Ib History Essay Tips For College

As we enter October many of you may be feeling a bit of anxiety about your essay-writing skills.  If you are a first year History student, you are wondering about how much higher the expectations are for IB students and if you are a second year IB student you are wondering how prepared for the IB examinations you are – especially if you are in the Southern Hemisphere and the IB exams are looming.  Given all of these circumstances I thought it would be useful to go over the main components of a history essay.

When you write an essay for IB history there are 3 components:


This is the roadmap for the essay, so you want to:

  • Provide historical context to show an understanding of the question
  • Answer the question as explicitly as is possible, given the question
    • This may take the form of  a thesis
  • Explain to the reader the issues you will raise or arguments you will present to answer your question

If you have been successful, the reader (i.e., your teacher of the examiner) will have a good sense of how your essay will progress and will feel that you have focused on the question.

Supporting arguments -which constitute the body

Here you want to develop the arguments that you have presented in the introduction

Each supporting argument constitutes a one-paragraph mini-essay: a handy tool to ensure that you completed each argument is the acronym PEEL:

  • POINT:  This is your topic sentence and you will present a mini-thesis that is the idea you are trying to prove
  • EVIDENCE: Here you provide the factual knowledge that is needed to prove your point
  • EXPLANATION: You analyze the evidence, showing its relevance and support
  • LINKAGE: Link the argument back to the overall question or thesis you presented; in a relatively short, timed essay this may feel a bit repetitive but it is effective in showing that you understand the demands of the question and have maintained your focus.

There is a lot of debate around how many arguments you should present; it is going to depend on the question itself and the number of arguments you have.  It is certainly true that one or two arguments will be insufficient to go higher than the 9-11 markband, but other than that, it is dependent upon the depth of knowledge and level of explanation that you provide


Very simply put:

  • Restate your thesis or answer your question
  • Highlight relevant issues that you raised in the body
  • Take the essay topic back to its larger context

If your introduction and body are clear and easily followed, 2-3 sentences is satisfactory here, and it is largely superfluous.  If, however, your essay lacks critical commentary, this can become an important section where you have made the prior discussions relevant.

This is just one approach to writing history essays – if you are doing well with your current method, keep things as they are.  However, there may be some of you looking for fixes for your essays.  If your teacher asks you to integrate more analysis – look at the explanation component of the body.  If your teacher writes that the point of your essay is not clear, stating an explicit answer to the question (and possibly underlining that answer) will help you clarify your points.  Use as much or as little of this method as you like.

For either route (20th Century World History or History of Europe and the Islamic World) in IB History SL/HL, I’ve got the information you need to ace your in-class quizzes and the IB exam.

I’ve assembled the best FREE online IB History notes into this complete study guide. For your convenience, I'll be ordering this IB History Study Guide using the IB History Syllabus.


How to Use This IB History Study Guide

If you’re hoping for help on one subject, use Command + F to search this guide for specific IB History notes about that subject. As an example, if you want to read about Paris Peace Treaties, use Command + F to cue the search function. Then, type “Paris Peace Treaties” and it’ll bring up all of the study materials for Paris Peace Treaties.

I separate the resources into:

  • Quick reference: one-page summary of material if you just need a quick refresher.
  • Longer notes: notes (generally 3-10 pages) if you need more of an in-depth explanation.
  • Flashcards: online quiz of key terms.


Uses for This Article During the School Year

Look at this article during the school year to prepare for in-class tests. Make sure you’re mastering the material during the school year and not waiting to cram until right before the IB History exam.   


Best Study Practices for IB History SL/HL During the School Year

Look at related IB History past paper questions as you learn new material in class. Find IB History HL and IB History SL past papers, Free and Official, in our other article. Also, if you’re having difficulty in the classroom, you need to be reading the corresponding chapter in a textbook or this study guide.


Common Study Mistakes for IB History SL/HL

Some common mistakes are:

  1. Trying to ignore the topics you didn’t comprehend from your teacher’s lesson. If you didn’t understand it in class, you need to find additional assistance through this IB History study guide or tutoring.
  2. Only trying to learn the material a week or two before the IB papers. There is too much history to learn; one or two weeks will not be enough time to learn it (that is why IB History SL/HL is spread over a year or two). Keep up with your class. Learn the material when you’re supposed to learn it in class. Look at this article if you need additional assistance:


Route One Guide: History of Europe and the Islamic World

The Origins and Rise of Islam


The Kingdom of Sicily


Dynasties and Rules


Society and Economy *NOTE unable to locate study resources for this topic


Wars and Warfare


Intellectual, Cultural and Artistic Developments


Religion and the State


Aspects of the History of Medieval Europe and the Islamic World



Route Two Guide: 20th Century World History

Peacemaking, Peacekeeping - International Relations 1918-36

  • Quick reference:
    • 1.1 Aims of the participants and peacemakers: Wilson and the fourteen points
    • 1.2 Terms of the Paris Peace Treaties 1919-20: Versailles, St Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, Sevre
    • 1.3 The geopolitical and economic impact of the treaties on Europe and the mandate system
    • 1.4 Enforcement of the provisions of the treaties: US isolationism, the retreat from the Anglo-American Guarantee, Disarmament-Washington, London and Geneva Conferences
    • 1.5 The League of Nations: effects of the absence of major powers, the principles of collective responsibility, and early attempts at peacekeeping (1920-25)
    • 1.6 The Ruhr Crisis (1923), Locarno and the Locarno Spring
    • 1.7 Depression and threats to international peace and collective security, Manchuria (1931 to 1933) and Abyssinia (1935 to 1936)
  • Longer notes:


The Arab–Israeli Conflict 1945–79  


Communism in Crisis 1976–89


Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars


Democratic States—Challenges and Responses


Origins and Development of Authoritarian and Single-Party States


Nationalist and Independence Movements in Africa and Asia and Post-1945 Central and Eastern European States  *NOTE unable to locate study resources for this topic



The Cold War


Aspects of the History of Africa  *NOTE unable to locate study resources for this topic


Aspects of the History of the Americas


Aspects of the History of Asia and Oceania  


Aspects of the History of Europe and the Middle East

  1. The French Revolution and Napoleon
  1. Unification and Consolidation of Germany and Italy
  1. The Ottoman Empire
  2. Western and Northern Europe 1848-1914
  3. Imperial Russia, Revolutions, Emergence of Soviet State 1853-1924
  1. European Diplomacy and the First World War 1870-1923


  1. War and Change in the Middle East 1914-49
  1. Interwar Years: Conflict and Co-operation 1919-39
  1. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 1924-2000
  1. The Second World War and Post-War Western Europe 1939-2000
  2. Post-War Developments in the Middle East 1945-2000
  1. Social and Economic Developments in Europe and the Middle East


What’s Next?

Learn more about IB History:

Learn more about other IB classes:


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