Taking a practice IB History exam before the actual exam will help you familiarize yourself with the length, style and format of the test. In this guide, we explain the IB History test format and link to the best past papers available. At the end, I'll explain how best to use these IB History past papers for your studying.
Disclaimer: these free exams should be used at your own risk. The exams are not authorized by the IBO and were most likely put up online without the IBO's consent.
2020 IB History Exam Cancelled Due to COVID-19
Because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, all IB exams for May 2020 have been canceled and coursework deadlines have been extended for schools that have closed. (Yep, that includes the IB History SL/HL exams, too.) Stay up to date with the latest information on what this means for IB diplomas, course credit for IB classes, and more with our IB COVID-19 FAQ article.
IB History Exam Format
The IB History course was completely revamped in 2017. Now, there are five prescribed subjects:
- Military leaders
- Conquest and its impact
- The move to global war
- Rights and protest
- Conflict and intervention
Your teacher will choose one that you'll cover, and you'll be tested on this for paper 1 (one hour in length).
There is also a list of twelve world history topics. For paper 2 (1.5 hours), you'll cover two of these:
- Society and economy (750-1400)
- Causes and effects of medieval wars (750-1500)
- Dynasties and rulers (750-1500)
- Societies in transition (1400-1700)
- 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)
For students taking IB History HL, they'll have a final paper (paper 3) that is 2.5 hours and will cover one of the four Depth Studies:
- History of Africa and the Middle East
- History of the Americas
- History of Asia and Oceania
- History of Europe
Current IB History Papers
The best source for up-to-date IB History past papers is the IBO store. Each paper and each markscheme is $4, so a full test's worth will cost you $16 for SL or $24 for HL. (While the IBO site has a sample SL/HL paper 2 available for free, it's from November 2005, predating the most recent syllabus updates.)
Currently, the IB store has papers from 2011 through 2018, but we recommend only purchasing papers from May 2017 tests or later, as those are the exams that match the new syllabus. Be sure to check not just the test date but also the depth-study area for each exam paper and markscheme you purchase to make sure they match up—you wouldn't want to purchase a History of Asia and Oceania exam paper but a History of Europe markscheme!
Additionally, we've found these IB History past papers available for you to study from. They are from 2017 and follow the same format as current IB History exams, so you can be sure they'll be close to what you actually see for your own paper. Because they're not on the official IB site, however, we urge you to use these with caution.
Alan O'Rourke / Flickr
Old IB History Papers
These papers are before the IB History course was revamped in 2017, so the topics the papers cover won't be exactly what you see for your course. However, these can still be a useful way to get a better sense of the kinds of papers you'll see for IB History and the types of information you'll be expected to know.
Paper 3 Topics
How to Use IB History Past Papers
Each full IB History practice exam will take you 2.5 hours for SL or 5 hours for HL, so you need to get the most out of each test. Below are some pointers for your practice.
Tip 1: Take Papers 1 and 2 Consecutively (If Possible)
For both IB History SL and HL, papers 1 and 2 are administered one after the other, requiring you to maintain your concentration and testing stamina for 2.5 hours. Part of practicing for the test means building up your testing endurance so that you're not making careless errors or losing focus towards the end of the tests.
IB History HL includes a third, 2.5-hour paper administered on a second day of testing, which you should also try to match in your practice schedule. Having a test spread out over multiple days means that you can't just cram and then immediately forget everything after you've finished papers 1 and 2; you'll need to practice retaining information even after the 2.5-hour slog of the first day's papers 1 and 2.
If you don't have time in your schedule for a full 2.5-hour session (or for two 2.5-hour sessions two days in a row for HL), then splitting papers 1 and 2 up over multiple days is OK. Just make sure that in your studying you follow this next tip:
Tip 2: Time Yourself on Each Paper
You must get used to the timing pressures of this exam. The time allowed per paper is:
IB History SL
- Paper 1—1 hour
- Paper 2—1 hour 30 minutes
IB History HL
- Paper 1—1 hour
- Paper 2—1 hour 30 minutes
- Paper 3—2 hour 30 minutes
Don't give yourself extra time. If you do, you will not figure out your pacing for the real exam and will likely score higher than you actually will the day of the test. I want these practice exams to give you an accurate picture of your actual test score.
Tip 3: Review Your Mistakes!
When you complete your exam (end of Paper 2 for SL or end of Paper 3 for HL), check every mistake. If you skip this step, you will not learn from your errors, and you'll keep making them.
You need to take at least an hour reviewing your exam. I know this may seem like a lot of time, but you want quality practice. If you only end up taking two practice tests with detailed review, you will be better prepared than if you took six tests with no review.
Taking IB History right now? Round out your studying with our complete IB History notes and study guide.
Ready to jump into some US History topics? Learn about the Platt Amendment and Ida Lewis. If you're more interested in political history, be sure to also check out our articles on checks and balances in the US government and how the executive branch can check the judicial branch.
Or perhaps you're interested in learning something that might not come up in history class? Find out more about David Ghantt and the Loomis Fargo heist, the complete history of hip hop, and the competing claims for invention of the 3-hole punch.
Learn more about the IB course offerings:
- The Complete List of IB Courses and Classes
- Which IB Courses Can I Take Online? Can I Get an Online IB Diploma?
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.