the questions in order; the first ones are easier, and by the time that you reach the last question you will have used all 4 sources.
  • Suggested timing for the exam:
    • First question (1, 5, 9, 13, 17): two parts: a & b – 5 points total – 10 minutes maximum
    • Second question (2, 6, 14, 18): source evaluation (OPCVL) – 4 points total – 10 minutes max
    • Third question (3, 7, 15, 19): comparing two sources – 6 points total – 15 minutes
    • Fourth question (4, 8, 16, 20): mini essay – 9 points total – 25 minutes
  • Consult the markscheme, and in particular, pay attention to the markbands for the third and fourth questions as they demonstrate the necessity of using sources, and own knowledge
  • Ask your teacher for help if you are confused with any of this.
  • You are not allowed to leave this exam early so use the entire hour; if you complete the exam early, review your work.

Paper 2: World History Topics

This is the concept-based component of the exams:

  • Review the specimen paper;  there are 24 questions in 12 topic areas; it is fine if you can only answer 3 or 4 of those questions, after all you only have to answer 2.
  • Review with the World History Topics that you have covered.
    • Look at the major themes and prescribed content
    • Since there are only 2 questions per topic you need to know all of the major themes and prescribed content for each case study.
    • In most instances you should have at least 3 cases studies
    • You must have knowledge of two different regions.
  • Outline how to use the 5-minute reading time.
  • With 1 1/2  hours they have 45 minutes per essay.
  • Remember to answer two questions from two different topics.
  • Go over essay-writing techniques:
    • Planning is very important: draft an outline, make a Venn diagram or create a mind map.
    • Mnemonics work well, and all teachers have their own; review those
    • Introduction: how do you begin your essay?  how do you ensure the examiner knows where you are going in your essay?
    • Body: stick to any roadmap you provided in the introduction; treat each argument as a mini-essay; have clear topic sentences that maintain focus on the question; advance your arguments with evidence and explanation of the evidence; try to provide different perspectives on your arguments but have an opinion that you have supported; link all arguments back to the question.
    • Conclusion: an essay cannot score higher than a 9 without a conclusion, and will probably score worse than that so include a conclusion that is consistent with your arguments.  It does not have to be long, but it should be there.
  • Review the command terms: compare and contrast; discuss; evaluate; examine, to what extent.
  • Think about two 42-minute essays with the remaining 8 for planning.
  • Use all 90 minutes.

Paper 3: HL option

This is the content-focused component of the exams:

  • Review the essay-writing components of Paper 2.
  • You have an evening before Paper 3 to review HL option-specific content.  Use it wisely.
  • Go over the content that you have covered.  Look at the sections of the guide that show everything you must know to respond effectively to any answer in those sections.
  • Look at the specimen paper: there are 36 questions on 18 topics.  You only need to answer 3, and you only need to know 3 sections.
  • You can answer any three questions; two from one section and one from another, or three from three separate sections.
  • With 2 1/2 hours you have 50 minutes per essay.
  • Plan on 3 45-minute essays with 5 minutes planning time.
  • Part of the planning time should be a mental break; don’t be afraid to clear your head.  Take your bathroom break after you complete an essay – not in the middle of one if you can help it.
  • Pace yourselves – this is exam is partly an endurance test.

Congratulate yourself: you have done a lot of work over the past two years and this is your opportunity to show this.  However, don’t let your IB results define you.  That is only one piece of the picture that is you.

Keep calm and carry on!




Assessment in IB History

History at IB is a two-year course which, unlike the AS/A2 model, has no external assessment element midway through the course. Students choose to study History either at Standard Level or at Higher Level. All of these students produce an Internal Assessment (IA) on a topic of their choice during the course, and sit for two examination papers: Paper 1 consists of four sourcework questions, whilst Paper 2 requires students to write two essays. Higher Level students additionally have to study some extra topics for Paper 3, which involves the production of a further three essays. This means that the overall grade for Standard Level and Higher Level students is calculated differently:

Assessment Grid for IB History


Standard Level

Higher Level

Internal Assessment



Paper 1 (60 mins)



Paper 2 (90 mins)



Paper 3 (150 mins)



1. Sourcework

Paper 1
[Student Handout: Tips for IB History Sourcework]
At the time of writing, the IB board has not made available any sample papers for the new syllabus. However, it is unlikely that they will substantially change the existing approach of each paper. With this qualification in mind, up until now Paper 1 has consisted of five accessible sources; written sources are rarely more than 200 words long, and there is usually at least one visual source such as a cartoon or photograph among these. The four questions, adding up to 25 possible points, follow a predictable format, with a clear markscheme:

1a. "Why, according to Source A,..." (3 marks);
1b. "What message is conveyed by Source B..." (2 marks);
2. "Compare and contrast the views expressed by Sources C and D..." (6 marks);
3. "With reference to their origins and purpose, assess the values and limitation of source A & D to this historian studying..." (6 marks);
4. "Using the sources and your own knowledge, explain to what extent you agree that..." (8 marks).

2. Essays

[Student Tips: IB History Essay Skills]
[Student Tips: "Challenging the assumptions of the question" in Level 7 of the mark scheme]

Paper 2
This examination paper is traditionally divided into five sections of five questions each. Students will be required to answer two questions chosen from different sections of the paper, hence the requirement that students study at least two of these topic sections in depth (see below). The five questions within each section will range from the narrowly specific ("To what extent was the rise to power of either Hitler or Mao due to personal appeal and ability?") to the very open-ended ("Assess the importance of ideology for rulers of twentieth century single party states"). Another popular style of question in Paper 2 involves the comparison of different regions ("Analyse the foreign policy of two rulers of single-party states, each chosen from a different region."). This genuinely synoptic approach to History – chronologically, geographically and thematically – is one of the most challenging but stimulating aspects of the IB course.

Paper 3
Higher Level students only sit this paper. The IB board produces several Paper 3 examination papers, each of which tests knowledge of a different world region (for example Europe and the Middle East, the Americas). The teacher will declare in advance which of these papers his or her students will be sitting – in my case, I teach towards the European paper. The paper consists of a list of 25 essay questions covering up to 200 years from which candidates must answer 3. In contrast to Paper 2, these questions are not organised into themes, and are not particularly synoptic in nature: instead, they are in-depth questions on particular topics ("What were the main causes of the Spanish Civil War?", "Compare the roles of Trotsky and Lenin in the October Revolution and the formation of the Soviet State to 1924").

The Internal Assessment
[dedidcated section containing guidance, markschemes and sample assessments]
The Internal Assessment at IB History level is an individual study which accounts for 20% of final mark for Higher Level students, and 25% for Standard Level students. It is a study of 1500-2000 word essay on a topic of the student's own choice. This personal study of 1500-2000 words is often the most enjoyable part of the course for many students. It is divided into very clear sections – an introduction, a summary of evidence, an evaluation of sources, an analysis and so on – each of which has a recommended word limit and its own clear mark scheme. In comparison to many A-Level personal studies, the topic theme for the Internal Assessment (IA) does not need to be confined to the period, region or themes being tested in the external examinations. Students may be working towards an exam focusing heavily on Modern European History, but could choose as their IA a question on Medieval Asian History. In the past, popular choices of study have been based around novels, films or works of art ("How useful is the art of George Grosz to the historian of Weimar Germany?") or personal interviews ("Does oral testimony substantiate the view that life in East Germany got worse following the fall of Nazism?"), but more studies based on more traditional themes ("How significant was Harriet Tubman in the American abolition movement?") are also perfectly acceptable.

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