Academic Group 3 Subjects

How To Study Global Politics

Global Politics is a Group 3 (Individuals and Societies) subject that ‘‘allows students to develop an understanding of the local, national, international and global dimensions of political activity, as well as allowing them the opportunity to explore political issues affecting their own lives’’ (IBO). It heavily focuses on political case studies from a range of countries around the world. But also has the benefit of allowing the incorporation of current and developing political situations in your region. 

There are 3 assessments (4 for HL) that are spread throughout the course.

They are; Paper 1, Paper 2, Political Engagement Activity (and HLX Orals for HL).

Studying for these assessments can take place over the whole course and is mainly focused around studying for the Papers. As for the Political Engagement Activity or HLX Orals, you’re given class time to work on them.

Some general study tips for Global Politics are;

  • Learn definitions of core course concepts, as you’ll have to use these in your Papers. There are 16 concepts, which are; Power, Sovereignty, Legitimacy, Interdependence, Human Rights, Justice, Liberty, Equality, Development, Globalization, Inequality, Sustainability, Peace, Conflict, Violence, and Non-violence. I find that making a Quizlet, adding to it throughout the course, and going through it a couple of times per semester really cements them in your mind.
  • Understand case studies. Every Global Politics class will be taught different case studies over the course. It’s important to remember them as you’ll need to reference these in parts of your Paper 1, your Paper 2 (and possibly HLX Oral). I find creating a mind map or timeline of events for each case study is helpful. This is because it  reminds you of the details when you’re going through them before exams. Also, a key way to practice recalling and applying these case studies to questions, is to use past papers.
  • Create time to focus on the concepts learnt throughout the course, and link them together. For example this could be defining and mind-mapping what sovereignty is. It also helps remind you case studies it’s in, then connecting it to cultural relativism. Using these concepts shows that you understand what the course is on a theoretical level, not just common sense.  

Studying for Paper 1 and Paper 2 both involve using past papers. Their difference being the content covered and timings of each Paper.

Paper 1

Paper 1 is a 75 minute paper that has 4 questions of varying marks, and has 4 sources to reference. The main point about Paper 1 is that it’s testing your analyzation skills. You’ll need to use definitions throughout all 4 questions, but your main focus should be the 10-mark question. This is where you’ll also need to pick a relevant case study (or more) that you’ve learnt and apply it. For Paper 1, finding past papers and timing yourself while completing them is a great way to get exam ready.

For example, here are some ways to answer a past paper 1. From the unit of ‘Power, Sovereignty and International Relations’:

1. According to Source B, what three advantages do NGOs have over other actors in global politics? (3 marks)

When answering the 3 mark question, it’s easy to lose time thinking of just the right answer. So try to limit your time on this question to 5 minutes. You can answer either in a short paragraph or bullet points. But make sure to refer back to the source and provide reasoning. Also, although it’s only worth 3 marks it’s best to write 4 ideas. This is because the marking of this question usually has specific criteria.

2. With reference to Source C, suggest common features of large NGOs that can be
deduced from the information in the table. (4 marks)

This question should be allocated around 15 minutes, and should be focused around 2 ideas. One should be identified from the source, and another from your knowledge, creating 2 short paragraphs. There is 1 mark allocated for the identification of an idea, and then another for justification, so remember to always provide reasoning.

3. Contrast the views of Source A and Source D regarding the relationship between
NGOs and states. (8 marks)

As question 3’s are worth 8 marks, it’s suggested that you should spend 20 minutes on them. The first major step of this question is to identify the correct command term, as a lot of students will see ‘contrast’ and also immediately think of ‘compare’, but it’s important to just stick to the one mentioned in the question! Going through both sources and underlining opposing ideas (and reasoning to support those claims) helps to clearly see the differences in the sources and not get confused. When writing this question, it’s beneficial to have a 2-sentence approach to each reasoning that you’re making – the first sentence making the point (Source C opposes Source D on x issue), and the second being the evidence (Source C displays ‘quote’, whereas Source D suggests ‘quote’). 

4. Using the sources and your own knowledge, evaluate the claim that NGOs are
insignificant actors in global politics. (10 marks)

This is the main question of the paper so 35 minutes should be used to answer it. Read through all the sources and underline key quotes and concepts that relate to the question. As Question 4 is a mini-essay, think of it sort of like a shorter Paper but but with information to help you. It asks for your own knowledge as well as the sources, so think of what case studies you could also include. Structure this question into 3 main paragraphs, including all sources, some of your own case study knowledge, key global politics concepts and don’t forget to add counter-claims as well.

Paper 2

Paper 2 is an essay-based exam. 8 questions will be given to HL and SL students, but SL will get 1hr 45mins to answer 2, and HL will answer 3 in 2hr 45mins. As it’s focused completely on essays, you need to use definitions, concepts, and case studies all intertwined. When practicing for Paper 2 using past papers, aim to try and answer 1 question in 45 minutes. Then, do 2 questions and then 3, so that when you get to the actual exam, you’ve learnt how to map out your time and leave extra time for editing.

A Paper 2, while it may seem daunting, is achievable, by breaking it down into manageable chunks – and really focus on writing one essay at a time. At the beginning of the time, go through all the questions and select the ones that you want to do, and that you remember some case study knowledge of. When you’re focused on one of the questions, planning is key. Take the first 5 minutes of your time on that question to write a quick structure, noting key ideas, case studies and counter-claims you may want to include as well as any definitions, in a structured paragraph order. This will help you not lose track of what points you’re trying to make through the time. If you try to stick to the timed limit, you will have a good amount of time to go back through your essays, edit and clarify any responses, and make sure you’ve answered the questions to the best of your ability.

Overall, studying for Global Politics centers around creating a strong foundational basis of knowledge (through learning definitions, course concepts and case studies) and then applying them to questions in exam-like situations. Studying for Global Politics, like any IB subject, takes some strength and determination, but hopefully these tips and tricks help your journey.


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