1. Contents of IB Geography

IB Geography has aims as following (according to IBO):

  1. develop an understanding of the dynamic interrelationships between people, places, spaces and the environment at different scales
  2. develop a critical awareness and consider complexity thinking in the context of the nexus of geographic issues
  3. understand and evaluate the need for planning and sustainable development through the management of resources at varying scales.

Students will acquire a variety of skills through this course, which students are expected to show in the final exam, including analytical thinking based on data and graphs, evaluation skills to discuss social issues, and application of geography knowledge.


1.1 SL

Advises from IB graduates:

  • IB Geography doesn’t require you to have prior knowledge, to gain as much knowledge as history, and to calculate as much as economics. So, this subject is recommended for all students.
  • IB Geography is recommended for those who want to spend time on Group 4 (scientific) subjects instead of Group 3 subjects.


1.2 HL

HL students cover the same topic as SL students, but the coverage is much broader than SL. Not only do HL students study one more “Geographic Theme”, but they also have three “HL Core Extension” topics to cover. So, HL students are expected to have more knowledge and a higher level of analytical thinking in the exam.

Advises from IB graduates:

  • Essay questions require you to know case studies, so it’s better to prepare a case study for each topic.
  • It might be hard for some to understand HL Extension topics since they include economic and political aspects to look at.
  • It might be hard for those who are not too confident in their English because you will have to learn various topics.


1.3 Syllabus

Part 1: Geographic Themes

Out of seven options, HL students study three of them and SL students study two.

  1. Freshwater – drainage basins
  2. Oceans and coastal margins
  3. Extreme environments
  4. Geophysical hazards
  5. Leisure, tourism, and sport
  6. Food and health
  7. Urban environments


Part 2: SL and HL core

Through core topics, students study the foundation of geography to understand today’s social issues. The theme of this part is global changes from geographic perspectives.

  1. Population distribution – changing population
  2. Global climate – vulnerability and resilience
  3. Global resource consumption and security


Part 2: HL core extension

HL students cover three additional units to broaden their perspectives by looking into global interactions.

  1. Power, places, and networks
  2. Human development and diversity
  3. Global risks and resilience



2. Tips for IB Geography

Geography students will need a lot of work and time to master the subject. But once you know the criteria and how to study, you can prepare for in-class tests and exams efficiently. If you have any trouble studying the subject, don’t hesitate to ask teachers!

2.1 Grading Weight

External Assessment Paper 1 35% (135 mins) 35% (90 mins)
Paper 2 25% (75 mins) 40% (75 mins)
Paper 3 20% (60 mins) N/A
Internal Assessment Fieldwork 20% 25%


2.2 How to Study

Follow the syllabus and summarize the points

The syllabus not only guides you through what you’re going to learn over the 2 years but also tells you what examiners will ask you in tests and the final exam. So it’s best to summarize important points in each topic following the syllabus. That will help you not miss anything important.


Prepare case studies

Students are expected to answer questions using examples from specific regions or countries. So, it’s very important that you prepare case studies for each topic. Case studies can be found in the textbook for some topics, but not for all. So, do your own research to find a good case study. It is recommended to have case studies from your familiar places since it will most likely help you in expanding the discussion.


Understand command terms

Questions often start with a command term which tells you what examiners expect from you. So it’s best you know the meaning of each command term and practice answering questions.

Here are some examples of command terms:

  1. Explain… Give an explanation on the subject in detail with reasons.
  2. Compare… Compare two or more things or situations. Focus on similarities. Rather than explaining one thing more than the other, it’s better to spend the same amount of writing on each subject.
  3. Discuss… Rather than drawing a conclusion of yes/no, explain the subject with different perspectives and argue the problems that occur for such differences.
  4. Distinguish… Compare two or more things or situations. Focus on differences.
  5. Evaluate… Explain both pros and cons of the subject, consider both sides, and draw a conclusion.



3. Tips for Final Exam

3.1 Paper 1

Students are asked based on part 1 “Geographic Themes”. HL students will choose and answer three questions based on what they’ve studied and SL students will answer two. Each question has a structured question (worth 10 marks) and an essay question (worth 10 marks). There are two questions for each option, so you should choose the one that you’re comfortable with answering the essay question.


3.2 Paper 2

Students are asked questions based on part 2 “core” topics.

  Marks Contents
Section A 30 marks There are three structured questions and students answer all of them.
Section B 10 marks There are questions with graphs and infographics for you to answer based on your analysis.
Section C 10 marks Students answer one of the two given essay questions.


3.3 Paper 3

Only HL students have Paper 3 in the exam to assess their knowledge in “HL Core Extention” topics. Students answer one of the three essay questions. Each question has two-part as Part A is worth 12 marks and Part B is worth 16 marks. Students are expected to use case studies as examples and maps or diagrams where appropriate. To prepare for paper 3, you should get used to writing essays within a limited time by practicing with past papers.



4. Tips for IA and EE

4.1 IA

Students carry out fieldwork for IA in Geography and submit a written report within 2500 words. Students need to spend about 20 hours on it, so it’s not going to be short or easy. For the choice of topic, students are supposed to select a region and a topic both related to one of the units that they’ve studied in Part 1, 2, or 3 (for HL).

For example, you can choose an area to measure wind speed, humidity, temperature, and light intensity, etc. to investigate its “Urban Environment (from option G in part 1)”. And you can carry out an analysis to find out which element is the most influential on the urban environment.

More advises are following:

Make your own graphs and pictures, and don’t forget to annotate!

It’s important to use graphs and pictures that you have created to bring originality to your IA. It’s also recommended to include a photo of you taking data in the methodology section to make it easy for examiners (your teacher) to follow. When you’re using pictures, don’t forget to put annotation with arrows or lines.


Check the criteria regularly!

Your IA is judged based on criteria. In other words, you can aim for a high score by following the criteria! Make sure that if your teacher has specific styles, follow them. These are the criteria for IA in Geography:

  • Fieldwork question and geographic context – 3 marks
  • Methods of investigation – 3 marks
  • Quality and treatment of information collected – 6 marks
  • Written analysis – 8 marks
  • Conclusion – 2 marks
  • Evaluation – 3 marks


Listen to advices from your teacher!

You have only one chance to get feedback from your teacher based on the draft before submission. But, you can ask about your IA as many times as you want. So, make sure you go to your teacher when you are worried about your IA.



4.2 EE

If you choose to write your EE in Geography, you will need to choose a topic from the syllabus and carry out the investigation at a local level. Fieldwork will add originality to your EE and will help you have a better chance of getting a high score. Make sure you write in a logical order by using headings (introduction, research question, hypothesis, research, analysis, conclusion, evaluation, etc) and don’t forget to cite your reference by using MLA format correctly.