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Understand the new IB History syllabus

The new IB History syllabus is now in effect - find a quick guide to the changes here

Understand the new IB History syllabus

The new IB History syllabus is now in effect - find a quick guide to the changes here

IB History syllabus change

The Reflection is a new area, and will be introduced to all IB Diploma IAs going forward...

The changes, at a glance

  • Removal of teaching routes
  • New syllabus topics and changes to existing topics
  • Revised Internal Assessment
  • Emphasis on concept-based learning
  • Focus on Approaches to learning skills

    Syllabus organization

    The teaching routes have been removed. Standard Level learners now choose:

    • 1 prescribed subject, out of a choice of 5
    • 2 world history topics, out of a choice of 12

    Higher Level learners also study:

    • 3 sections of one HL region option from a choice of 4 options

    All students still complete an Internal Assessment called The Historical Investigation.

    Paper 1

    Paper 1 previously consisted of 3 prescribed subjects, each with its own exam. The new syllabus now includes 5 prescribed subjects, each consisting of 2 cross-regional case studies. Students must study one prescribed subject, and within that subject, they must study both of the cross-regional case studies. Students will be examined on only one of the case studies; they may not compare and contrast.

    The new prescribed subjects all have specific focuses; these include:

    Prescribed subject


    Case studies


    Military leaders

    • Ghengis Khan (1200-1227)
    • Richard I of England (1173-1199)

    Conquest and its impact

    • Final stages of Muslim rule in Spain
    • Conquest of Mexico and Peru (1519-1551)

    The move to global war

    • Japanese expansionism in East Asia (1933-1940)
    • German and Italian expansionism (1933-1940)

    Rights and protest

    • The Civil Rights movement in the United States (1954-1965)
    • Apartheid South Africa (1948-1964)

    Conflict and intervention

    • Rwanda (1990-1998)
    • Kosovo (1989-2002)

    Paper 2

    Students previously had to study 2 out of 5 Twentieth Century topics and were examined via essay questions on each of their respective topics of study.

    Students now must choose 2 out of a total of 12 world history topics. Each topic studied must consider 2 different case studies. The subject guide provides suggested examples of case studies.

    The new exam will include 2 questions per topic. Questions will be broad, and won’t reference specific countries or specific historical figures.

    Paper 3

    Learners previously studied 1 of 4 HL options, and the teacher focused on 3 of 12 sections within that option. Students still choose 1 Higher Level option, of a choice of four, and teachers now choose 3 of 18 sections within that option.

    The new Higher Level Options are:

    • History of Africa and the Middle East
    • History of the Americas
    • History of Asia and Oceania
    • History of Europe

    The exam will consist of 2 questions from each topic section. Only historical figures and events named in the subject guide will be included on the exam.

    Internal Assessment

    The History IA is still worth 25% of a Standard Level learner’s final grade, and 20% of a Higher Level learner’s final grade. It is still evaluated out of a total of 25 possible marks.

    The IA is now split into 3 distinct sections:

      Identification and evaluation of sources

      • Identify a question to investigate
      • Choose and analyze 2 sources
      • Out of a total of 6 possible marks
      • Similar to previous IA sections A & C, with some changes



      • Critically analyze the question
      • Build and argument using primary and secondary sources
      • Out of a total of 15 possible marks
      • Similar to previous IA sections B, D & E with some changes



      • Comment on the methods used by, and challenges facing, the historian
      • Out of a total of 4 possible marks





    The Reflection is a new area, and will be introduced to all new IB Diploma Internal Assessments going forward. The Reflection should be about 400 words long and in the History IA, the student might reflect on points like: 

    • What did the investigation reveal about the historian's methods?
    • What challenges did the historian face?
    • What were the limitations of the historian's methods?

    The IA must be written in prose (no bullet points) and the examiner will stop reading at 2,200 words.

    Concept-based learning

    The new subject guide requires teachers to implement a concept-based approach, integrating 6 key concepts into learning. These concepts include:

    • Change
    • Perspectives
    • Significance
    • Consequence
    • Continuity
    • Causation

    Helping learners to more clearly connect subject content to wider global themes, concept-based learning enables an active, student-centered approach. It promotes independent thought, strengthening achievement.

    Approaches to teaching and learning

    Developing big picture, trans-disciplinary skills is also a priority in the new guide. In IB History, this means creating a solid link between factual content, cross-disciplinary concepts and skills. There are 6 specific Approaches to learning skills you must develop:

    • Thinking skills
    • Research skills
    • Communication skills
    • Self-management skills
    • Social skills

    Download our printable guide to the new IB History syllabus


Resources for the new DP History syllabus

IB History resources

Explore historical issues in the right level of depth

Help learners critically engage with and actively explore historical issues, developed directly with the IB for the revised syllabus.

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