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).

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 analyze and evaluate a real-world example about inflation?

Hey everyone!

I created this video embedded below using a news article about rising wages as well as rising inflation in the Australian economy. This article can demonstrate the importance of calculating real wages, rather than just nominal wages, as well as the sources and types of inflation. Students can incorporate ideas from the article in their paper one part (b) evaluation essays.

Enjoy, and please feel free to subscribe, like, comment, share, and please consider supporting the channel by becoming a member (link can be found here).

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!

Paper 1 Part B essay on Behavioral Economics and sample response!

Hey everyone!

Here is a sample 15-mark question related to topics from behavioral economics (specifically: rational consumer choice), along with a sample essay response to the question!

Enjoy 😉

Oh, and if you find these resources useful, consider becoming a supporter or member to access exclusive perks and just to support the channel because making these resources takes time and effort! All your support is very much appreciated 🙂

How to respond to a paper 1 part a essay question in the new IB Economics syllabus?

The paper 1 part a essay for the new IB Economics syllabus (first exams 2022) is not that different from the old syllabus.

The only difference in the 10-mark essay question in paper 1 is less of an emphasis on real-world examples. Also, students can now spend up to 30 mins on the essay, as opposed to about 20 mins in the old syllabus.

Focus is given to understanding the specific demands of the question, as well as effectively explaining relevant economic theory and drawing/fully explaining a relevant diagram.

Because of that, I teach my students a DEDU framework (which contrasts with the old DEED framework).

Here’s my video explaining how I teach my students to structure their essay:

Paper 1 Part A Practice Question – The Production Possibilities Curve (PPC)

I have decided I’m going to build a series of practice questions for the extended response-type questions in the new IB Economics syllabus: paper 1 parts a and b, paper 2 part g, and paper 3 part b!

So here’s my first attempt! It’s from the first unit, the foundations of economics unit, and it’s about the Production Possibilities Curve!

Enjoy and please feel free to like, share, comment, and subscribe!