By: Ava Mills
When you make your IB choices, most people will tell you to take the classes you are most interested in so that you will enjoy studying them. This sentiment could not be more true for IB history. IB history, both standard level and higher level, is an extremely demanding class that you will probably have to develop new ways of studying for, as it is unlike other classes you’ve taken as a sophomore or freshman. But don’t fear! History is an interesting class that will be worth the effort, and to help those of you new to IB history, I have compiled a list of some things I wish I had known about the class and some tips that will hopefully help out!
You cannot rely on memorization
Whether you are coming out of AP US History or Modern World History, do not expect to memorize dates of events and names as your primary study method. There are NO multiple choice tests in IB History. Your exams (and tests throughout the school year) will be divided into paper 1, paper 2, and paper 3 (if you are HL). Paper 1 is analysing sources and papers 2 and 3 are essays, so it is likely you will feel overwhelmed at the amount of work you are expected to produce. Instead of memorizing, focus on why things happened instead of when they happened. IB History is a class where the concept is more important than minor details, so focus more on the causes and repercussions of certain events, rather than the exact dates of when they happened.
Use your textbooks
Yes, they are heavy. Carrying them down from the textbook center will be painful. But, your textbooks correspond with the units you study in History, as well as eliminate the time you would otherwise spend searching for reliable information online. Your textbooks also have an abundance of sources that have contrasting perspectives (this will become a life saver when you write your IA, trust me). Additionally, your textbooks only focus on the key events of what you study so you won’t have to waste time trying to weed through information you don’t need.
History = writing
The rumors are true, IB History is a LOT of writing. For your tests, you will receive a question on the subject you’ve been studying and and be expected to write an essay on it in a class period. As someone who is naturally not a very fast writer, one of the things I found helpful was creating outlines for possible essays I could write before the test. Even though you won’t know the exact question until the day of the test, you can predict it based off what you’ve learned, write an outline, and adapt it to the actual question during the test. For example, if you’ve been learning about the Treaty of Versailles and the Weimar Republic, write a basic outline of what those things are, why they happened, important figures who may have been involved, their impact on the relevant countries, and any other important facts. This will make you much more confident walking into your test, and these outlines will be good to go back and study for your final exam!
Here are some examples of outlines I did for Japanese expansion in East Asia.
Have discussions with friends
IB history is a subject that values contrasting perspectives, and having study sessions with your friends is a great way to gain those new perspectives. History is also a subject that can spark debate, which is a very productive way to learn. Debates and discussions will force you to defend your ideas and explain them clearly, which is exactly what you will have to do on all of your tests. Most likely, you will also hear some interesting arguments from your friends, which you can use at counter arguments in your essays!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
This is true for everything IB-related, but something you definitely need to keep in mind while taking IB History. You cover a lot of content in History, and it’s intimidating to look at the syllabus and wonder how you will ever learn all this in two years. But, it is manageable and if you divide your studying into sections over long periods of time, you will learn much more than if you try to learn it all in a day. The topics you cover in IB History, especially in year 2, can get convoluted and easy to get lost in, so don’t try to cram for IB history. Just don’t. There is a lot of interesting material that you’re going to want to dedicate time to in order to really analyse and understand, and as all of our teachers have told us time and time again, cramming isn’t actually learning.
Yes, I’m dedicating an entire tip to one YouTube channel. Dobbiecast History has dozens of video lectures on just about every subject you will study in IB History. It divides them up into sections, for example, there are videos about World War I and II and videos about countries reactions to those wars, so you won’t get overwhelmed with information. He even has a whole playlist dedicated to IB History, and another playlist all about how to prep for your final History exam. Video lectures are also great because you can pause and rewind them to take down as many notes as you need. Dobbiecast History is a lifesaver. You’re welcome, in advance.
IB history is one of the most interesting classes you can take in IB, so remember that when you feel stressed. I hope this advice will help you in your IB journey, and that it will make history a little less stressful for you. Good luck everyone, and remember: when in doubt, Dobbiecast History.