IB Economics Exam Tips

Before going through this guide, make sure you know the Structure of Your IB Economics Exam.

Below you will find the IB Economics exam tips which will be useful during your final and mock exams.

Paper 1 Tips

IB Economics Exam Tip #1 – Time management

You have 1 hour 30 minutes for this exam, also an additional 5 minutes reading time during which you are not allowed to write or highlight.

Use your 5 minutes to decide on questions you want to answer, think of diagrams you are going to use and definitions of economic terms that need to be given.

That means you have 45 minutes for one question’s (a) and (b) parts. 25 marks / 45 minutes = 0.555… marks per minute.

  • Since part (a) is 10 marks, you should spend between 15-20 minutes on it. 18 minutes is the optimum, 15 minutes is the best case scenario. However, do not make your answer too short.
  • After part (a), you are left with 25-30 minutes for part (b) to score those 15 points.

Tip #2 – Saving time

Time is essential during your IB Economics Exams, hence knowing how to save it is incredibly important.

  • Do not draw the same diagram twice, unless you want to show a different curve shift/movement. In part (b) you can always refer to part (a) diagram to illustrate your point – no need to redraw it.
  • Do not define an economic term more than once. You’ve done it in part (a), do not repeat yourself in part (b), unless you feel it might have a different meaning in a different context. (e.g. Short run has 2 definitions (or 2 parts to it): one stating that it is a time period when at least one factor of production is fixed and another one stating that it is a time period too short for a firm to enter or exit the market. If you only used one part of the definition in part (a) and need the second one in part (b), do expand your definition.)

Tip #3 – Starting your answers and managing stress

The words “You may start writing…” or “You may begin your exam…” can be terrifying and make some of us go completely blank. Well good thing there is a way out… You have chosen your questions and it is time to start – simply start by defining the economic terms! Not only it is a good habit that will help you concentrate and beat the stress, but you get points for doing that. Part (a) always and we mean ALWAYS has an economic term in the question which needs to be defined. After the definition(s), it is a good idea to draw the diagram. Finally, referring to the diagram you may take the examiner through the whole story of how and why curves shift and/or prices/quantities change.


Paper 2 Tips

IB Economics Exam Tip #1 – Time Management

1 hour 30 minutes for 2 questions each of 20 points. + 5 minutes reading time during which you cannot write or highlight.

45 minutes for one question. 20 marks / 45 minutes = 0.444… marks per minute.

  • Part (a) – 4 marks for two definitions. According to maths you should spend around 9 minutes on the two definitions. However, you can handle the definitions in 4 minutes (2 minutes for each) easily. Especially when you have the reading time to decide on how to define an economic term.
  • Parts (b) and (c) – 4 marks each. Again you have to spend around 8-9 minutes on each part.
  • Part (d) – 8 marks. You spend the time you have left out of those 45 minutes – usually around 20-25 minutes.
  • Try not to use more than 45 minutes on one question by taking the time out of the other one (especially in part (d)). There are easier points to be scored in the other question – this follows the law of diminishing marginal returns. 5 extra minutes spent on part (d) might add 1 point, but those same 5 minutes spent on the other question (say, defining terms) can add 2-4 points.

Tip #2 – Saving time

  • Do not define economic terms more than once.
  • Do not draw the same diagram more than once, unless a different movement/shift has to be shown. In part (d) you can refer to the diagrams in parts (b) and (c).

Tip #3 – Starting your answers

  • Part (a) – definitions. Try to make it a 2 point definition – after giving a definition, sometimes it is a good idea to give an example (especially if it is a short definition). Important – always look at the context the definition is used in as it might change the meaning of the term.
  • Parts (b) and (c) – “explain” type of questions. Start by defining the economic term in the question, unless you have done it in part (a) (highly unlikely). Then sketch a big, clear diagram and take your examiner through the whole story of how and why curves shift and/or prices/quantities change.
  • Part (d) – “evaluate” or “discuss” type of question. See below for general tips on evaluative questions.

General “evaluate” type of question tips

When evaluating, there are a few general ways to do that in your IB Economics exam:

  • Prioritise your arguments! The stronger/more important the argument – the earlier it must be mentioned. Even from a pragmatic point of view this is better: if you run out of time your strongest arguments are in place.
  • Short run compared to Long run effects
  • Effect on different stakeholders (consumers – producers, importers – exporters, government – society, etc.)
  • How are the 4 (5) macro objectives fulfilled and/or affected (Low and stable inflation (around 2%); low unemployment; stable growth; (Balance of Trade); equitable distribution of income)