2018 IB Economics Exam Tips

– from an examiner

As the exams are less approaching, I thought to give you some tips about how to tackle them. Many students forget that with a little more focus and a better exam strategy they can secure the much needed marks.

As your grades are based on these marks, and most usually your uni application also depends on your overall IB points, it’s essential to have a good understanding of what to do when it comes to showing your IB Economics knowledge in the external assessment (the written exams), which give 80% of your final grade.

General Tips for All 3 Exams

Something many students forget to do is to check out the command terms. These are at the end of the IB Economics guide (pp.96-97) and all the questions in the exam are using one of these. If you know what these mean to the IB, then you can also produce better answers.

The most common reasons for losing points:

  • Irrelevant and inaccurate diagrams (or not presenting it when there should be one).

  • Inaccuracies (mostly common in Paper 3)

  • Calculation errors – learn how to use that calculator pls… (again Paper 3)

  • Forgetting mentioning relevant examples

  • Presenting your knowledge: I do suggest that you take a little time to plan your essay answers not to produce messy responses.

  • Finally, but most importantly: lack of clear knowledge…

OK, what can we do about this last one??? What if you don’t have that clear knowledge of everything?

First, don’t panic!

Second: let me know if I can help: [email protected]

Paper 1 Exam Strategy Tips

Once the 5 min. reading time is over, but before you’d start answering the questions, make sure you sketch a short draft of your essay answers. This should not take more than a minute per question but will help you stay focused.

If you feel stuck, then go for the question(s) that you think you can produce a good answer at part b), as it’s worth a lot more marks.

The exam is 90 min. long. Hence try to split time equally between Section A (micro) and Section B (macro). When answering a question, try to allocate at least 25 min. to part b) as that account for 50% more marks [15] than part a) [10].

What to include in your essay answers:

  1. Always start with defining all the economic terms in the questions.
  2. Explanation + diagrams: your explanation of the economic concept in question should be so clear that someone without prior economics knowledge should understand most of it. In 99% of the cases there is a relevant diagram that you can draw. If you’re not sure what diagram to show, you’d better not waste time on something that might turn out irrelevant. However, if you know how to draw a relevant diagram, make sure to do the following:
    • Apply correct labelling on all curves AND the axes
    • Make sure you explain what is going on in your diagram(s)
  3. Real-life examples: the reason why this is important is that you should be able to show that you understand why all the above mentioned economic theory is useful for us, who live in a real world (and not in simplified economic models). If you are not giving examples, (i.e. if you don’t connect the theory to real-life), then your knowledge of economic concepts is not very useful. That is why it’s essential to give real-life examples. Also, real-life examples should be real → so please avoid making up examples yourself.
  4. For part b) questions only: for the 15 mark questions, you should evaluate a topic in question on top of all the above. This means that you need to speak about at least one (and perhaps more) of the following:
    • short-run vs. long-run
    • pros and cons
    • efficiency (welfare loss)
    • effects on different stakeholders

Paper 2 Exam Strategy Tips

Use the 5 min. reading time to read the extracts and the related questions. Don’t choose a question just because you know the definitions of  part a). Make sure that you can write a good answer for part d) and that you understand what parts b) and c) are about.

Again, try splitting your time equally (45 min. for each section) and only do ONE question per section.

  1. The only piece of advice for part a) is this: learn the definitions. A good way to do that is to look at the markschemes of past papers.
  2. Diagrams in the explanation questions (b and c) are only needed if the questions specifically ask for it. In such a case, do not forget to label it accurately.
  3. Check back at the source when answering explanation questions (b and c) . In many cases, even if you’re unsure of the answer, you might find it (or a good hint) in the source itself.
  4. For part d), follow essay structure of Paper 1 and make sure you:
    • explicitly refer to sources (e.g. “as seen in para 4”)
    • use your own knowledge as well – this refers to economic concepts or outcomes that are related to the topic, but not shown in the text/data
    • don’t forget to speak about the topics that you had to define (part a) or explain (parts b and c). The IB asked you those questions as they regard them as important. Therefore, always make sure you go through these questions, as some of them might prove crucial in your essay answer.

Paper 3 Exam Strategy Tips

First and foremost: only answer 2 questions out of the 3. Every year there are students who answer all of them. There is simply not enough time for that, so these students usually score pretty bad.

OK, now that we know that, what else is there?

  • Round your numbers to TWO decimal places! Yes, not to one and not to three or more. Just TWO. For example, if the answer is 2.30, do not write 2.3 as you’ll lose a mark. I told you, examiners take it seriously if you don’t follow the instructions.
  • ALWAYS write out the units (e.g. $, kg, etc.) in your final answer. Not doing so will cost you a mark per question.
  • Refer to data in your explanations when the exercise asks for it. Many of the 2 or 4 mark explanation questions require you to refer back to data in a previous exercise (sometimes this data/information is given, sometimes it’s data that you had to calculate). If the questions ask for such reference, do not forget to incorporate that in your answer, otherwise you’ll lose marks.
  • Label all your diagrams well. Again, an enormous number of students says goodbye to valuable marks here…
  • Write down the formula (especially for PED and % calculations). Why? Simply because this way you can minimize your errors.
  • Don’t get fooled by the ‘000s: if the exercise tells you that in the given functions or on the Q axis the units are in thousands, do not forget to give your answers in ‘000s.