Academic Group 3 Subjects

Tips for IB Geography (SL/HL)

IB Geography was definitely my favourite subject! Its interdisciplinary nature was fascinating to explore, and I learnt so many new skills from modelling statistical representation for the IA, to analyzing maps and graphs and writing more succinctly. 

Although some Reddit users may say that IB Geography is one of the easiest Group 3 subjects, I think it is important to remember that this is only true if you have the right attitude towards the subject, study the content thoroughly, and develop your skills throughout the 2 years.

Content for all 3 papers shouldn’t be crammed the night before exams, and hopefully these tips will help you understand how to study the subject a bit better, as well as give you some advice on how you can improve your scores!

1. Understand the command terms

Before you start practicing past paper questions, it is imperative to understand what each command term means to figure out what kind of answer the examiner is looking for. For example, if the question in Paper 2 asks, ‘Describe what is meant by “embedded water”?’ for 2 marks, you are expected to give a detailed account of what embedded water is. Your response could be ‘Water resources that are used to produce food and manufacture goods in one country [1] that are transferred to other, often water-scarce, countries via trading [1].’ 

When asked to describe a term, it is important to remember that the examiner is not looking for specific examples or knowledge of a case study, but rather a definition that shows how well you understand the meaning of the term. If you went beyond the description and discussed examples, you would only be wasting time that you could use to answer the rest of the paper. I fell into this trap many times! Eventually, I was urged by my teacher to study this list of command terms and their definitions thoroughly, in order to determine what my answers should and shouldn’t include. While this is not an official IB resource, I found their detailed definitions really helpful. If you want to go through the official IB syllabus for Geography, page 14 and 15 discuss command terms.

While mixing up command terms in the short-answer sections of Paper 1 and 2 might not get you into a lot of trouble, confusing the command term ‘Examine’ with ‘Evaluate’ or ‘To what extent’ might lose you a lot of time in the essay sections of the Papers! While their definitions might sometimes overlap, the best way to learn how to approach each of these command terms is by practicing as many questions as you can. This leads me onto my next tip…

2. Practice past paper questions and use mark schemes

I think one of the study methods that helped me the most with IB Geography was my approach to practicing past questions. When my exams were still a couple months away, I would solve past papers without putting any time pressure on myself. I would always get nervous when timing myself and as a result, I would make silly mistakes when analysing graphs or infographics. This method allowed me to gain more confidence in my ability to answer questions. 

Once I was more confident in my ability to apply my knowledge, I would start to time myself and reflect on where I needed the most time. As a result, during the exams, I was less worried about running out of time since I could estimate how long I would take to answer each section. For example, in Paper 3, I would give myself 20 minutes to answer the 12-marker, and 40 minutes to answer the 16-marker. Therefore, even if I needed an extra 5 minutes to finish my conclusion for my first answer, I wouldn’t be worried about running out of time as I had practiced and timed myself multiple times before. 

Practicing past questions not only helps you improve your writing stamina and tests your ability to think under pressure, but questions can sometimes get repeated or the same question can be asked in a very similar way. This means that the more you practice, the more familiar you get with the question styles and types, and if you’re lucky you may even come across similar questions in your exam!

3. Choose case studies that are relevant to you

Case studies relevant to you could include case studies about events or policies that have happened in your own country, or even local area! In Paper 1, one of the required case studies for Option G: Urban Environments is on the topic of ‘Traffic congestion patterns, trends, and impacts’ and we are asked to learn a ‘Case study of one affected city and the management response’. Rather than finding a generic case study online, about a random city that didn’t really have much relevance in my life, I chose to study the traffic management of New Delhi, which is the capital of my country, India. I have experienced their traffic first-hand and have heard so much about the odd-even rule they implemented. So even chatting about the news over dinner with your family can help you when learning case studies! Since I chose to discuss a place and policies relevant in my own life, I knew I would be less likely to forget all the names of the policies, statistics, and trends that I needed to know. 

All the case studies can become overwhelming, so another way I tried to remember all the information was through watching YouTube videos. One of the case studies we are required to learn under Unit 1: Changing Population is ‘The consequences of megacity growth for individuals and societies—One case study of a contemporary megacity experiencing rapid growth.’ When you get tired of reading and rereading your textbooks, watching a video like ‘The World’s Fastest Growing MEGACITY’ might help you learn the content better, especially if you are a visual or auditory learner like me! Just make sure you don’t spend ALL your study time browsing YouTube!

4. Go through the syllabus during each study session

Although our teachers can be a wonderful resource, sometimes, especially during online learning, they might skip out on teaching some of the content. They might ask you to self-study it, or you might only realise you have no idea what new-Malthusian views really are, the day before your exam! I think a great way to avoid nasty surprises like that is by printing out the IB syllabus, and adding a tick mark next to each topic when you’ve finished studying it. This will help you keep track of what you know and what you don’t and also give you the satisfaction of knowing the content you wanted to go over that day. The syllabus is your personal checklist, and the more you go over it, the easier it will be to remember what feedback loops and global dimming are!

I hope these tips help you to get the grade you deserve! I believe that if you can approach the subject with curiosity and an open-mind, you will do well. Learning all the definitions, case studies, command terms, and processes might take a lot of time and energy, but I think it’s worth it to gain the skills of analytical writing, critical thinking, and much more!

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