A beginner’s guide to evaluation in IB Economics!

I mention the word ‘evaluation’ and I hear groans from my students! 😩

Seriously, it’s not rocket-science 🚀 🧪! So, what does it mean to ‘evaluate’ in IB Economics? Let the IB Econ Guru simplify this thinking process!

It’s all about ‘balance’ ⚖️

In its simplest form, evaluating in IB Economics involves thinking about arguments and balancing them with counter-arguments, while drawing upon evidence to support those arguments and/or counter-arguments.

Both standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) students will be required to evaluate in both ‘paper one part b’ and ‘paper two part g’ essays. The only key difference is that in ‘paper one part b’ they’ll need to draw upon their own real-world example(s); while in ‘paper two part g’ they’ll need to draw upon evidence from the texts and information provided.

HL students will also be required to evaluate in the ‘paper three part b’ essay: the ‘policy recommendation’ (while also drawing upon real-world examples of these recommended policies).

So, how does one approach thinking about evaluation? Here are a few strategies:

1- Pros versus cons?

Drawing upon evidence from your real-world examples or provided texts, think about the advantages (pros) of whatever it is you’re evaluating. If you’re evaluating a government policy decision, what could be the advantages of this policy decision? Then try to balance the advantages with possible disadvantages (cons). The key here is to contextualise this evaluation strategy in the case study provided in the texts or in the real-world examples you’re drawing upon. For example, an advantage of imposing an indirect tax on cigarettes is raising tax revenue for the government which can be used to fund other public projects. However, a possible disadvantage of this policy decision is that taxes tend to be politically unpopular and could harm the careers of politicians seeking re-election.

2- Short-run versus long-run?

Again, drawing upon evidence from your real-world examples or provided texts, think about the short-run implications of whatever it is you’re evaluating (for example, a government policy decision to impose an indirect tax on cigarettes). Then try to balance this argument with a discussion of possible long-run implications. For example, an indirect tax on cigarettes may not lead to a big reduction in the consumption of cigarettes in the short-run due to the addictive nature of smoking (hence, the demand is inelastic in the short-run). However, demand becomes more elastic in the long-run as less consumers pick up the bad habit, and so consumption of cigarettes decreases more dramatically in the long-run.

3- Winners versus losers?

Stakeholder analysis is also an approach to evaluating. Drawing upon the evidence from your chosen real-world examples or the texts provided, think about the stakeholders that gain from a specific policy or change? How and why do these stakeholders gain? Then try to balance this argument with a discussion of the stakeholders that lose as a result of a specific change or policy? How and why do these stakeholders lose? For example, an indirect tax on cigarettes will harm addicted/habitual smokers more than social/casual smokers, because habitual smokers are less likely to quit smoking and thus end up paying more for their cigarettes (i.e: their demand is inelastic). Also, any indirect tax is regressive and will thus hit the poorer/lower-income households harder than richer/higher-income households.

4- In theory versus in practice?

Economic theory is not perfect and often has a lot of limitations. These weaknesses in theory often stem from the assumptions upon which the theory is based. Therefore, an excellent strategy to evaluate is to discuss how a specific change or policy works in theory, and balance it with a discussion of how things might actually happen in practice. Remember, the ‘real-world’ does not always follow the ‘textbook’!

For example, legislators believed a very high indirect tax on cigarettes in the state of Massachusetts would discourage smoking (‘in theory’ it should), but in practice it also encouraged many smokers to cross the border to the neighbouring state of New Hampshire and buy their cigarettes from there as they were much cheaper! Remember, when discussing how things often work in theory versus in practice you’ll need to draw upon your chosen real-world examples or the evidence provided in the texts.

Remember, the word ‘however’ is your best friend!

When evaluating, a very simple way to signal to the examiner that you’re evaluating is to use the word ‘however’, or any equivalent: on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless etc…

Don’t forget to reach a conclusion!

Once you have evaluated by discussing arguments and counter-arguments while drawing upon evidence, remember to reach a conclusion. I usually advise my students to use the words ‘On balance…’ to signal that they’re about to conclude their evaluation.

You do not need to use all four evaluation strategies I mentioned above to secure the highest marks on your essay. You can just pick the three that are most relevant to the context of the real-world example(s) or the texts provided.

Do you want to see an example?

I’m sure you do! The video embedded below is available for members of my YouTube Channel. Please consider becoming a member to support my content and to access exclusive members-only videos. Also, you can show your support for my work by buying me a coffee!

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