IB Economics

Revision Tip 1

Create your own ways to learn the content, either through summary notes, flashcards or mind maps...

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Revision Tip 2

One of the best method of revision for Paper 1 and 2 is through multiple practice essays or essay plans... but remember, each paper needs to be studied differently!



The IB Economics content can be learnt systematically by organising your revision into each subtopic: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Economics, Developmental Economics. Whilst it is apparent that there may be connections between these topics, in the interest of the examination papers and essays, you are better off not to associate them too much with each other as you run the risk of overcomplicating your response.

1. Summary Notes

  • Try to write "One Page Summary Notes"

    • This way you are more inclined to​ be more concise and only write down the relevant information

    • Follow the syllabus points exactly

  • Use symbols and abbreviations within your notes

    • e.g. arrows, COP = cost of production, FOP = factors of production 

    • By doing so, your brain has to work more to process the information as you review them

  • Colour coding can help organise information

    • Blue = definition​

    • Black = main body of writing 

    • Red = examples

    • Green = additional info

2. Importance of Diagrams

  • Draw large clear diagrams with a black pen and ideally with a ruler

    • Colours can be used to show changes (e.g shift in demand curve)​

  • Check with the textbook to make sure they are accurate

    • Correct labels (be specific, e.g. Quantity of Vaccines) and a title 

  • Analyse the diagrams as if you would in an exam, but with dot points (this is good practice for paper 1!)

    • Explain every point relevant to the diagram​ (e.g. why the curve shifts, how the equilibrium is reached, any assumptions made etc.)

3. Content of Summary Notes and Flashcards

  • Think to include "DEED"

    • D = definition​ of relevant words to question

    • E = explanation of concept

    • E = evaluation of policies

    • D = diagram(s)



Flashcards can be an effective means to revise the content as they summarise large amounts of information onto one piece of card. Personally, I used flashcards to revise the minute content of the course, which tends to be included in paper 3 (e.g. limitations of CPI). However, they can also be useful to study for paper 1 and 2 by writing down key points which can be included in your essays. Overall, flashcards are best used for active recall and are also handy to test yourself right before the exam.




1. Key Definitions

The key terms within the essay question should immediately be defined at the beginning of your essay to introduce the examiner into the topic of discussion. Pretend the examiner has no prior economic knowledge!


Market Failure


When the market fails to allocate resources efficiently, resulting in an overallocation, under allocation or no allocation of resources to the production of a good relative to the social optimum

2. Points of Analysis

Points of analysis are usually revised with key diagrams related to the topic. On your flashcard you should draw an important diagram and then on the back write out the full analysis of how you would describe what is happening in the diagram (this can be done in dot points). Do not leave any steps out... meaning include all assumptions and reasons for shifts etc.


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  • In free market with no externality (assumption) = allocative efficiency (at Pm, Qm)

  • Presence of negative production externality causes a divergence between MSC and MPC (MPC>MSC)

  • Overproduction (Qm > Qopt)

  • Welfare loss because of allocative inefficiency  

3. Evaluation Points

Evaluation is a crucial element of paper 1 and 2, therefore it is paramount that you have at least 3 points on each side that you can discuss for the 15 marker in paper 1 and 8 market in paper 2. On the back of the flashcard, you can write down a few evaluation points in short form, then when you are reciting the flashcard also practice extending the point and explaining what it means. In paper 1, support your evaluation points with real life examples and in paper 2, support your evaluation points with data or quotes from the text.


Evaluation of a tax on emissions



  • Internalises externality by removing the external cost for emission (e.g. carbon)

  • Incentive to change behaviour for producers 

  • Size of tax can be calibrated more easily

  • Incentive to switch to clean technologies


  • Doesn't get rid of whole externality (diagram)

  • Some incentive but not as much

  • Compliance and enforcement difficulties

  • Curtails output


As economics is an essay based subject, to best revise for this subject, you want to practice the skills that the exam requires you to do... write essays!

  1. Compile all of the past essay questions that have been asked in paper 1 or use the Cambridge exam style questions that are sorted into topics and answer as many as you can

  2. Use exemplar essays to learn how to structure your own essays

  3. Either do this under timed conditions or in your own time as revision of the content 

  4. Once you have finished, either ask your teacher to read over it and mark it OR alternatively you can compare it against the mark scheme or exemplar essays and look out for any analysis and evaluation points that you may have missed.

