Exam strategies for Data Response Questions – IB Economics

All IB schools who are part of the the May examination session are now in the last week of class, before the study sessions and final examination period begins. Exam strategy is now nearly, if not more important than actual study and can lift your marks. These comments refer to SL – Paper 2 and HL Paper 3 commonly known as the Data Response papers. These hints are obviously of my own opinion and reflections and not those of the IB Organization.

Here is my top 10 hints…

Before the exam…

  1. Revision. As for all of the other papers, make sure you have been through the syllabus and have throughly checked and know that you understand each part of the curriculum. I encourage my students to create bit size revision notes on the essentials of each subtopic throughtout the duration of the course.
  2. Definitions. Consider what key words are required to explain the definition. Try rote learn the 10 most important definitions for each big topic, and ask you teacher to for a list of what concepts might be covered in each section of the course. Make sure you consult a good textbook for clarification on definitions.
  3. Practise reading articles: Ask your teacher for some practice data response questions. Practise reading the questions and then searching the article for some supporting data to help explain your answer. The articles have been chosen because they highlight certain events. You need to find the piece of data or a quote that could pick.

During the exam…

  1. Manage your time: In the data response examination you have to complete three questions, each worth 20 marks. Therefore you have 60 marks in total over 120 minutes. Therefore try not spend more than 2 mins per mark. So for the evaluation question D try to allow at least 16 minutes but probably slightly longer. Remember this exam requires lots of reading time, so factor this in to your time management. The shorter question B and C should take about 6-8 mins each.
  2. Pick the questions early: You need to obviously choose 3 of the 5 options to answer. I encourage my students to read the part d question of each paper first, and then gauge if you can answer the question. If you are less confident in the question d questions available then perhaps choose a different question. These questions are worth 8/20 and therefore carry a slightly higher importance.
  3. Read each question carefully: Within the question there are always trigger words. If the question is about currency then you probably need to analyse the foreign exchange market. If the question mentions recession then consider drawing a NeoClassical diagram with a recessionary gap. The command word will usually be explain which means examine and describe the component parts of the concept.
  4. Labeling Graphs: Graphs are a crucical part of questions b and c. You need clearly label graphs to ensure that they relate specifically to the material in the extract. Remember each graph has a particular set of labels. Try revise the difference between, exchange rate graphs, AD/AS graphs, Labour Market diagrams or a Lorenz Curve.
  5. Explaining Graphs:  Question B and C are always worth four marks and follow an standard format. Two of these four marks will be attributed to the graph and two to the explanation. Therefore check that you have explained the graph by identifying the related causes that have lead to the change. For instance… the demand for exports has fallen, leading to a fall of the demand of the currency, leading to a shift of the Demand for Euro to the left, which ceteris paribus, will lead to an appreciation of the Euro against the Yen as illustrated on the graph. The explanation does not need to be long but precise and use appropriate terminology.
  6. Evaluation: Question D will always ask you to evaluate a statement or policy that is mentioned in the extract. The question will be graded according to criteria levels. To attain Level 1 you need to have recognized the concepts in the question and perhaps attempted a definition, or discussed the idea. To attain Level 2 you need to explained these concepts in some depth and have tried to apply the concept to material presented in the extract. Evaluate means that you have to go further than purely explaining the concept this is required for a Level 3 response. For instance if the question is about “evaluating the introduction of tariffs into Malaysia” you will need to explain the effects of the decision on stakeholders such as consumers and domestic producers, perhaps consider the long run and short run impacts and consider the advantages or disadvantages. Finally to attain the highest grade to need to make some judgement on what the main point of arguement is. All of these aspects are considered effective evaluation. Given the time constraints of the exam you will be rewarded for using one or more of these approaches, but I think the final judgement and using material from the extract is most important. Without references to the data you wont attain higher than Level 2.
  7. Proofread: If time permits try go back and double check your graphs for any obvious glaring errors and fix labels and arrows. Try to fix any common mistakes such as suggesting that the curve shifts to the right instead of the left.

If you have any further comments, questions or other hints please add them below 🙂

Criteria for Question D - Data Response


3 thoughts on “Exam strategies for Data Response Questions – IB Economics

    • Andrew McCarthy says:

      Look at the past range of questions. These will be available in most schools. Structure your answers and ensure you cover the evaluation aspects of all of the longer questions by considering the SR and LR impacts, stakeholder impacts, general pros and cons and then make a judgement on the validity of the policy.

      Hope this helps.

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