If you want to do well on the IB History exam, you'll need to have a solid set of notes to study from. This can be difficult though if you're missing notes or feel like some of your own notes don't cover certain topics in enough depth. Luckily, we're here to help! We've assembled the best FREE online IB History notes into this complete study guide.
2021 IB Exam Changes Due to COVID-19
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, May 2021 IB assessments will have two routes, exam and non-exam, depending on which your school chooses. Stay up to date with the latest information on what this means for IB diplomas, course credit for IB classes, and more with our 2021 IB COVID-19 FAQ article.
What's the Format of the IB History Exam?
The IB History course was completely updated in 2017. Now, there are five prescribed subjects for SL and HL:
- 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)
If you're taking IB History HL, you'll also 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
If you're interested in taking a look at the entire IBO IB History Guide, you can find it as a .pdf here.
How to Use This IB History Study Guide
If you're hoping for help on one subject, use Command + F to search this guide for specific IB History notes about that subject. As an example, if you want to read about the Cold War, use Command + F to cue the search function. Then type "Cold War," and it'll bring up all of the study materials for the Cold War.
I separate the resources into:
- Quick reference: one-page summary of material if you just need a quick refresher.
- Longer notes: notes (generally 3-10 pages) if you need more of an in-depth explanation.
- Flashcards: online quizzes of key terms.
Common Study Mistakes for IB History SL/HL
Two common mistakes are:
- Trying to ignore the topics you didn't comprehend from your teacher's lesson. If you didn't understand it in class, you need to find additional assistance through this IB History study guide or tutoring. You're still going to be tested over this material whether you understood it in class or not!
- Only trying to learn the material a week or two before the IB papers. There is too much history to learn—one or two weeks will not be enough time to learn it (that's why IB History SL/HL is spread over a year or two). The best solution is keeping up in class and studying the material throughout the year.
Current IB History Guides
Because IB History was so recently updated, there aren't that many current notes and study guides, but we've found the best available. These guides follow the syllabus of the current version of IB History. If you are studying the same topics these notes cover, they are a great resource to use because they hit all or most of the main topics you need to know to be well prepared for the IB History exam. There are guides that cover multiple topics as well as guides that cover a single topic.
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Multi-Topic Guides and Overviews
The History Revision guide contains in-depth notes on several IB History topics. These are:
- Prescribed Subjects: Move to Global War
- World History Topics: Authoritarian States and the Cold War
- HL Topics: History of Asia and Oceania
IB History Duck covers similar topics. This guide focuses primarily authoritarian leaders such as Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, as well as the Cold War, histories of China, the USSR, and Imperial Japan.
The Student Room has a plethora of resources for you. Just keep in mind that notes for the 2017 syllabus are mixed in with information from earlier exams, so make sure you're accessing and studying the correct material.
IB Revision Notes offers in-depth, thorough notes on major topics including dictators, Imperial Russia, WWI, WWII, and the Spanish Civil War. Finding what you need might take a little digging, but it's worth the effort!
The teacher-run website IB History of the Americas addresses SL and HL topics, provides paper rubrics, and has tons of helpful PowerPoints covering information from most IB History units.
Single Topic Guides
These are notes on single topics that you'll cover on the IB syllabus.
World History Topics: Conquest and its Impacts
World History Topics: Move to Global War
World History Topics: Rights and Protest
- Rights and Protest general overview
- Rights and Protest PowerPoint notes
- Rights and Protest US Civil Rights overview
- Rights and Protest longer notes
- Rights and Protest complete unit
World History Topics: Conflict and Intervention
- Conflict and Intervention general overview
- Conflict and Intervention workbook
- Conflict and Intervention Rwanda flash cards
World History Topics: Societies in Transition
World History Topics: Causes and Effects of Modern Wars
World History Topics: Independence Movements
World History Topics: Evolution and Development of Democratic States
World History Topics: Authoritarian States
World History Topics: Causes and Effects of 20th Century Wars
- Causes and Effects of 20th Century Wars general overview
- Causes and Effects of 20th Century Wars longer notes
- Causes and Effects of 20th Century Wars unit
World History Topics: The Cold War
- Origins of the Cold War unit outline
- Origins of the Cold War event overview
- Origins of the Cold War longer notes
HL Depth Studies: IB History of the Americas
HL Depth Studies: History of Asia and Oceania
HL Depth Studies: History of Europe
Past IB History Guides
These notes are based on the older (pre-2017) version of IB History. They won't fit the syllabus you're currently following in class, but since the two versions cover many similar concepts, they can still be useful for learning more about a specific topic. Just be sure not to use them as your main study resource because they may not focus on the exact same areas you're expected to know.
