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What makes a good IB Exam essay? PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Russell Quinlan IB History, TOK Teacher & IB Moderator MAIS Conference, Tunisia, 7 November 2010, 12:50 – 13:45 [email protected] What makes a good IB Exam essay?. IB Exam Essays. Expected to be 1 st year university level writing

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What makes a good IB Exam essay?

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What makes a good ib exam essay

Russell Quinlan

IB History, TOK Teacher & IB Moderator

MAIS Conference, Tunisia, 7 November 2010, 12:50 – 13:45

[email protected]

What makes a good IB Exam essay?


Ib exam essays

IB Exam Essays

  • Expected to be 1st year university level writing

  • Assessments by teachers & many new assistant examiners tend to be too lenient

  • Require concise, yet, cogent response


Ib exam essay the question

IB Exam Essay: The Question

  • Paper 2 Questions tend to be broad questions

  • Need to be unpacked:

    • What is it asking the student to do?

    • What is it not asking the student to do?

  • Does not ask for a comment or reference to current situation—stay in history


Ib exam essay

IB Exam Essay

  • Demonstration of historical understanding is the foundation of the essay—not rhetoric, not style, not imagination

  • Structure alone will not achieve upper markbands

    • Structure not more important than historical understanding

  • Not a historiographical essay

    • Does not necessarily demonstrate historical understanding


Ib exam essay1

IB Exam Essay

  • Inaccurate information is a concern

    • Does not subtract points

    • Does limit the attainment of markband levels

  • Historical understanding v. historical information

    • Not marked on basis of facts

    • However, how can historical understanding be demonstrated with flawed or without historical knowledge?


Ib exam essay 2 regions

IB Exam Essay: 2 Regions

  • Integrated compare/contrast is best structure

  • Region by region response is fine:

    • Reference subject from other region, i.e. “Stalin implemented a program of industrialization, as did Mao, called the Five Year Plans.”

  • Response should balance material from each region

    • Avoid 5 paragraphs on Hitler & 2 on Castro


Writing a good ib history exam essay

Writing a Good IB History Exam Essay


What to do

What to Do?

  • Answer the Question Asked, not the one hoped for

  • Assume the reader/examiner has no prior knowledge

  • Explain the story: chroniclers tell the story; historians tell the story & explain why it happened the way it did


What to do1

What to Do?

  • Write a structured essay

  • Thematic approach preferable… but not necessary to reach higher markbands (mark 13-15 level descriptor: “Answers are structured (either chronologically or thematically) using relevant evidence to support historical arguments.”

  • Support knowledge claims & analytical assertions w/reference to specific historical knowledge


What to do2

What to Do?

  • Be comprehensive: i.e., effects of world wars more than Germany & more than Europe

  • Give multiple interpretations—need not be historiography: e.g. Korean War as both civil war & limited war

  • Advise students w/ less developed skills to answer more specific questions & avoid more general questions


What to do3

What to Do?

  • Assume No Prior Knowledge:

    “Russia was expected to take six weeks to mobilize according to the Schelliffen [sic] Plan masterminded by Germany to win a two-front war. It banked on a quick defeat of France by concentrating German forces on France, and after defeating them within six weeks, moving the majority of forces to the Eastern Front to fight off the Russians who supposedly would have just mobilized.”


What to do4

What to Do?

  • Thematic Approach:

    “Mussolini was able to ascend to his dictatorship due to the support of the people and traditional elite, the weakness of his opposition, his presidential position and the crisis of Matteotis’s [sic] murder.”


What to do5

What to Do?

  • Support w/Specific HK:

    “The containment policy was made as a result of George Kennan’s Long Telegram, in which Kennan claimed that the Soviet Union was an aggressive expansionist…

    The Long Telegram was written by the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan. In his telegram Kennan described the Soviet Union as aggressive, oppressive and would take advantage of any weak links and turmoil in the democratic world to expand communism. Kennan concluded that though the Soviet Union seemed strong, in reality America was more powerful and should actively stand up to the Soviets. These thoughts developed into the Containment Policy. “


What to do6

What to Do?

  • Explain the Story:

    “The German Blockade was set up by Britain to stop Germany from importing raw materials and war supplies. Germany depended heavily on raw materials imported from its colonies. Thus the blockade was one of the deciding factors of Germany’s defeat in WWI. However, Germany also depended on imports to feed its population. The British enforced blockade disregarded the survival requirements of the Germany population and vicariously targeted civilians, it is estimated that around 750,000 Germans died of starvation caused by the blockade. It is unlikely that Britain did not anticipate the devastating results the blockade would have on German civilians so another viable explanation of the blockade was enforced intentionally to wreck Germany’s power to continue resistance. This means that World War I was a total war in which Britain did not differentiate between civilian and military targets in order to totally destroy Germany.”


What to avoid

What to Avoid?

  • Writing an essay based only on key words from a question, i.e. Hitler

  • Waste time on historical information outside the boundaries of the question, especially chronologically

  • Long introductions—exam essays do not use same format as formal essays


What to avoid1

What to Avoid?

  • Assume reader/examiner knows what is meant—students responsibility to demonstrate his/her understanding

  • Sweeping generalizations

  • Stand alone historical knowledge: i.e. Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia


What to avoid2

What to Avoid?

  • Using metaphors—obscures understanding for this type of essay

  • Using historiographical terms without demonstrating understanding

  • New information in the last paragraph


What to avoid3

What to Avoid?

  • Sweeping Generalization:

    “He [Mao] controlled propaganda and proscribed what was allowed to be said and what wasn’t. He therefore also manipulated the Chinese people into supporting him, since he made everything sound and look nicer than what it really was in reality.”


What to avoid4

What to Avoid?

  • Stand Alone HK:

    “Mao’s ideology was Maoism, also referred to as Marxist-Leninists. It focused on peasantry and industrial development.”


Difficult questions for students based on experience as ib examiner

Difficult Questions for Students: based on experience as IB Examiner

  • Social & Cultural Questions

  • Guerilla Warfare

  • Nature of Warfare (air, naval, technology)

  • Role & Status of Women

  • Ideology

  • Economic Questions

  • Propaganda Questions

  • Less Directed Questions (quagmires for weaker students)


Teaching strategies

Teaching Strategies

  • How to unpack a question

  • Demand specificity when students speak

  • Teach thematic approach to writing (no later than second year of IB)

  • What is a relevant response

  • Focus on explaining, analyzing, identify cause/effect


Teaching strategy

Teaching Strategy


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