History at IB Level

Russel Tarr introduces the new International Baccalaureate, assessing its advantages and disadvantages compared with A Levels.

From Autumn 2009 history teachers at International Baccalaureate level will be delivering a new syllabus. With IB becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to A-Level study, this is therefore a good time to review what exactly IB entails.



History at IB is a two-year course which, unlike the AS/A2 model, has no external assessment element midway through the course. Students choose to study History either at Standard Level or at Higher Level. All of these students produce an Internal Assessment (IA) on a topic of their choice during the course, and sit for two examination papers: Paper 1 consists of four sourcework questions, whilst Paper 2 requires students to write two essays. Higher Level students additionally have to study some extra topics for Paper 3, which involves the production of a further three essays. This means that the overall grade for Standard Level and Higher Level students is calculated differently:

Assessment Grid for IB History

Standard Level

  • Internal Assessment - 25%
  • Paper 1 (60 mins) - 30%
  • Paper 2 (90 mins) - 45%

Higher Level

  • Internal Assessment - 20%
  • Paper 1 (60 mins) - 20%
  • Paper 2 (90 mins) - 25%
  • Paper 3 (150 mins) - 35%

Paper 1

At the time of writing, the IB board has not made available any sample papers for the new syllabus. However, it is unlikely that they will substantially change the existing approach of each paper. With this qualification in mind, up until now Paper 1 has consisted of five accessible sources; written sources are rarely more than 200 words long, and there is usually at least one visual source such as a cartoon or photograph among these. The four questions, adding up to 25 possible points, follow a predictable format, with a clear mark scheme:

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