Guide to IB Economics IA (Internal Assessment)

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The IB Economics IA sees many students spending hours on their laptops trying to write their commentaries… often to no avail. School teachers may ask you to choose a new article, write a new commentary, and basically start over from ground zero.

We’ve compiled a guide to help YOU best tackle the IAs – completing all three is no mean feat.

The first thing that you need to know is that there is NO DIFFERENCE between the HL and SL IB Economics IA. Think of IAs as ‘article assignments’; you’ll choose an article from a reputable news source, and craft a commentary response to the article. Each of your three IAs will be based on Units 2, 3 OR 4 (pick one each time, with no repeats). The commentary needs to highlight a key Economics concept that acts as a lens through which you analyse the article (pick one from below for each commentary, with NO repeats).

Key Concepts: Scarcity, Choice, Efficiency, Equity, Economic well-being, Sustainability, Change, Interdependence, Intervention. (Ask Mr Hong what these mean, if you’re unsure!)

Make sure you include relevant diagrams. 

IB Economics IA Criteria 2021 ib economics ia
Guide to IB Economics IA (Internal Assessment) 2

P.S. Each commentary can only be 800 words – no waffling allowed! Only tight and pithy.

P.P.S. Each commentary is marked out of 14, and the final “Rubric requirement” Criterion F out of 3, making the total score for a complete portfolio, 45 marks. For Criterion F, you just need to ensure that you fulfil the formatting requirements for your IB Economics IA e.g. font size, line spacing etc. Think of it as almost 3 free marks!

Here’s some thoughts on how to format and write your essay in the said ‘tight and pithy’ manner.

  1. Choose a RELEVANT article!
  • Arguably the most important part of your IA. Many students get weeded out at this phase – teachers may ask you to find another article if the one you submit for approval is irrelevant.

Here are some things to look out for when choosing your article –

  • Date: Check with your school teacher on this. The article must usually be written in the last year, and preferably (though not necessarily) in the last 6 months. Any article written before that month would be considered ‘outdated’.
  • Type: The article must be from a reputable news source e.g. New York Times, Straits Times, BBC News, Nikkei, The Sydney Morning Herald etc. – it should NOT be from informal news outlets or tabloids. 
  • Contents: The article cannot have a full Economics analysis already spelled out for you by an academic either. However, the article should contain a problem, a solution and some pros and cons of the solution. Usually, the pros and cons come in the form of short one-liners from ministers, government officials, or other individuals like the local farmers, firm owners etc. quoted in the article.
  • Length: Neither too long, nor too short. A good length would be 2.5 – 3 pages, excluding pictures. This ensures that you have enough ‘meat’ for your analysis.
  • Treatment: After you have selected your article, HIGHLIGHT the FULL sentences that you’ll be making reference to in your commentary. The examiner will then zoom in to the HIGHLIGHTED portions when reading your article. When saving the article, the header, footer and page number of the article should be made visible. Convert the article to pdf. You can do so via: https://www.printfriendly.com.

Now, it’s time to write your commentary!

2. Introductory Statement

  • We recommend that you have an opening statement that briefly describes the article.
    • An example would be “This article highlights the steps which Singapore’s government is taking to mitigate the contractionary effects which COVID has on the Singapore economy.”
    • Unlike in your essays, you don’t really need to define keywords or terms unless they are of great importance to your commentary.

3. Explain the key problem and how it arose. Draw and explain using a diagram.

  • Use textual quotations! (Very important)
  • For example, if your commentary is on recession…  
    • Explain how the recession has arisen: QUOTE the circumstances as mentioned in the text e.g. “millions are cutting back their expenditure amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fearful that they will be unemployed in the near future…”
    • Insert a suitable diagram – in this case, an AD/AS diagram – and explain it, still QUOTING from the text and linking it to relevant Economics concepts: e.g. Shift the AD curve leftward, explaining that there is a decrease in AD since (C) or consumer expenditure, which is a component of AD has decreased.

*Note that words in diagrams are NOT counted in the 750 words. Hence, take care to LABEL your diagrams fully with headings (“Market for Cars in California”), axes with units if applicable (“GPL / Real GDP”), intersection points (Label with alphabets like “a” so you can refer to them later), shaded areas if applicable (e.g. deadweight welfare loss for market failure). 