- The Student Room has notes on dozens of IB History topics and can be useful if you need to brush up on facts for a specific place and time period.
Peacemaking, Peacekeeping - International Relations 1918-36
- Quick reference:
- 1.1 Aims of the participants and peacemakers: Wilson and the fourteen points
- 1.2 Terms of the Paris Peace Treaties 1919-20: Versailles, St Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, Sevre
- 1.3 The geopolitical and economic impact of the treaties on Europe and the mandate system
- 1.4 Enforcement of the provisions of the treaties: US isolationism, the retreat from the Anglo-American Guarantee, Disarmament-Washington, London and Geneva Conferences
- 1.5 The League of Nations: effects of the absence of major powers, the principles of collective responsibility, and early attempts at peacekeeping (1920-25)
- 1.6 The Ruhr Crisis (1923), Locarno and the Locarno Spring
- 1.7 Depression and threats to international peace and collective security, Manchuria (1931 to 1933) and Abyssinia (1935 to 1936)
- Longer notes:
Communism in Crisis 1976–89
- Quick reference:
- 2.1 The struggle for power following the death of Mao Zedong, Hua Guofeng, the reemergence of Deng Xiaoping and the defeat of the Gang of Four
- 2.2 China under Deng Xiaoping, economic policies and the Four Modernizations
- 2.3 China Under Deng Xiaoping, Political Changes And Their Limits, Culminating In The Demonstrations In Tiananmen Square
- 2.4 Domestic and foreign problems of the Brezhnev era, economic and political stagnation, Afghanistan
- Longer notes:
Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars
- Longer notes:
Democratic States—Challenges and Responses
- Longer notes:
Origins and Development of Authoritarian and Single-Party States
- Longer notes:
The Cold War
Aspects of the History of the Americas
- Longer notes:
Aspects of the History of Asia and Oceania
Aspects of the History of Europe and the Middle East
#1: The French Revolution and Napoleon
#2: Unification and Consolidation of Germany and Italy
#3: The Ottoman Empire
#4: Western and Northern Europe 1848-1914
#5: Imperial Russia, Revolutions, Emergence of Soviet State 1853-1924
- Longer notes: Tsarist and Revolutionary Russia to 1924
- Longer notes: Alexander II
- Longer notes: Alexander III
- Longer notes: Nicholas II
#6: European Diplomacy and the First World War 1870-1923
#7: War and Change in the Middle East 1914-49
- Longer notes: The Peace Treaties after World War One
- Longer notes: The League of Nations in the 1920s
- Longer notes: The Wall St. Crash / Depression
- Longer notes: The League of Nations in the 1930s
- Longer notes: The Spanish Civil War
- Longer notes:
#10: The Second World War and Post-War Western Europe 1939-2000
#11: Post-War Developments in the Middle East 1945-2000
Looking for more practice material for IB History? Then you'll definitely want to delve into our complete collection of free and official past IB history papers.
Interested in brushing up on some of your historical knowledge? Read about the Platt Amendment, checks and balances in the US government (as well as how the executive branch checks the judicial branch), and lighthouse keeper Ida Lewis.
Alternatively, boost your esoteric knowledge by learning about the history of the three-hole punch and the real story of David Ghantt and the Loomis Fargo heist.
Finally, you can get practice materials for other IB classes on our blog:
- Every IB Biology Past Paper Available: Free and Official
- Every IB Business and Management Past Paper Available: FREE and Official
- Where to Find IB Chemistry Past Papers - Free and Official
- Every IB Economics Past Paper Available: Free and Official
- Every IB English Past Paper: Free and Official
- The Complete IB Extended Essay Guide: Examples, Topics, and Ideas
- Every IB Geography Past Paper Available: Free and Official
- Every IB Math Past Paper: Free and Official
- Where to Find IB Physics Past Papers - Free and Official
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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.