Academic Group 3 IAs Subjects

Overview: IB Economics HL/SL (First Assessment 2022)

Note: The Economics course changed recently. This article goes through the IB Economics SL/HL course for the May 2022 cohort and beyond. 

Are you interested in finding out how governments alleviate poverty? How about the differences between carbon taxes and trading schemes? Or maybe you want to know why countries trade with either other. If you answered yes to any of these questions, IB Economics might just be the subject for you! You may need this subject if you plan on studying economics, international relations, finance, business management and similar majors in university. 


IB Economics consists of four units: introduction to economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and the global economy. Economics is an extremely broad subject; as a result, IB economics aims to provide a good breadth of knowledge of economics as a whole. You can find the official subject brief with the curriculum for SL here and for HL here.

To give a brief overview, microeconomics delves into how businesses and individuals work within an economy. On the other hand, macroeconomics is about how economies as a whole work and how they’re structured. The global economy unit consists of both international economics and developmental economics. International economics looks into how economic governments interact with one another on a global scale, while developmental economics looks into the economies of developing countries, such as Haiti and Bangladesh, and tries to find ways of improving such economies.

Overview of all Changes:

There have been a few syllabus changes done to IB Economics in the new curriculum, with certain content being added and removed. International economics and developmental economics were previously different units but are now combined together in the global economy unit. In addition, introduction to economics is a new unit to introduce the student towards economics as a subject. A few topics have been removed from the syllabus, such as cross product elasticity in microeconomics. However, other topics have been included into the syllabus as a result. For example, the new curriculum includes the topic of sustainable development and its relation towards poverty in the global economy.

So what is the difference between SL and HL? While the main difference lies in the fact that HL students must do an extra paper (Paper 3), many topics will have HL extensions that HL students only need to know such as calculations and graphs. There are also some HL only topics within microeconomics that are related to market failure. Although in previous years SL students didn’t have to do any economic calculations within their examinations, calculations for a select number of topics in Economics have been included in the syllabus. These calculations can be asked within Paper 2 for SL.

IB Economics Key Concepts

A new addition to the course, key concepts are meant to help students build conceptual knowledge about economics. They help the student connect what they have learnt in economics class to large-scale economic issues. While these key concepts aren’t explicitly assessed on the external assessment, the IA requires the students in their commentary to connect the article towards a key concept. The key concepts include choice, efficiency, sustainability, economic well-being, change, intervention, interdependence, equity, and scarcity.

IB Economics Assessment

Paper 1 (SL/HL) – 

With a time allotment of 1 hour and 15 minutes, students will choose one out of three questions to answer. Although the previous syllabus had Paper 1 questions based only on microeconomics and macroeconomics, the questions for Paper 1 can be on any of the 4 units. Paper 1 is out of 25 marks; this is divided into 10 marks for part (a) and 15 marks for part (b). To earn high marks in this paper, it’s important to provide case studies related to the question instead of solely including the theory. This makes up for 20% of your IB Economics grade for HL and 30% of your IB Economics grade for SL.

Paper 2 (SL/HL) – 

Students choose one out of two questions to answer with a time limit of 1 hour and 45 minutes. In each question, two snippets of news articles are given, and the subsequent sub-questions ask the student to apply economic theory towards each question. Unlike the previous syllabus where questions mainly centred around international and developmental economics, this new syllabus includes all the 4 units. Paper 2 is out of 60 marks with 45 of those marks being alloted to short response questions like definitions, diagrams, and calculations. The remaining 15 marks are to a long response question, requiring the student to use the extract in the question with the case studies they’ve learnt separately to write a good answer. Calculators are permitted for this paper. This makes up for 30% of your IB Economics grade for HL and 40% of your IB Economics grade for SL.

Paper 3 (Only HL) –

Finally, Paper 3 is an HL only paper where students are given two compulsory questions about economic policy to be answered within 1 hour and 45 minutes. Questions can be asked on all 4 units of the syllabus and include both quantitative and qualitative questions. Paper 3 is out of 60 marks, with the two questions both having a part (a) and a part (b). Part (a) are short answer questions related to the situation depicted in the question. Each question’s part (a) is worth 20 marks. On the other hand, part (b) is an extended response where the students need to suggest a policy towards the economic dilemma in question. Each question’s part (b) is worth 10 marks. This makes up for 30% of your IB Economics grade for HL.

If you are an M22 student, Paper 3 has been amended towards the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning! Students now only need to answer one out of the two questions in this paper. As a result, students will now only get 1 hour to complete the paper. Apart from this, there are no other changes towards IB Economics for May 2022.

Internal Assessment (SL/HL) – 

The IA is a portfolio that contains three commentaries based on three units of the economics course: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and the global economy. For each commentary, students choose a news article related to the unit the commentary is based upon and analyse it. The word count for each commentary is 800 words and each commentary must apply a key concept within it; however, each of the three commentaries that the student writes must use a different key concept. The IA is out of 45 marks, with 14 marks for each of the three commentaries. There are 3 marks for reaching rubric requirements. This makes up for 20% of your IB Economics grade(HL) and 30% of your IB Economics grade(SL). More information on the Economics IA can be found here

IB Economics was definitely a challenge to me at first. However, as you start to get the hang of the course, you start to realise how applicable this course is towards our real-world issues and your own future, whether you decided to do an economics-related course in the future or not. As such, I highly recommend choosing this subject as your Group 3 selection if your school offers this course! Be sure to also check out the official IB Economics Guide to learn more about this subject!

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  1. Hi,
    I have a doubt with respect to the selection of the article done by the HL students. Are they allowed to search the micro IA based only on the HL topic ? Or they can choose the article based on the SL topic?
    Can you please clarify this doubt. Thank you in advance

    1. Hey Mohammed, sorry for the delay! There’s actually no difference in the Economics IA between HL and SL. Many HL students end up choosing articles based on the SL topics for all parts of economics (micro, macro, or global) in their IA, and SL students can do the same with HL topics (although this is less common).

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