Sometimes, articles give you specific data to work with, e.g. “The price of one cup of rice increased from $3.10 in 2010 to $3.95 in 2015.” In these circumstances, you may label the “Price” y-axis on the diagram with the EXACT figures $3.10 and $3.95 to show the increase. The same applies if they give you exact quantities for the x-axis. 

In short, the more specific your diagram is, the better!

When explaining your diagram:

  • MAKE YOUR EXPLANATIONS DETAILED, in a STEP-BY-STEP manner! This is where Mr Hong’s training comes in as well as Economics Study Guides such as Ace Your Microeconomics and Ace Your Macroeconomics.
  • Many neglect this, fearing that it will sound like a ‘grandmother story’. But the truth is, this is NECESSARY to scoring well for the IA – the basic content, if you will. Without it, there is no ‘meat’ on which you can base your analysis. 

4. Evaluate the solution. With accompanying diagrams and explanations, of course! 

  • To connect the problem to its solution used by the government / the Central Bank etc, use a one-liner connector statement, something to the likes of “Hence, the Indonesian government has enacted a fiscal policy…”
  • EXPLAIN the policy with a diagram! E.g. for Fiscal policy, you’d shift the AD curve rightward and explain how this shift occurs.

Then, the time has come for EVALUATION.

  • Give 1 – 2 pros about the policy, using INFORMATION from the text. Note that by explaining the mechanism of the policy, that can sometimes be considered one “pro”.
  • Follow with 1 – 2 cons or disadvantages of the policy. There are some common examples like the strain on the government’s budget and opportunity costs for policies which require the government to spend – e.g. fiscal, interventionist supply-side policies, exchange rate policies.
  • CONTEXTUALISE! Each article usually has unique information explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the policy used in THAT SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCE. Leverage on that information, and incorporate it into your explanation. 
    • E.g. The article states “However, in this frugal society, the idea of spending large amounts of money on cars is frowned upon.” Then you could potentially quote this piece of information and explain that the fiscal policy may have its limitations because the Marginal Propensity to Consume may be low, and the extent of increase in the AD may not be that significant.

5. Conclusion: Synthesis and Evaluation!

  • “In conclusion…”
  • You cannot simply parrot or summarise what you’ve been saying in the commentary thus far. Instead, you need to give a value judgement – do you think the policy should be implemented? Why? If you don’t think it should be implemented, what other better alternatives do you have? What factors did you consider?
  • These are some ‘factors’ that you can use to ‘weigh up’ the pros and cons. You may or may not explicitly state these factors in the conclusion: “Long Term versus Short Term effects”, “Assumptions made”, “Priorities” – is it a recession that you need to pull the country out of immediately, else suffer the adverse effects (?), “Stakeholders affected”, “Pros versus Cons magnitude”, “Better or Worse Alternatives”.
  • Take a stand! Or, state and explain what factors the final stand would depend on. For example, that you need more information e.g. “The decision to implement such a trade policy would depend on the exact terms and conditions of the policy…”

*Our Students’ Advantage*

We help vet students’ drafts and provide detailed comments for improvement. Each IA usually  entails a few rounds of improvements, including after school teachers have also vetted through and commented. As IAs are marked by school teachers (checked/moderated by external IB examiners), it is very important to work closely with teachers, taking their directions and corrections into account. Mr Hong has plenty of experience in helping students achieve that.  13 marks out of  a maximum 14 (93%!) is quite a common achievement among our students. Our students therefore enjoy massive advantages but we do not help any student write an IA because it is a piece of work that students have to own and be responsible for.

“Mr Hong stayed up past 11 pm to call and help me rectify outstanding issues in my IB Economics IA – I had been asked to redo the IA and was under a severe time crunch. Mr Hong helped me understand the nuances of the article I’d chosen, and formulate credible points for my analysis and evaluation. Very grateful for Mr Hong’s help! Highly recommended for other students to sign on :)”

KJ, ACS Indep

The help and expertise Mr Hong offers in economics IAs are invaluable. Each and every suggestion and comment were personally curated towards my He understands the ins and outs of what’s required in an IB Economics IA, and was able to help in prioritising the relevancy of my points. In addition, he provided insight on current and past economic policies, events, and developments to add further depth to my IA. Lastly and most importantly, Mr Hong’s willingness to take the time to guide me through the entire IA process was key to me achieving to me the grades I strived for.

JY, SJI International

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