A beginner’s guide to: 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!

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 😉

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