When you are talking to students in second year IB they may tell you about certain content areas that you have not heard of. Shortened to Medieval, Peacemaking or Communism in Crisis, these are three examples of the material that is on their syllabus, and you may become concerned that your teacher has mentioned none of these. This is because these are not part of your curriculum; they are the Prescribed Subjects for second year IB students.
What are Prescribed Subjects? For first year IB students there are five Prescribed Subjects that any school can choose to cover, and these are content areas that correspond to a source-based test and acquisition of source-based skills. Your teachers will most likely spend 6 to 8 weeks on these subjects, both in teaching you appropriate skills and providing you with enough content that you have a good understanding of the material you will be asked to evaluate.
The Prescribed Subjects are:
- Military leaders
- Conquest and its impact
- The move to global war
- Rights and protest
- Conflict and intervention
With each of these subjects, there are two case studies, each from a different region. For example, with military leaders, the two case studies are Richard I and Genghis Khan. To fulfill the curricular requirements you must have knowledge of both of them. Both case studies have material for detail study that is divided into three categories. So, for Conquest and its impact, the material is divided into: Context and motives; Key events and actors; and impact. Then, for each case study there are further details. In the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru, the material in Key events includes Hernán Cortés and the campaign against the Aztec Empire; alliances with indigenous populations; and Francisco Pizarro and the campaign against the Incas; alliances with indigenous populations; and the Key actors are Diego de Almagro, Malinche, Atahualpa, Moctezuma II; and Las Casas against Sepúlveda.
You need to know all of the material in all of the bullet points so that you will be prepared with any content area that may appear on the exam. While there is no comparison of the two case studies in the material, it is assumed that connections will be made and comparisons drawn.
The Prescribed Subject is the most skills-heavy part of the curriculum. It is expected that you will learn valuable historical skills while learning the content. If your school has chosen to focus on the Global move to war, your teacher will be providing you with a variety of sources relevant to the case studies. These sources may include official documents such as the Lytton Report to the League of Nations regarding the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, along with a historian’s account of the events. Not only should you understand the content and be able to explain it in your own words, but you also need to understand the importance of the provenance of sources, including the motivation for their generation, and be able to both evaluate them and use the information in them to respond to bigger picture questions. The skills for the Prescribed Subjects may be introduced an reinforced in other units, but the extent of the sources you are exposed to in this subject will help you with the exam you will take.