Taking the IB Economics exam will be nerve-wracking no matter what. However, taking practice tests with past papers beforehand will be a huge advantage since you'll get a sense of the test format and be used to the length and style of these past versions.
In this guide, we’ll familiarize you with the IB Economics assessment updates and let you know where to find past papers, both free and paid. We'll also give you tips on how best to use these IB Economics past papers for your preparation.
IB Exams and COVID-19
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the IB has decided to extend the adaptations which were put in place for 2021 to 2022. May 2022 IB assessments will have two routes, exam and non-exam, depending on which your school chooses. Currently, IB assessments are expected to return to normal for 2023. 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 Economics Exam Updated in 2022
In 2020 the IB program changed the design of their Economics course. For the past two years however, the Economics assessment has stayed the same. 2022 will be the first year that the new Economics test will be used.
The idea behind the assessment change is to reflect the more holistic nature of the course curriculum that was unveiled in August of 2020. Since then the course has included a section on the global economy in addition to Micro and Macroeconomics, and has revolved around nine key concepts:
- Economic Well-being
These concepts are used to connect and organize the groups of theories, ideas, tools, and facts taught throughout the course according to patterns of similarities and differences. Learning the interconnected and dynamic nature of economics, with these concepts as the links, is now the primary focus of the course.
The revised version of the Economics assessment is meant to test students’ critical understanding of this interconnectivity and their ability to think like economists. Paper 1 will now be a long-response paper that assesses the whole course, Paper 2 asks students to work with new qualitative and quantitative data from case studies and real-life situations. And for HL students, Paper 3 will involve analyzing and evaluating economic relationships to give sound economic policy advice like a professional economist would.
Unfortunately, these test revisions mean that there currently aren’t any free and official past papers that you can use that will exactly reflect these changes.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have study options! Past papers will still allow you to practice your test-taking skills, become familiar with crafting answers in the time frame, and see the way that questions are generally worded. The questions on past papers will be more focused on specific topics in isolation than questions on the new test will be, so be sure to keep that in mind when using them and make plenty of extra connections in your practice responses!
Where to Find Official Free IB Economics Past Papers
In recent years, the IBO has cracked down on past papers (illegally) uploaded outside of the IBO store, which means a lot of sources for free past papers have disappeared.
At the same time, IBO has not uploaded any free sample past Economics papers on its website. (If and when IBO decides to make free IB Economics past paper resources available, we'll be sure to update this article.)
Therefore, we don't recommend using just any old thing that comes up when you search for IB economics past papers online. That’s because these papers have not been released directly by IBO, so there's no guarantee they are real past papers (illegally uploaded); instead, they could be unofficial past papers that are not clearly labeled as such. That said, some of these unofficial resources are better than others (i.e. more likely to be real tests or real specimen papers that were illegally uploaded).
You can find tons of Economics specimen papers at ibresources.org, and some that at least replicate real exams at Papa Cambridge, ranging all the way from the 90s to 2019. The test timing listed on these is incorrect, so be sure to time yourself according to the actual amount of time you’ll be given for each paper.
Some IB Economics tests will cost you a little cash. But if you need a little extra practice for the IB Econ exam, then this is a good option.
Where to Find Paid IB Economics Tests
You can find official IB Economics study resources, including practice questions, on the IB Follett online store. It's not the easiest site to navigate, but if you search "economics exam paper" or "economics markscheme" you'll be able to browse the various study resources available.
Typically, each exam paper with markscheme will cost you $7.99. Purchasing all papers and markschemes for the single most recent test will cost you between $16-24. Older papers are sold separately from their markschemes, but purchasing each individually costs about the same per exam paper.
Buying all the Economics exam papers and markschemes currently available in the IBO store will run you close to or over $100 (for SL and HL, respectively), so we recommend only purchasing the two most recent complete sets of past papers (currently November 2021 and November 2020). In combination with good notes and study guides, two sets of practice papers should be plenty for most students.
Do not spend this much!
3 Tips to Use IB Economics Past Papers Effectively
Each full IB Economics practice test will take you three hours for SL or four hours for HL, so you need to be making the most out of each test. Some important tips to remember when you're doing the practice tests:
Tip 1: Take Papers 1 and 2 (and 3, for HL) on Different Days
The IB Economics test takes place over two days—for the most accurate picture of how you'll perform on the real exam, you need to write practice papers the same way.
Don't take all of the papers back to back. Take Paper 1 one day, and Paper(s) 2 (and 3 for HL) another day. Using this real testing schedule will help you feel comfortable and prepared for the real papers.
Tip 2: Time Each Paper Exactly
It's critical that you can handle the timing pressures of this test. The exact time allowed is:
IB Economics SL
IB Economics SL Paper 1—1 hour 15 minutes
IB Economics SL Paper 2—1 hour 45 minutes
IB Economics HL
IB Economics HL Paper 1—1 hour 15 minutes
IB Economics HL Paper 2—1 hour 45 minutes
IB Economics HL Paper 3—1 hour 45 minutes
To get a sense of what you’ll be expected to do in this time frame, check out the program information briefs for IB Economics SL and IB Economics HL. Both include information about the new assessment model and a few sample questions. Here are the sample questions for the IB Economics SL paper:
- Explain two reasons why a government might set a price ceiling (maximum price) on a good.
- Using real-world examples, discuss the consequences of a price ceiling on stakeholders.
- Using a poverty cycle diagram, explain how the net increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mexico between 2010 and 2015 might lead to an improvement in economic development.
And here are the sample questions for the IB Economics HL paper:
- Explain two tools open to a central bank to conduct expansionary monetary policy.
- Using real-world examples, evaluate the effectiveness of monetary policy to achieve low unemployment.
- Using an exchange rate diagram, explain how the increase in the interest rate by the Nigerian central bank might prevent the continued fall in the value of the naira.
- Using the data provided, and your knowledge of economics, recommend a policy that could be introduced by the government of Country X in response to the expected fall in the world price of coffee.
You can use these prompts to practice and build your skills for test day. Also, don't give yourself any extra time in your practice. If you give yourself extra time, you will not figure out your pacing. I want to these practice tests to be realistic predictors of your score.
Mysid / Wikimedia
Tip 3: Check Your Answers!
After you finish a full official test (end of Paper 2 for SL or end of Paper 3 for HL), review every mistake using the markscheme. If you skip this, you won't learn from your mistakes, and you'll keep getting the same questions wrong.
You should spend at least one hour reviewing scoring for the practice test. This is a bit of time, but you should be emphasizing the quality of practice over the quantity of practice. It's better to take two past papers with detailed review than four past papers with no review.
Learn more about IB Economics:
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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.