How to Nail Your IB Economics Paper 2 – Practical Tips

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Nailing your IB Economics Paper 2 is as important as the other components of your final assessment. It is accountable for 30%-40% of your success (depending on whether you are doing SL or HL Economics).

This complex exam poses a challenge to many students. Fear not, with some of the practical tips you’ll find in this post, you’ll ace your IB Economics assessment like a pro.

Paper 2 is very demanding since it requires you to demonstrate your understanding of economic theory, to apply your knowledge in real-life situations, as well as evaluate economical processes and their consequences.

So dive into this article along with its companion piece “How to nail paper 1.”

The Structure of IB Economics Paper 2

IB Economics Paper 2 is a combination of data response questions and an extended response question. Students have two questions but need to answer only one of them. These questions feature two snippets of news articles, which provide some data for practical application.

Each question refers to one of the four sections of the IB Economics syllabus and is broken into a-g sections. They, as a rule, contain the following questions:

  1. Define two terms (4 marks);
  2. Based on the information from a news article, calculate (3 marks) and draw a diagram (2 marks);
  3. Using a diagram, explain how… (4 marks);
  4. Using a diagram and the information from the text, explain …(4 marks);
  5. Using a diagram and the information from the article, explain how…(4 marks);
  6. Using a diagram, explain what…(4 marks);
  7. Using the information from the article and the knowledge of economic theory, discuss … (15 Marks).

In total, IB Economics Paper 2 awards 40 marks, out of which 25 bring short-answer questions and 15 – the final essay-like question. These marks weigh 30% of the total grade for HL students and 40% from the SL. Overall, students have 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the assignments.

IB Econ exam

How to Nail Your IB Economics Paper 2: Practical Tips

Now that the structure of the questions is clear, let’s take a closer look at each section.

Definitions (Section a)

The opening section of Paper 2 is give-a-definition questions. Typically, there are two such questions, and each brings 2 marks. Occasionally, a question may ask to specify the functions of an institution or organization, such as a central bank.

To gain two points for each definition, it is not enough to provide a simple answer. You should also give an example, provide a brief explanation, and, when appropriate, an equation.

Calculation (Section b)

In your exam, you will be asked to do some calculations. For example: ‘Using the data about national income specified in an article, calculate nominal GPD sticking to the expenditure approach’. The majority of these calculations require just the basic mathematical functions (plus, minus, multiply, divide) yet calculators are allowed during the examination.

When doing these calculations, you need to be exact – unless otherwise specified in the question, show two decimal places. If you use formulas, make sure to include them. Also, you need to show full working out.

Diagrams (Section b, c-f)

Diagrams are an essential part of Paper 2 – typically, sections from b to f have something to do with them. Naturally, you need to master how to draw and describe diagrams to nail your IB Economics assessment.

Sections c-f reward 4 marks each, 2 of which are for drawing a diagram and 2 for explaining it. This explanation shouldn’t be too detailed – one or two paragraphs will suffice. When it comes to drawing, make sure to stick to the following tips:

  • Always use a ruler to draw the axes of a diagram as well as linear lines;
  • Remember to fully label your diagram (axes, important points, intersections, etc.). Use standardized abbreviation (GDP, for instance) but don’t shorten labels in other cases (use Price instead of just ‘P’). Also, don’t forget to specify measuring units ($, kg, etc.);
  • Show your diagrams as dynamic, not static. If an indicator changed over a period of time, you need to appropriately reflect this change.
  • When it comes to the essay-like section g, a diagram is not compulsory. Nevertheless, if you feel that it can help you with a more detailed answer, you can include it.
Explain (Section c-f)

The sections from c to f feature the ‘explain’ type of questions. To be more exact, they feature command terms, which indicate the depth of your answer. The Economics guide from the IBO specifies 34 such commands, but in Paper 2, you will be likely to come across the following most frequent terms: analyse, compare, compare and contrast, describe, determine, discuss, explain, evaluate, list, show, etc.

It is vital that you understand what command terms require you to come up with an adequate answer.

For example, ‘explain’ implies that you need to give a detailed account featuring reasons and causes.

Evaluate, on the other hand, means that you need to provide your opinion on a situation, including highlighting its pros, cons, and limitations.

If your question commands ‘list’, you don’t have to go into details. It’s enough to write a few bullet points with brief commentaries for each.

Do not go into more details than required.  This will waste time and you will not be awarded additional marks for it.

Discuss (Section g)

Section g of Paper 2 is very similar to section b of Paper 1. Both intend to assess how well you are able to apply the economic theory you learned in class to real situations. In order to nail your IB Economics Paper 2, we suggest that you use the DEEDE method we described in detail in our previous IB Economics Paper 1 article.

The acronym DEEDE means the following:
  • Definitions – give a definition of economic terms and keywords related to your question. As a rule, some of these terms are mentioned directly in the question. You may also need to define other terms essential to your answer.
  • Explanation – you need to show that you are able to apply relevant economic concepts and theories to answer the question.
  • Example – your question will already feature an example (news article excerpt) so you don’t need to provide it on your own. However, you need to show that you are able to interpret data, see the correlation between two or more variables, and use it for calculations and diagram drawing when applicable.
  • Diagram – depending on your specific question, providing a diagram may be beneficial, but it is not a requirement. If you already have a diagram based on the same data for one of the previous sections, you can simply refer to it but don’t draw it again.
  • Evaluate – a command term in the question will give you an idea of what is required (compare, contrast, discuss, evaluate, examine, justify, etc.). In a simplistic way, evaluation means providing a judgment about the strengths and weaknesses of an action or process, its consequences, or alternatives. Your answer should be based both on data from the text and economic analysis, and all of your arguments must be fully justified.

You will have a sufficient amount of time to formulate your answer – as a rule, it takes 45 minutes to complete the task, so make sure your answer has a good flow, depth, and clarity.

How to Nail Your IB Economics Paper 2 with Tutors Plus

Preparation for IB Economics Paper 2 is not without its challenges. On one hand, Paper 1 and Paper 2 have many similarities – you need to focus on definitions, diagrams, and evaluations of certain processes, concepts, and actions. On the other hand, Paper 2 features calculations, and many students struggle with those.

One more thing that makes it difficult to nail IB Economics Paper 2 is changes in the syllabus. Up until 2021, Paper 2 focused only on the International Economics and Development Economics units of the syllabus. Now, the units of the syllabus are different, and Paper 2 utilizes not just two but all four units. It makes it hard to practice with past papers since their questions may no longer be relevant, let alone they don’t cover the entire programme.

How to properly prepare for Paper 2 then? Our solution is tutor assistance. An IB Economics tutor is able to estimate where you’re standing and where you should be going. This concerns not only your theoretical knowledge but also practical skills and your ability to analyse since all of them are equal parts important to nail your Paper 2.

Tutors Plus is your reliable source of IB tutors – knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to your success. Contact us at or 022 731 8148 and let us help you be fully equipped for one of the most important exams in your life.

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