Academic Group 4 Subjects

Tips and Tricks for ESS

Environmental Systems and Societies, the interdisciplinary Group 3/4 Subject, is often seen as the ‘easiest’ science course. ESS attracts a lot of attention, however, just like any IB Subject, it has got a level of complexity to it. 

ESS is generally a very self-studied subject, as since there’s only 8 topics, teachers usually give the information in class, and expect you to really learn it outside.

Tip 1: Study Methods – that work for you


We all see many people who have the prettiest notes, pages of them, with the entire textbook on them. But, as I often wonder, how do they remember those? By taking notes that work for you – whether that be key points, mind maps, or even the whole course summarised – it helps you remember them for longer. By copying straight from the textbook, you’re just passively moving words from one page to another, not really engaging your brain. But, by putting what you’ve learnt into your own words, and making sense of them, then you’re taking part in active learning, and training your brain to remember and recall ideas. But, if copying from the textbook is your preferred method, then do it – use whatever method works for you!


Whether it be online or on paper, using flashcards helps you to remember concepts quickly and recall information. It can also help you to break big ideas into smaller chunks, and be able to provide detailed explanations. It tests your memory, and allows you to study numerous times 

Tip 2: Utilise Past Papers!

I know that this is what every single ‘Succeed in the IB’ article, social media post, and fellow students tell you to do. But for ESS, it’s vital, and very helpful! The textbook questions aren’t phrased like the IB questions, and only really dwell on small concepts from one SubTopic at a time – IB Question: Describe the significant negative impacts of global warming with reference to specific examples. This encompasses multiple topics into one question, that gives you many options to answer the question. By answering some past paper questions every so often, not even under time limit, it helps you to see the IB format, as well as what you know and what you need to work on.

Tip 3: Know the Assessments

While we spend our time studying what we’ve learnt in class, and revising, it’s not going to be much help if you don’t know general details of the Papers or IA.

Paper 1:

The Paper goes for 1 hour, and is worth 25% of your final grade. It contains a ‘Resource Booklet’ which is an explanation of a large case study, and some short-answer questions relating to the case study.

Paper 2:

The Paper goes for 2 hours, and is worth 50% of your final grade. It contains 2 sections – Section A, and Section B.

Section A contains data-based and short answer questions. Section B gives you a choice of 4 questions, each with ‘Part a, b and c’. You have to choose 2 out of the 4 questions to answer.

IA – Internal Assessment:

The IA is worth 25% of your final grade. It should take around 10 hours to complete, and be focused on an area of study within the ESS Course.

Overall, ESS doesn’t live up to its ‘easiest’ name. It requires time management, active recall and dedication, just as much as any other SL subject. Although it only has 8 topics in total, it requires you to know them more in-depth, and interlink the concepts throughout.

So, I hope these Tips and Tricks for ESS are helpful, and can aid you in succeeding in ESS.

You may also like…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: