Changes to the World History Topics and Paper 2

At face value, the changes to the World History Topics leave us with the ability to keep things very similar in our curriculum, or modify them wildly if we so prefer.  I am guess that very few of you are going to do the latter, but this is not meant to be dismissive: if you have the prep time, and your school has the resources, there are a lot of interesting ways in which the curriculum can be shifted.

The main content change is the merger of Routes 1 and 2; if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about the new curriculum, it expressed the delight of IB Coordinators who no longer have to determine which route, HL option and Prescribed Subject.  The HL option will still need to be declared, but the new examination has 12 topics – 4 that come from the previous 20th century world history topics, 4 from the previous Medieval History topics and 4 from the middle, linking part of the curriculum. The topics are:

1. Society and economy (750–1400)

2. Causes and effects of medieval wars (750–1500)

3. Dynasties and rulers (750–1500)

4. Societies in transition (1400–1700)

5. Early Modern states (1450–1789)

6. Causes and effects of Early Modern wars (1500–1750)

7. Origins, development and impact of industrialization (1750–2005)

8. Independence movements (1800–2000)

9. Evolution and development of democratic states (1848–2000)

10. Authoritarian states (20th century)

11. Causes and effects of 20th-century wars

12. The Cold War: Superpower tensions and rivalries (20th century)

The material remains belligerent heavy: you can study wars in all 3 time frames, and the Cold War, and authoritarian states.  However, you could also choose to focus on other aspects of human development: society and economy; industrialization; or the development of democratic movements.

The requirement remains the same: two different topics need to be studied, and you need to cover examples from at least two different regions.  However, there are changes in the details of each subject.  Most substantial is that there is no longer material for detailed study – we have full choice on what we cover, as long as we cover all of the major themes.  This is where it gets tricky, however.  If you choose cause and effects of 20th century wars, you need to ensure that you have enough wars to cover different types of wars – guerrilla, wars between states and civil wars.  How many wars will that amount to?  And for the Cold War, you are expected to cover the entire chronology of the Cold War, examine in detail two Cold War leaders, 2 countries (other than US and USSR) and two Cold War Crises.  What is a Cold War crisis?  Stay tuned, that is a topic for another blog …

The exam is very different: there are only two questions per topic, the questions are entirely open (students choose their own examples) and the essays will now be marked out of 15 points, not the current 20.  However, students still write two essays from two different areas in 90 minutes.

Marking out of 15?  Below is a table of how the marks break down with the new system.  The IB still provides a table and indicates holistic marking, but my students like to identify skills they need to acquire, so I found this model easier for them to navigate:

Essay Rubric for Class of 2017
It is still a work in progress, but it gives a general indication of what needs to be done for grades to rise. (Please side-scroll to see all of the table).

 Understanding of questionKnowledge of question Examples usedLevel of analysisStructure of essay10+
1-3There is little understanding of the demands of the question.Little knowledge of the world history topic is present.The student identifies examples to discuss, but these examples are factually incorrect, irrelevant or vague.The response contains little or no critical analysis. The response may consist mostly of generalizations and poorly substantiated assertions.The response is poorly structured or, where there is a recognizable essay structure, there is minimal focus on the task.
4-6The response indicates some understanding of the demands of the question.Knowledge of the world history topic is demonstrated, but lacks accuracy and relevance. There is a superficial understanding of historical context.The student identifies specific examples to discuss, but these examples are vague or lack relevance.There is some limited analysis, but the response is primarily narrative/descriptive in nature rather than analytical.While there may be an attempt to follow a structured approach, the response lacks clarity and coherence.
7-9The response indicates an understanding of the demands of the question, but these demands are only partially addressed.Knowledge of the world history topic is mostly accurate and relevant.

Events are generally placed in their historical context.
The examples that the student chooses to discuss are appropriate and relevant. The response makes links and/or comparisons (as appropriate to the question).The response moves beyond description to include some analysis or critical commentary but this is not sustained.There is an attempt to follow a structured approach.10+: Perspective, support and conclusion
10-12The demands of the question are understood and addressed.Knowledge of the world history topic is mostly accurate and relevant.

Events are placed in their historical context, and there is some understanding of historical concepts.
The examples that the student chooses to discuss are appropriate and relevant, and are used to support the analysis/evaluation.The response contains critical analysis, which is mainly clear and coherent.Responses are generally well structured and organized, although there is some repetition or lack of clarity in places.There is some awareness and evaluation of different perspectives. Most of the main points are substantiated and the response argues to a consistent conclusion.
13-14Responses are clearly focused, showing a high degree of awareness of the demands and implications of the question.Knowledge of the world history topic is accurate and relevant. Events are placed in their historical context, and there is a clear understanding of historical concepts. The examples that the student chooses to discuss are appropriate and relevant, and are used effectively to support the analysis or evaluation. The response makes effective links and/or comparisons (as appropriate to the question).The response contains clear and coherent critical analysis.Responses are well structured and effectively organized.There is evaluation of different perspectives, and this evaluation is integrated effectively into the answer. All, or nearly all, of the main points are substantiated, and the response argues to a consistent conclusion.

There will be future blogs on the different elements of the exam and the curriculum but this is the overview for today.

See you soon!

7 Comments
  • Loanne Harmeling
    November 6, 2015

    The specifics of the essay rubric
    are well done. Is it printable?

  • Andrew Sjoberg
    May 12, 2016

    Alexis, how do these marks out of 15 relate to the IB grades of 1 to 7?

    • Alexis Mamaux
      April 7, 2017

      Dear Andrew,

      So sorry about my unacceptable delay in responding. The short answer is: we don’t know. We are just going to have to wait until the exams are graded and the May 2017 subject report is released to find out the grade boundaries. The beauty of having more than one essay to mark is that the grade boundaries may cross – in other words, it might be that 25/30 is a 7. We’ll have to wait and see.

  • Rachel
    May 24, 2016

    I’m a little confused as to how the IB tests work? Since there are options does that mean that the test you take depends on what the teacher chooses to teach? So tests are potentially different between schools and even school years if the teacher chooses to teach different options?

    • Julia
      July 18, 2016

      All prompts for all 12 topics will be presented in the test booklet, Rachel. My students know to look for topics #10 and # 12 since those will be the two I will cover this next year. So, when the students see the exam booklet in May, they will only pull questions from those two topics I teach.

      Let me know if you have any questions. This will be my 5th year teaching IB and I am just adopting the new 2017 changes to curriculum.

  • Linda
    March 29, 2017

    Hi!

    I am a student learning HL history. For this year’s exams do we need to include historiography in both Paper 2 and 3?

    • Alexis Mamaux
      April 7, 2017

      Dear Linda,

      One clear change with the markbands is that there is no requirement for historiography but it is expected that you know that there are different perspectives to score in the top markbands. Historiography is one aspect of perspectives as are different national, ideological, social, cultural or gender viewpoints. So, depending on the question, you have considerable latitude in what type of perspective you use, and whether or not you use any historiography.

      Good luck!

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