IB History (HL and SL)

Course description

The IB Standard and Higher Level courses are based upon the study and investigation of key events and developments in global history. Both SL and HL historians will sit Paper 1 and Paper 2, and complete a piece of coursework. In addition, HL historians sit an additional Paper 3. The precise topics students will study for the examined Papers will depend on the specialty of their teacher. Below is an outline of the options from which teachers will choose:

Paper 1: one of either ‘Military leaders’ (Genghis Khan; Richard I of England), ‘Conquest and its impact’ (Spain 1482-92; Mexico & Peru, 1519-51), or ‘Rights and protest’ (USA 1954-65; South Africa, 1948-64).

Paper 2 (World History Topics): two from ‘Early Modern States’ (1450-1789); Causes and effects of Early Modern Wars (1500-1750); ‘Origins, development and impact of industrialization’ (1750–2005); ‘Independence movements ‘(1800–2000); ‘Evolution and development of democratic states’ (1848–2000); ‘Authoritarian states’ (20th century); ‘Causes and effects of 20th-century wars’; ‘The Cold War: Superpower tensions and rivalries’ (20th century).

Paper 3 (Higher Level only): the teacher will choose one world region (Africa & the Middle East; the Americas; Asia & Oceania; Europe), and will cover three areas for the exam within a time period of 1750 to 2005.

Both courses also include an independently researched essay on a topic of the student’s choice that will be internally assessed. It is expected that 20 hours will be spent on this.

Standard Level

  • Paper 1: 1 hour source based paper. 30% of the total marks
  • Paper 2: 1.5 hour long essay based paper. 45% of the total marks.
  • Historical Investigation: 20 hours of research. 25% of the total marks.

Higher Level

  • Paper 1: 1 hour source based paper. 20% of the total marks
  • Paper 2: 1.5 hour long essay based paper. 25% of the total marks.
  • Paper 3: 2.5 hour long essay based paper. 35% of the total marks.
  • Historical Investigation: 20 hours of research. 20% of the total marks.


Pupils must have attained at least a grade 7 in GCSE/iGCSE History as IB requires particular historical skills that will have developed over the previous two years. Pupils who achieve below these grades in the 5th Form are not encouraged to take the course given how demanding the essay skills and research components are. A love of reading is essential. In certain circumstances it may be possible for someone without a History qualification to take IB History as long as they have attained at least a grade 8 in English or another suitable humanities subject. Such cases are decided on an individual basis after discussion with the Head of Department. This subject requires a genuine interest in, and enthusiasm for, the past, together with a willingness to work consistently hard throughout the two year course. The ability to work independently of close supervision at times and to read widely into the subject will be vital. Successful IB pupils will be well organised and willing to push themselves hard.

Potential careers

History is useful preparation for almost any non-science subject at university. It complements subjects such as Politics, Geography, Languages, English, Philosophy and Economics at IB as it offers a range of skills that help to raise your analytical abilities. And as for careers? Read this…..

History may be bunk, but its graduates are the future of UK plc, according to research that reveals that the subject turns out more directors of top companies than any other.

Professor David Nicholls, head of history at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “With a history degree you can aspire to be prime minister, a press baron, overlord of the BBC, famous lawyer, Archbishop of Canterbury, diplomat, Oxbridge vice-chancellor, famous comedian, business multimillionaire or celebrated pop musician. … Not only do history graduates enter a wide range of careers, many rise to the top.” Source: Alison Utley, The Times Higher Education Supplement, No.1564 (15 November 2002), p. 1.

History lends itself to a very wide variety of careers and historians are always in demand as a consequence of the skills they have acquired during their studies. Other than explicitly academic careers, historians can be found in almost all areas of the employment market and particularly so in law, journalism and the professions.

Contact for further information

Mr BP Lewsley: bpl@wellingtoncollege.org.uk

Link to IB Specification