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!

A beginner’s guide: how to structure an IB Economics IA Commentary?

In IB Economics, you have to build a portfolio of three commentaries as part of your Internal Assessment (IA). In this blog, I’ll guide you through the process of structuring an IA commentary. In a previous blog, I talked about the 12 characteristics of a good article for your commentary.

The first page of every commentary should be your cover sheet. Here is a link to a generic cover sheet which you can fill out for each commentary.

The next page or couple of pages should be screenshots of your article. Label that page with a subheading like ‘Article’ to signal to the examiner that this is your article! I always encourage my students to highlight two or three pieces of evidence from the article and label them: Quote A, Quote B, and Quote C. This makes it easier to refer back to them in the body of the commentary to use as evidence to support your evaluation and analysis. Instead of writing the entire quote and waste wordcount, you can just write “As highlighted in Quote A in the article, ……….’

The next page is the beginning of the commentary. This is how I teach my students to structure it:

  • Introduction paragraph (75 words)
    • Briefly introduce the article
    • Define 2-3 key terms
  • Key concept (25 words)
    • Identify the key concept (one of the nine central concepts: scarcity, choice, change, efficiency, equity, economic well-being, sustainability, intervention, and interdependence) that will be the focus of your commentary
    • Highlight the key concept in BOLD every time you use it (or a variation of the word) throughout the commentary. For example, if your key concept is ‘intervention’, then you highlight in bold letters every time you write intervention, intervenes, intervened etc…
  • 1st Diagram + Analysis/Application (150 words)
    • Analyze what is happening in the article using Diagram 1 (which will be drawn directly below this paragraph)
    • Make sure all labels and shifts in the diagram are explained in this paragraph, for example: “As shown in Figure 1 below, when consumer confidence levels rise, there will be an increase in AD, which is represented by a shift from AD1 to AD2…”
    • Link your explanation back to the key concept
  • 2nd Diagram + Analysis/Application (150 words)
    • Analyze and explain a possible solution or response to the issue expressed in the article using Diagram 2 (which will be drawn directly below this paragraph)
    • Make sure all labels and shifts in the diagram are explained in this paragraph, for example: “As shown in Figure 2 below, when the government raises taxes and interest rates, this will decrease aggregate demand and shift the AD curve back from AD2 to AD1…”
    • Link your explanation back to the key concept
  • Evaluation (400 words)
    • Provide your arguments and balance them with counter-arguments while referring back to the quotes/evidence you highlighted in the article, and linking back to the key concept
      • Discuss pros vs cons?
      • Discuss short-term effects vs long-term effects?
      • Discuss assumptions behind your analysis vs limitations of those assumptions?
      • Discuss what should be happening in theory vs what is happening in practice?
      • Discuss the stakeholders gaining vs the stakeholders losing?
      • Remember to reach a conclusion and to prioritize your arguments based on what is most relevant in the context of the article

Remember to always link back to your key concept, and that the maximum word count is 800 words!

I have actually recorded a video about ‘how to structure a good commentary’ on my YouTube channel using a student exemplar. This video is available for members of my YouTube channel. The commentary used in the video embedded below is from the macroeconomics unit, but it’s the same process for all other commentaries (just different key terms and diagrams).

12 characteristics of a good article for your IA commentary!

The Economics Internal Assessment (IA) portfolio is an opportunity for students to connect what they’re learning in class with what’s happening in the ‘real world’. For the purposes of the IA portfolio in IB Economics, students have to find three articles related to three different sections of the syllabus and then write an 800-word commentary about each article showing their abilities to apply relevant theories/concepts, use relevant economic terminology, analyze using relevant diagrams and economic models, and evaluate, all in the context of the article they chose.

So, the journey to writing an Economics IA Commentary starts with finding an appropriate article. So, what makes a good article for an IB Economics IA?

Criteria for finding a ‘good’ article:

  1. Short and sweet: one page or less is ideal. Long articles can be chosen but student needs to highlight relevant parts. However, long articles often provide a lot more analysis rather than just reporting news, so I always say: ‘pick an article that’s short and sweet!’
  2. Not published more than a year from the date of writing the commentary: the closer to today’s date, the better.
  3. Very little or no technical language: articles should just report NEWS, with minimum or no economic analysis or interpretation (because it’s the student’s job to provide the interpretation, analysis and evaluation!). Articles from the The Economist magazine for example, would not be ‘appropriate’ for writing an Economics IA Commentary (though would definitely be great for reading while studying the course material!)
  4. Article allows for linking to ONE of the nine key concepts: each commentary in the portfolio needs to be clearly linked to one of the nine key concepts: scarcity, choice, change, intervention, equity, efficiency, economic well-being, sustainability, interdependence. You should choose a different key concept for every commentary!
  5. Article allows for linking two or more topics in the chosen section of syllabus: the more connections you show between the article and different topics in the syllabus, the better your application and analysis will be! For example, an article about taxes on cigarettes can be linked to the following topics: indirect taxes, demerit goods, negative externalities of consumption, and market failure!
  6. Article lends itself automatically to drawing one or two diagrams: the IA commentary must contain at least one diagram (as Criterion A is ‘Diagrams’). Most IAs I have seen contain at least two diagrams (one for explaining/applying/analysing and one for evaluating or offering a solution).
  7. Each article is from a different and reputable news source: if all your articles are from BBC, then we have a problem! The portfolio should contain a diversity of news sources from different parts of the world.
  8. Each article used in portfolio covers a different section of the syllabus: I have my students do one microeconomics IA commentary once we finish microeconomics unit, then one macroeconomics IA commentary once we finish macroeconomics unit, then one global economy IA commentary once we finish global economy unit! So by the end, there will be an microeconomics-related article, macroeconomics-related article, and either international- or development economics-related article!
  9. Each article relates to a different part of the world: IB learners should be globally-minded world citizens. I expect my students to write each commentary on an article from a different country in a completely different world region. Once again, the portfolio should contain a diversity of news sources from different parts of the world!
  10. Each article is a primary source: articles found in Economic textbooks, for example, cannot be used!
  11. Article can be written in any language: but a translation must be provided if not written in English!
  12. Article should deal with contentious issues that are of interest to YOU: if issues in article are not contentious/controversial or you’re not necessarily interested in them, it’ll be more difficult to write the commentary.