TIP: if you do not have time to sit down and write out the full essay, I suggest that you write out "essay plans". Here you would jot down the key definitions to outline, draw out important diagrams and write out the evaluation points for both sides. Once you have completed this, I suggest you practice explaining the diagrams out loud with the accompanying analysis. 

Purchase exemplar essays for paper 1 



Paper 1 is comprised of Section A - Microeconomics and Section B - Macroeconomics where an essay response is to be written for each. Whilst no prompts or case studies are provided in this paper, there are certain strategies that can be adopted in order to maximise your potential.

Part a) 10 mark questions 

  • These questions are solely testing your economic theory and how well you can explain the relevant concepts

  • DIAGRAMS and EXAMPLES are crucial (typically only one diagram is required for this question)

    • Incorporate your examples into the diagrams 

    • ​E.g. For negative consumption externality, use the example of cigarettes and then write the name of the market as "Cigarettes" on your diagram 

      • This shows the examiner you are able to effectively utilise real-world examples to gain more marks

    • Explain everything on the diagram

      • Why certain curves shift/change (e.g. is it because of a change in determinant of demand​? If so, give an example)

      • Any assumptions made 

  • Recommended time: 15 minutes MAX (if you can 10-12 minutes is even better)

    • After 15 minutes, move on part b), because there are more marks to gain there 


  1. Definitions 

  2. Answer the question directly by alluding to the relevant theory, then state "this can be seen in the diagram below"

  3. Draw diagram and EXPLAIN everything in minute detail as if the examiner has no economic knowledge 

  4. Incorporate your examples as you explain the theory 

  5. Concluding statement: summarise the theory (*this is optional, only if you have extra time)

Part b) 15 mark questions

  • A majority of the time, these questions require you to EVALUATE policies or statements and come to a final judgement where you weigh up your points and ANSWER the question

  • Evaluate/Discuss are key command terms that require you to look at both sides of the argument (i.e. advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons or benefit and cost) 

    • Do this evenly, meaning 2-3 points on each side. This will ensure your arguments are well balanced​

    • State the benefit/cost and then explain in detail 

      • provide examples to support your argument ​

      • use diagrams to illustrate the point 

  • JUDGEMENT: think of the following

    • short run vs long run​

    • advantages vs disadvantages

    • priorities of government - full extent of impact 

    • efficiency vs equity 

    • effect on stakeholders

    • opportunity cost 

  • Ensure that you come to a final conclusion and justify your reasoning (it is better than sitting on the fence!)

    • Examples of how to conclude> Policy A is considered more effective given

      • the following conditions are satisfied _______

      • _______ is considered in the long run

      • _______ is a core objective of the government/ it is in the best interest in society

  • Recommended time: 30 minutes MIN (after the 45 min mark in micro, move on to macro)

Structure (one policy)

  1. Definitions (only if not mentioned in part a))

  2. Briefly mention relevant theory with diagram (only if not mentioned in part a))

  3. Policy with diagram and explanation of what is occurring 

  4. Evaluate policy, ensuring that your response is consistently relevant with the question

  5. Judgement

Structure (2 or more policies)

  1. Definitions (only if not mentioned in part a))

  2. Briefly mention relevant theory with diagram (only if not mentioned in part a))

  3. Policy A with diagram and explanation of what is occurring 

  4. Evaluate policy A, ensuring that your response is consistently relevant with the question

  5. Introduce policy B as a counter argument to solve some of the issues that arise from policy A (with diagram if necessary)

  6. Evaluate policy B

  7. Judgement

It is imperative that you know your definitions and diagrams as no guidance is given by the examination paper!

  • For each policy (e.g. indirect tax, regulation), make sure you know at least 3 arguments on both sides (advantages and disadvantages)

  • Draw diagrams on a whiteboard/spare notebook and practice explaining them out loud STEP by STEP 

    • Alternatively, you can practice writing out your analysis, then use a different coloured pen to fill out any explanations you missed ​

  • 45 minutes on each section should be allocated 

  • Explain things as if the examiner has no prior knowledge about economics