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 a 750-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:
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!’
Not published more than a year from the date of writing the commentary: the closer to today’s date, the better.
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!)
Article allows for linking two or more concepts in the chosen section of syllabus: the more connections you show between the article and different concepts in the syllabus, the better your application and analysis will be!
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).
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.
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 they can choose either one international economics or development economics IA commentary once we finish the syllabus! So by the end, there will be an microeconomics-related article, macroeconomics-related article, and either international- or development economics-related article!
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!
Each article is a primary source: articles found in Economic textbooks, for example, cannot be used!
Article can be written in any language: but a translation must be provided if not written in English!
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.
The next blogpost I’ll be talking about how to structure the IA commentary in order to meet the assessment criteria!
The Part B essay is the ‘evaluation’ essay. How do you ‘evaluate’ in economics?
Start by defining key terms, explaining relevant concepts and theories, giving relevant contextualized real life example and drawing a diagram/s, as you would in a Part A essay, then pick 2-3 evaluation ‘talking points’ from the acronym CLASPP:
1- C => Conclusions: what can you conclude from the theory that you have explained in your analysis? Are there any ‘conflicting’ conclusions that can be drawn from this analysis?
2- L => Long term vs Short term: are there long term effects or implications different from the short term effects or implications? Your ability to explain that consequences happen in different time frames is a very good evaluation skill.
3- A => Assumptions vs Limitations: what are the assumptions of this model or analysis? What are the limitations of these assumptions or the limitations of the model? Recognizing that economic models are not perfect and they have their limitations is a very good evaluation skill.
4- S => Stakeholders gaining vs Stakeholders losing: every economic decision or policy or event has stakeholders that gain and stakeholders that lose, and being able to identify in details those winners (and how they win) and those losers (and how they lose) is a very good evaluation skill.
5- P => Pros vs Cons: recognising the advantages and disadvantages, the strengths and weaknesses, the pros and cons, is definitely the most basic evaluation skill.
6- P => Priorities: recognising the differences in priorities of the government vs priorities of the individual vs priorities of society, and how different economic agents have different priorities, is a very good evaluation skill.
To wrap up, in Paper 1 Part B questions, Do the DEED and then CLASPP it all together! You should finish your part A essay in 18 minutes maximum, and your part B essay in 27 minutes maximum!
This photo may seem unrelated to the blogpost, but it was snapped by one of my students’ iPads when I was trying to explain how to write the perfect economics essay for Paper 1, so it inspired me to write this blogpost!
So, you have a Paper 1 question made up of Part (a) and Part (b), how do you tackle it?
DEED is an acronym for: Definitions + Explanation + Example + Diagram/s…
What I tell my students:
1- Definitions: Make sure you define all key terms that are ‘relevant‘ to the question. Also, writing a vague definition is always better than writing no definition; but writing an accurate and precise definition always beats a vague definition!
Remember, not all ‘relevant’ key terms will necessarily be mentioned in the question.
2- Explanation: Make sure you explain all economic concepts/theories that are ‘relevant’ to the question. Explanations need to be accurate and in enough detail to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and understanding. Wishy-washy vague explanations are not very helpful!
3- Example/s: You defined and explained, now you need to APPLY and ANALYZE… how? By providing relevant real-life examples and drawing a diagram/s! Remember, a hypothetical example is always better than no example at all, but a real-life example will always beat a hypothetical example! That’s why it’s important to follow economic news and build a bank of real-life examples that are relevant to your concepts as you’re studying the course!
4- Diagram/s: economists love diagrams and models! Think about it, every chapter has at least one diagram or economic model in it! Make sure your diagrams are accurately labeled and the labels are in full detail! Label the axes in full detail as well as any curves/graphs you draw. It’s also not enough to draw the diagram, you need to explain it and apply it in the body of the essay, using the same labels, for example: as shown in the diagram, the _______ caused the demand curve to shift from D1 to D2 etc…
Now the real skill is in how your essay flows and how you link each component of the DEED together, but this basic structure provides a good starting point!
To sum up:
1- Accurate/precise relevant definitions
2- Detailed and clear explanations
3- Contextualized and relevant real-life example/s
4- Accurate and clearly labeled diagram/s with full explanations!