So, now you know how to find a good article for your internal assessment (IA) commentary. Also, I have a TikTok for this because, of course, nowadays if it’s not on TikTok then it didn’t happen!

If you’d like to learn how to structure an IB Economics IA commentary, I have a selection of student exemplars available in the members-only section of my YouTube channel! To become a member and get access to many exclusive perks and exclusive content, you can click this link and join for only $4.99 per month (trust me, it’s worth it 😉)

Have a great rest of your week!

How-to LEARN IB Economics?

Alright, so you’re new to IB Economics, or you’re not new but you feel lost! This blog post is for you!

IB Economics can be overwhelming to navigate. There’s a lot of learning outcomes and lots of things you need to keep track of: units, command terms, assessment criteria, calculation formulae, real-world examples, IA requirements etc…

It can be a headache 🤕 and truly mind blowing 🤯

I hear you!

But! If there’s one document you need to help you navigate this course it’s the IB Economics Subject Guide published by the IBO themselves!

This is the Bible/Quran/Torah/Vedas/Analects/Tao Te Ching/Holy Book of IB Economics.

Seems pretty common sense to share this with students, right? However, you’d be surprised at the number of students I tutored over the past few years who have NEVER been given this document by their teachers 🤦🏽‍♂️

I get it! It’s a big document with too much information! But it’s (in my honest opinion), much much much more important than the textbook! So many teachers I have seen over my career focus too much on getting students to buy and use the textbook! The textbook becomes the centre of the learning process, and I don’t think that’s correct (there, I said it 😤).

The subject guide should be the centre of the learning process, with the textbook as one source of information, along with news articles, a trusted YouTube channel (like mine: the IB Econ Guru) and of course past papers and mark schemes!

So, what are the most important parts of this subject guide?

1. pgs 12-14 for definitions of the nine key concepts and how they relate to the course

2. pgs 18-19 for explanations of each of the command terms and how they connect to the assessment objectives

3. pgs 22-24 for the main learning outcomes under the first two sub-units: ‘1.1 what is economics?‘ and ‘1.2 how do economists approach the world?’

4. pgs 25-29 for the main learning outcomes under the first real-world issue: ‘How do consumers and producers make choices in trying to meet their economic objectives?’

5. pgs 29-34 for the main learning outcomes under the second real-world issue: ‘When are markets unable to satisfy important economic objectives – and does government intervention help?’

6. pgs 35-41 for the main learning outcomes under the third real-world issue: ‘Why does economic activity vary over time and why does this matter?’

7. pgs 41-44 for the main learning outcomes under the fourth real-world issue: ‘How do governments manage their economy and how effective are their policies?’

8. pgs 45-50 for the main learning outcomes under the fifth real-world issue: ‘Who are the winners and losers of the integration of the world’s economies?’

9. pgs 50-54 for the main learning outcomes under the sixth real-world issue: ‘Why is economic development uneven?’

10. pgs 59-66 for information about the different exam papers and the assessment criteria used

11. pgs 67-73 for information about the internal assessment requirements and assessment criteria

12. pgs 74-75 for a glossary of the command terms used in exam questions!

Phew 😮‍💨 that’s a lot of reading! But yeah, duh 🙄

In my experience, I have found that the most successful students are the ones who know this document, the IB Economics Subject Guide, better than their classmates! Textbooks can be full of too much information that you really do not need (that does not make them useless, it’s just something you need to keep in mind when leaning on them).

Alright, so there you go! A quick tour of the IB Economics subject guide! If you have any questions, please leave a comment! Also, if you want to thank me for my awesome work on this blog and on my YouTube channel please consider buying me a coffee!

Peace out ✌️

I’m your IB Economics Guardian Angel 👼

How to ace your IB Economics exam?

Well, that’s a very loaded question! The IB Economics exam consists of two papers for SL students: paper 1 and paper 2, and an extra paper for HL students: paper 3!

Each paper assesses different skills: essay-writing using analytical and evaluative skills, ability to draw and explain diagrams, ability to perform calculations, ability to define key terms, ability to apply theory and data to make policy recommendations, to name a few!

As the IB Econ Guru, I run a ten-lesson / two-week course on Outschool to help students from both HL and SL prepare for their exams. Using a variety of questions from all papers examined, I review key parts of the syllabus and allow students to practice all skills they need to practice to do well on their exams. The course can be intensive over two weeks or can be once a week over a period of ten weeks. The course is also open to students from both SL and HL, and discounts are given to enrolled students who bring a group of friends or classmates to join too!

Check out the link here and request a time that works for you!

Government intervention to correct positive externalities!

Hi everyone! So I have just created a video on my YouTube channel to address the forms of government intervention used to correct positive externalities of production as well as positive externalities of consumption. The video will discuss policies like subsidies, direct provision, education and awareness creation, as well as legislation and regulation.

If you like the content published on my channel, please consider becoming a member to get access to exclusive members-only content and perks for just 4.99 USD per month! You can become a member by clicking this link and following the instructions!