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How To Write Well in IB Subjects

Every year we (your humble IB teachers) read IA’s and EE’s that make the same mistake. We try to warn you about it. We try to explain this mistake, but every year a lot of people still do it.

It undermines your whole effort.

Brilliant students do it. Average students do it too. Some students who spend 40 hours on their Extended Essay research over the summer still do it.

What is it?

Before I tell you, let’s consider what makes a good doctor.

We have all been to good doctors and bad doctors. What makes the difference? What impresses us about doctors? 

Explain the hard stuff

All doctors do “doctor things,” --they do specialist medical tests and then they understand the results. But good doctors interact with us differently. They explain those results (analysis), mentioning the complicated medical concepts and key words, but then they also explain those words clearly. They also explain the conclusions which can be drawn from the tests (evaluation) and how sure we could be about those results (also evaluation).

After this kind of treatment, we leave their office understanding things better and feeling we're in good hands. 

Some doctors seem like they probably know what they're doing, but they don't really explain things to us. They don't tell us what they're thinking, why they're doing certain tests or what the tests results show or don't show. 

In the end:

1) We leave confident that they did the enough tests, that they did the right tests and (when the results came in) they understood those results (insights), and

2) We leave confident that we ourselves understand what’s wrong with us because the test results were made clear to us. We understand complicated tests because they were translated into understandable language, for our benefit.

(Hint: This is what you are doing in your IA’s, EE’s and on exams.)

Good doctors also give us confidence because they speak like specialists do. We are happy to see that they know these words and they know them well enough to explain them clearly to us.  

Explain using specialist key words

They don't tell us things that our friends could have told us and they don’t talk to us like our friends would. Instead they give us EXPERT INSIGHTS. They do tests that our friends couldn’t perform and then they give us insights based on those tests. This is obviously why we value them so much (and pay them so much). They are able to look at the same eye infection or red mark on your toe and see uncommon things. They don't see the body the way the rest of us do. They see things as doctors do. In the same way, you will only get credit on your IA's and EE's when you see and explain things as an economist or an English professor does.

The Mistake

So, be careful that in your Internal Assessments and Extended Essays that you are acting the same way we want all of our professionals to act. The mistake is taking a question and answering it in a way that does not show off your knowledge. In fact, you can think of the IA and the EE simply as opportunities for you to do a bunch of tests that show off your knowledge of the subject. Do the appropriate tests and explain the insights they provide to your question.

Of course, the specifics are slightly different for the IA’s and the EE’s and they differ somewhat between Business and Economics. But the core idea about showing off your professional knowledge does not change.

Trick the system

When you're choosing your Internal Assessment or Extended Essay topics you can also trick the system a little bit. Look for opportunities to show off the models you know best. You can't always go with your best strengths, but you always have some choice. So choose wisely. Trick the system and find opportunities where you can answer the questions like a pro.


Cite this page as:
Woods, Tim. “How To Write Well in IB Subjects” IBMastery 1 Jan 2017. Web. TODAY’S DATE <>